• Osa Iluobe

Working Hard, Hardly Working? Hybrid Work Is Causing a Fuss

In Britain, it needn't be such an issue.

Photo: Simon Evans (Flickr)

Lord Alan Sugar doesn’t mince his words. So it was no surprise when he referred to working from home as a ‘bloody joke’ and decried hybrid-workers as ‘lazy gits’. However, what did come as a surprise was the backlash Mr Sugar received for such comments, especially given his glittering track record of speaking his mind. As a rich man, Mr Sugar is sure to know a thing or two about working hard, productivity, and impressive end results. But whether such claims are from Mr Sugar’s hand of experience or not is another matter. What is true though is that hybrid work is stimulating debate. Expect this to continue.

With the economy in a slump, inflation on the up, and pessimism on the rise it appears that hybrid work has become an easy target to pinpoint the blame on for some of our present troubles. The logic is, that being a legacy of the pandemic, working from home should end and the ‘traditional’ way of doing things ought to be returned to, not only as a matter of normality but also as a matter of sense. And detractors of hybrid work are seemingly right to point out that it is a legacy of the pandemic, and given the unplanned nature of it, to make what was essentially

an arrangement of necessity into a permanent one that workers have an automatic right to insist on is perhaps myopic.

But, hybrid work may be beneficial on the whole - For workers, and for employers. Because if the pandemic has revealed anything about work, it’s that workers and companies are more adaptable than we all thought. The idea of the office as a space that drove productivity by virtue of expectation, and in some cases competition, now sounds archaic to entry-level workers who see the office more so as a social space that exists to provide an element of working that they otherwise would not get from the desks of their home. Managers and heads of companies are also adjusting to this new reality. Many employers are openly embracing the new ideology of the workplace, transforming their offices into collaborative working environments that allow for social interaction to thrive, contra to the alienated reality that Marxists typically critique wage-labour of perpetuating. As a result of this, in many companies the office, on days when workers do go in, is not a dreaded environment wherein one constantly has their right eye on their micromanager and their left eye on an Excel spreadsheet.

Companies, workers, and all of us should embrace the new age of progress in the workplace. There is scant evidence that hybrid work harms worker productivity and overwhelming evidence that it is what many workers want, at least as an option. Contrary to claims that it is the source of much of our problems, hybrid work may be part of the solution. Thus, claims that inflation is set to get worse because of the Bank of England’s hybrid-work policy (as was claimed by some in the press) ought to be laughed out of economic discourse. Indeed, experts in microeconomics know that worker satisfaction has a direct correlation with productivity and company results, both engines of economic growth. Hybrid work is causing a fuss but Britain would do better if it laid the debate surrounding it to rest and addressed its real sticky issues.