Britain isn’t working. It’s time to get back to the office and save the economy, says Mark Dolan

I say, WTF. Work from home if you want to, but understand it will lead to a poorer, sadder and more isolated society.

Published

There's a surprise, civil servants, have negotiated themselves, a cosy deal, in which they can work from home, forever.

Hundreds of civil servants, will never have to return to the office, after being allowed to work from home permanently. Official figures show the number of Government employees on special ‘home-working’ contracts has almost tripled since the pandemic.

Mark my words, that will be the tip of the iceberg. Our efforts to once again become the lazy man of Europe, appear well underway. Of course, there are plenty of jobs, that can be done from home and I don’t begrudge anyone with families, or a pet, from being able to take the kids to school, or take Fido on his two or three walks a day. Plus the savings, from our disastrously expensive transport network, will be particularly welcome, during this cost of living crisis. A bit of working from home, will now be with us forever and it’s not all bad. Perhaps in some cases one day at home, four in the office. Maybe. But please understand, as with so many changes to our society, that resulted from Covid measures, there will be a price to pay, if we desert the traditional workplace, altogether. Our work from home economy, might be more convenient, but it will make us poorer. With everyone sat there in the living room, on their laptops, the nexus of businesses that support office workers – cafés, pubs, shops, and contractors that service offices like electricians, plumbers, window cleaners and the guy that comes to fix the photocopier - will all be sacrificed, at the altar of homeworking.

Speaking to the Telegraph newspaper earlier this year, James Dyson, said work from home will impact productivity, creativity and cost the economy at least £15 billion a year.

James Dyson, this famous vacuum cleaner inventor, says work from home sucks. Its defenders are pumping out hot air. Soon the economy will be left for dust. Frankly I’m speechless. And bagless too. I’ll hoover up that mess later. The biggest fans, of work from home, are the so-called laptop classes, well heeled North London types, with vast oak kitchen tables, and spare rooms, which double up as an office.

Many can even pop out, onto the patio, and enjoy the expanse, of their well manicured gardens, as they type up, the latest company report. But millions, have no such luxury. These smug, finger wagging hypocrites, were the biggest cheerleaders for lockdowns, because it didn't just, NOT hurt them, it HELPED them.

They saved money, spent time with their families, enjoyed their pleasant homes, and paid down their credit cards, by skipping their annual trip to the South of France. And they were able to bake banana bread, watch loose women and crack open a bottle of Pinot Grigio at 5pm, as they perused their last emails of the day. It's alright for some, isn't it? But for millions of others, none of that is the case. Young people in flat shares, fighting for space on one rickety table in the living room. A single mum, trying to do a zoom call with screaming kids in the background. And work from home will be a disaster, for the many people living in low quality housing this winter, as they shiver, in poorly insulated accommodation, that they cannot afford to heat.

When was the last time anyone froze to death in the office? Or thought twice, about switching the kettle on for fear of the cost? This fate beckons for many, in the months to come. A work from home economy, is inevitably less creative - a bunch of faces on a

screen, is not nearly as collaborative, as a round table discussion in the office, a chat over a coffee, at Costa or Pret, or indeed a quick pint with colleagues after work. And there's no way, that workers, are as accountable online.

The boss, needs to see what people are doing, read the body language and crack the whip where necessary. We all know people who are very good at disguising how little work they do, even at the office. They pop their jacket on the back of the chair, and you don’t see them for hours. All of those people, have won the bloody lottery, with home working.

Work from home, is a big problem, in terms of career progression, because you won't be able to catch the boss’s eye in the office. It's a disaster for apprentices, interns and new recruits, who will have no practical way of getting to know the team, or how the business works, or what’s required of them. And there is a wider issue, about the long-term mental health implications of being housebound, alone, 24/7.

When does work start, and when does it end? And whilst the experiment of work from home was a temporary success, in the course of the pandemic, and the ability to work from home has saved the economy, a lot of potential damage, thanks to laptops, iPads and smart phones, do you really want to spend the rest of your life staring into a screen?

Is that what living really is? Does anything beat the positive mindset, of getting up in the morning, throwing on some smart clobber, slapping on a bit of make up, jumping in the car, on a bike, on a train or on a bus, and getting out there, to earn your daily corn and take over the world? Getting into the office, greeting the security guard, Brian, asking him how the family are, and whether his wife's hysterectomy, was all she hoped it would be.

If you play your cards right, he’ll show you a picture of her scars, on his phone. What about those wonderful spontaneous chats, in the work kitchen, comparing notes on last night’s Love Island, Question Time or Corrie. What about the whip round for Debbie's birthday or Ray’s retirement? And what about, the office romance? Those stolen glances, with Paul in sales, or Sandra in accounts. There's more to life, than the grey dystopia, of work from home.

We are pack animals and social creatures. We're supposed to be together. Work FROM home, is now so commonplace, it's been abbreviated to WFH.

Well I say, WTF. Work from home if you want to, but understand it will lead to a poorer, sadder and more isolated society. And a less productive, collaborative and creative economy. You might have noticed, that we're in a colossal economic storm at the moment, as outlined in last night’s Big Opinion monologue.

Which has gone viral and clearly touched a nerve.

So I would humbly suggest, we do everything we can, to HELP the economy, not hinder it. And that would start, with a nationwide campaign, to get people, back to their desks. Your country needs you folks. And your office needs you too. Because right now, Britain isn't working. Now, where’s my duster?