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Speaking of returning to workplaces May 13, 2022

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

This from the BBC is a good overview of some of the not-so-hidden costs of the return to workplaces after the last couple of years. And it’s not just the matter of potential health issues given the virus remains in circulation.

It’s not surprising that political leaders want us back at our desks. Without daily commutes and dining ‘al desko’, businesses of all types and sizes are losing out financially. One day of commuting is worth £82m ($107m) to businesses in the UK; in the US, workers spent between $2,000 and $5,000 (£1,536–£3,840) on transport to work alone each year before the pandemic.  

But there’s a problem. Employees who haven’t had to budget for train tickets, takeaway coffees or new office outfits for the past two years are now acutely aware of how much it costs to spend a day at your desk. And, worse, these costs are growing. Petrol prices are at an all-time high; transport fares have increased, and food and other essentials are on an upwards trajectory. That means an office day can hit the wallet hard.

For some the disparities – particularly with employers for whom such costs are absorbed by salaries/expense accounts, have come into sharp focus. 

“It’s an issue of fairness,” says Jean-Nicolas Reyt, assistant professor of organisational behaviour at McGill. He explains that we determine fairness not just based on what our colleagues are receiving, but also what other people doing different jobs at different organisations are getting – so if one company is subsidising their employees’ commutes, then workers elsewhere are likely to want the same benefit. 

“People don’t stay an unfair situation; they work less, or usually they quit,” adds Reyt. “If some companies start giving people money to commute, this is going to become the norm, the market will readjust.” Reyt encourages employers to pick their battles. “CEOs talk to me as if the goal is to reduce all costs,” he says, but an enforced back-to-office policy, without any perks, will likely have unintended consequences for employee retention. “It’s not worth it to cut corners. The overall costs are so much bigger than these savings.” 

But – clearly, for many workers, particularly those who are low paid and in under and non-unionised environments, there’s no respite. For them the situation remains as it always has of having to cover costs themselves across a range of areas and do this when paid far too little. 

So really this is a key point in relation to work and workplaces and workers where there’s an opportunity to shift matters in a better direction. Discussing this at the weekend with a friend we were both of the opinion that much has changed, even in the private sector, for many in workplaces. But for others little or nothing has changed and it is key to ensure they benefit from any new dispensation.


1. EWI - May 13, 2022

In the past week the main AI lead for Apple has resigned, specifically citing the corporate unwillingness to accomodate WFH. And a major Dublin-based public sector employer has firmly squelched all remaining departmental WFH arrangements, with vague promises of staff being able to re-apply in the future (which absolutely makes no sense, unless the intent is to refuse most).

Liked by 1 person

2. Aengus Millen - May 13, 2022

This bill of the government’s supposedly meant to facilitate work from home turned out to be riddled with loopholes and exceptions right?

Liked by 1 person

EWI - May 13, 2022

‘Loopholes and exceptions’ is to miss that the intent and effect was to provide 14+ State-endorsed excuses for employers to force people back in, with no legal recourse available.

Liked by 2 people

Tomboktu - May 14, 2022

I wouldn’t put it that way. It was more a loophole pretending to be a bill.

It purports to give you a right you already have — to ask for something — and the government pretended that it gave you a different right, to the something itself.

I have the right to ask Easons to give me the paper for free. That doesn’t meam I have the right to get the paper for free.

Liked by 1 person

Tomboktu - May 14, 2022

(That was a response to Aengus, btw, not EWI.)

Liked by 1 person

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