Dileepa Fonseka: Ready or not, here comes the office and the culture war of “working from home”.

Dileepa Fonseka is a business journalist from Stuff.

OPINION: “To be clear, what I wanted was to be home without my kids! Oh dear, be careful what you wish for.

Someone texted it to me right at the start of one of the Auckland blocks last year.

In my view, he pestered the free run from the country’s blockade by joking that a “small” block would not go wrong to help him put his life in order. The next day, Auckland was in solitary confinement.

* US workers put on their pants to go back to the office, only to be on Zoom all day
* Because the increase in remote work does not mean that the office is dead
* ‘Back to the office’ is not the best way to go
* Getting back to the office is proving more complicated than last year’s sudden exit

For most of the pandemic, this is how we saw the idea of ​​working from home: a nice break from the daily grind of long commutes and a golden opportunity to dent those piles of laundry that clearly plagued us for years.

Those days are long gone, sometimes during the last block of Auckland the concept morphed into less of a symbol of workers’ liberation and more of a culture war on work ethic, suburbans against urban planners, anger for the Wellington bureaucracy “work from home” and questions about whether someone really wants to spend most of their life doing housework between Zoom calls.

John Cowpland / Stuff

Jadon Shiva, Technical Support Officer, is relieved to be back at the office after more than a year of working from home.

At the start of the pandemic, the theory was that people would be away from the office of their own accord.

An AUT Business School’s Occupational Wellbeing Survey shows that half of workers are at least moderately anxious to return to or work in an office.

New Covid-19 infections may have peaked, but they are still being registered by the thousands, people are still hospitalized, new variants are being detected, and there are alarming reports of overwhelming the hospital system.

And many people have returned to the office regardless.

Google Mobility statistics show that workplace attendance is 3% higher than the pre-pandemic baseline (a median figure derived from pre-pandemic activity).

Fewer people are in the office in the larger Auckland and Wellington centers, but the declines are not catastrophic, 10% in Auckland and 4% in Wellington.

Companies are still opening new offices, the new 2degrees headquarters in central Auckland at the end of last year.

Ben Blakemore, Head of 2 Degree Property, says all workers have the ability to work remotely, but the new office is luring them back.

“There are just things the office is still really perfect for, especially if you have the ability to build it like we did.”

2degrees has opened a new office and property manager Ben Blakemore says more staff choose to work in person.


2degrees has opened a new office and property manager Ben Blakemore says more staff choose to work in person.

Why do large numbers of people return to the office? Maybe part of the reason is that people don’t actually hate him.

Many complaints about the office actually relate to other failures. The inability to provide enough affordable housing close to where people work, the inability to discourage congestion by taxing it, the inability to provide good options for childcare, or the inability to put in place adequate low-emission public transport infrastructure.

Saliva testing expert at Yale School of Public Health Anne Wyllie conducted research on the use of saliva PCR testing in the United States to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in offices.

He says returning to the office can be done safely with precautions such as surveillance tests, negative Covid positive people test results before they come to work, ventilation, or simply asking people to wear masks in certain situations.

While some workers are returning voluntarily, there is also pressure on them to return. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson have both been cited in the past as encouraging government employees to return to work, while US President Joe Biden included it in his State of the Union address.


The detail: technology and the great transition to work from home.

Tesla founder Elon Musk also took his place.

“Everyone at Tesla is required to spend a minimum of 40 hours in the office per week. Also, the office has to be where your real colleagues are, not some remote pseudo-office, ”she said.

“Tesla has and will actually create and manufacture the most interesting and meaningful products of any company on Earth. This will not happen by phoning.

From the perspective of some executives, people who work from home are not hungry, ambitious, or particularly busy at their jobs.

Gallup’s 2022 report on the state of the global workplace shows employee engagement at work increased by a steady 1% annually until the pandemic began, so it started going in the opposite direction.

In Australia and New Zealand, only 17% of employees said they were actively engaged in work, one of the lowest levels in the world.

Octavius ​​Black, chief executive of cultural change company The MindGym, said remote working is a major cause of the “big resignations” because it has weakened the bond employees have with their jobs.

So, yes, the culture warfare over work from home looks set to rage, but that’s certainly also because the whole concept didn’t turn out to be all that great.