Leave remote to the television

Try as we might, the screen will never replace human interaction.

It has become my habit to scroll through the various media outlets on a Sunday - just browsing and looking for nothing in particular other than to delay washing my breakfast tableware. The content is mostly Irish news. I like to know what is happening, although I sometimes think you would be better off not knowing!

I found an article on hybrid working and clicked on it just to annoy myself. This has always been a sore subject ever since I had to endure my first year of university online. Even more so now that, in my new job, hybrid working is as common as an Irish person asking if you’ve any craic (Ireland is the only place you can do this by the way).

I love going to the office to get to know my colleagues, have a chat in the canteen, get coffee together and just to talk. This just cannot be done via online chat. Even though I do it myself, I despise when I open emails and the first line is the rhetorical ‘Dear Gemma, how are you?’ or ‘Hi Gemma, I hope you had a great weekend!’ The email has a purpose and usually I care little about anything else other than this. If I meet you in the office, I will genuinely want to hear how you are, how your weekend went, etc.

Three lines into this article and I came across a bold statement revealing that enthusiasm for remote working may mean days in the office are numbered. I nearly dropped my cup of coffee across the table (I also read you shouldn’t drink coffee straight away after eating, I think I need to stop reading). If this is the case, then every possible career I have ever considered for myself is out the window. To me, an office job entails actually being at the office with the exception of having an appointment, sick child, etc. Could this really be true?

In pre-pandemic times, Ireland was among the lowest in Europe when it came to the number of people working remotely. The Remote Working in Ireland Survey 2022, carried out by NUIG, found that 52% of respondents had a hybrid working arrangement.

Other surveys since the pandemic show that productivity as a result of working remotely did increase. I would dispute this greatly, considering the context of being in a pandemic people literally had nothing else to do. Even myself, I did not miss one lecture, I took notes and even re-watched lectures and my results from first year showed this. For others, their work load probably spiked as a result of the pandemic meaning they were forced to be more productive. For these reasons, I would take these findings with a pinch of salt.

I have to be honest, if a survey were handed to me today, I would have to tick the hybrid working box. In all the complaining I do about it, it does work in my favour at times. For example, when I returned to Ireland, rather than taking several holiday days at once, I took one Friday off, had my weekend at home and worked remotely on Monday and Tuesday. However, we also have a policy that you must be present in the office for at least three days of the week. Not one to push my luck, I took the first flight back to Brussels on Wednesday morning and set foot in the office only half an hour late (a hold up at passport control). Call me daft for doing this but I was never really one to dance all over the rule book. On the other hand, there are some who may only show their face once every two or three weeks.

I won’t lie, on my work from home days, it was one eye on the laptop and one eye out the window wondering whose car had just pulled in. Bringing hybrid to a whole new level, I would then lift my laptop and saunter down the stairs to find my next caller sitting at the table (I have the best friends and family). To all of you hybrid workers, you’ve been in this situation, would you turn somebody away and tell them you are working? For me, absolutely not. Seeing this new craze in action among my own housemates, work from home means I have something else to do today and I will not be taking a holiday day. It also means watch movies, clean, sleep, you name it – anything but work.

It has been found that those in their 30s and 40s with young families are more inclined to work remotely, while younger people and those over 55 prefer to be in the office. I understand this, with the current cost of childcare in Ireland many people cannot afford to be in the office when the option to work from home is there. As a young person, I want to be out and about. If people are going out after work, making plans together for the weekend or even heading on their lunch break together, I can’t join in from home. More importantly, I find it hard to type questions into an email and, as an intern, I have many. Often times, they would go unanswered.

I could go on for days, but already I have spent enough time staring at this screen. I am against hybrid working, with the exception of special circumstances.

Office banter is not the same in the digital realm.

* Gemma Good is from Killeshandra and a second year journalism student in University of Limerick.


Home sweet home!