As the unprecedented circumstances of 2020 rewrite the rules of work, heres what you need to know.
In modern history, every notable event has spawned an acronym or two. After the second world war we have the creation of NATO and the WHO and in the spring/summer of 2020, spurred by arrival of COVID-19, the hitherto rarely used WFH came into its own.
That isn’t to say that the concept of ‘working from home’ is a new one. On the contrary, it was the arrival of what we now identify as capitalism which first introduced the idea of workers on ‘piece rate’ working from their own houses. But now it seems history has come full circle and, aided and abetted by Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp and sundry other tech, here we
It’s debatable at the time of writing whether the buzzing, crowded inner city office as we knew it will ever be the same. In the US, a survey of workers indicated that 60 per cent of those polled said they were more productive under their own roof, and organisations like Twitter and Facebook are looking at making WFH a permanent arrangement for those who prefer it.
If indeed the direction of travel is only from your kitchen to your suitably-sanitised study, how best to navigate the brave new world of business ‘at a distance’?
My first recommendation is the early establishment of a routine. The absence of the dreaded commute can of course provide the opportunity for a welcome lie-in, but we shouldn’t mistake liberty for licence–tasks still need to be completed, deadlines met and professional standards observed.
Secondly, don’t overdo it. Just as there are office ‘water cooler moments’, give yourself decent breaks and take a proper lunch hour. We’ve all come across ‘presenteeism’, but in a year’s time I guarantee we’ll see cases of ‘Covid Spine’ in those who felt that they couldn’t be seen to have abandoned their laptop for a cheeky flat white.
Thirdly, I hardly need mention this to readers of
Et Cetera, but remember that the fact you’re at home doesn’t mean that grooming and sartorial standards can fall by the wayside. While the lack of access to your regular barber may mean that you’ve started to resemble Shaggy from Scooby Doo, this doesn’t mean that you have to start dressing like him. By the same token, I’m all for experimenting with a lockdown beard but studiously avoid home haircuts unless you don’t mind being mistaken for the late comic Ken Dodd.
In short, keep it simple: collared formal shirts (no tie required), unbuttoned waistcoats, polo shirts (long-sleeved) and plain coloured cashmere sweaters are the way to go. I also have a penchant for the collarless or grandad shirt and, if you feel you can carry off a cravat without straying too far into Nicholas Parson territory, by all means give it a go.
Accessorise with a large G&T at the end of the day and congratulate yourself on a job well done. Forget the 9 to 5…it must be gin o’clock somewhere in the world.
Maurice Mullen is Head of Fashion and Luxury Goods at London Evening Standard and˜ES Magazine