Although many employers are certainly being supportive, let’s not forget that those who until recently took their homes for private space are not gaining a privilege right now, but losing a set of prerogatives
…so “working from home” at present means something like this: employers have requisitioned the home as a condition of continuing to work, and they have taken away the office as part of what was previously offered to enable people to work.
I’m putting together some notes just now for people who are new to working at home. I work full-time from home and my work area is set up accordingly, not just with computer equipment but with furniture and accessories, some of which cost a lot of money. I chose my flat with the expectation of working from home, so it has sufficient space to do so; and the costs of working from home have been factored into the money I charge my clients.
But many people who are currently working from home have not got properties that are suitable, do not have appropriate equipment or furniture, and are not being compensated for the extra expenses of working from home – expenses not just including heating but the extra cost of electricity, of possibly requiring better broadband and so on.
And of course, those of us with children have to deal with the fact that schools are closed. I co-parent, so my children are not here all the time; I work on the days they are not. That isn’t an option for couples who may both be working at home.
Jenkins rightly points out that some employers are accommodating. She gives the example of an employer deciding that a 25-hour working from home week is full time. But many are not, and the costs their newly home working employees are incurring may be significant.
While I am completely behind the move to lockdown, and grateful to have an employer carefully addressing the issues so that we can maintain our core work, I worry that caught up in the urgency of crisis we risk forgetting just how problematic the “working from home” pillar of our strategy for mitigation is in multiple respects. Just because we accept the necessity of action in the context of emergency should not mean that we do not question its further implications and its practice.