We can’t all work from home

Thoughts

I’ve written a few times about working from home since COVID hit, including how bosses handle remote work better than others, that Australian Internet can be a challenge, and both the mental and physical health concerns from being more sedentary.

But it took an Apple commentator tweeting how great it is that we can “all” work from home, and double-down with insults when asked about it, that made me appreciate how blinkered I’ve also been by the experience.

I’ll go out on a limb here and say most people can’t work from home. Worse, millions have to make brutal decisions to go to work during a pandemic that could impact the health of their families. Remote work, like so much of our modern economy, disproportionately favours the middle class in white-collar jobs. And, dare I say it, it has come to depend on the so-called gig economy which further stratifies society into the haves and have nots.

The whole thing reminded me of defending tipping culture, or another Twitterer saying back in March—without a trace of irony—that food delivery meant nobody needed to leave home. I… wait, what?! It all demonstrates the same disconnection from people struggling in the real world, and I realise I’m just as guilty of it.

It also highlights the need for more social security. I say as a taxpayer, someone who donates a chunk of his income each month to medical research and charities, and who’d continue to work after its introduction: we need universal basic income. My heart goes out to people doing it tough right now, but individual actions and good will aren’t sufficient. I’d also expect to see a shakeup in the labour market when certain employers realise they can’t threaten people with destitution.

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Ruben Schade is a technical writer and IaaS engineer in Sydney, Australia who refers to himself in the third person in bios. Wait, not BIOS… my brain should be EFI by now.

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