Working from home isn’t the problem – our bone idle prime minister is

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Boris Johnson said: “My experience of working from home is you spend an awful lot of time making another cup of coffee and then, you know, getting up, walking very slowly to the fridge, hacking off a small piece of cheese, then walking very slowly back to your laptop and then forgetting what it was you’re doing.” This says far more about him than about anything else. What it says is that he is a useless idler who’s never done an honest day’s work in his life.

I started working from home in 2012, when the company I was working for closed its London office. The extra time I had in the morning without having to commute meant I had a better night’s sleep, so when I sat at my desk at 9am and began work, I was better rested and refreshed. I could log on and get right down to my work without any distractions. As did my colleagues, whom I communicated with through email and Skype. During the pandemic, everyone I know was working from home, and doing just as much work as if they’d been sitting in the office.

What this is all really about is Tory donors getting worried about the value of their property portfolios.
Antony J Shepherd
Croydon, London

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Boris Johnson’s description of his home-working behaviour, referred to by Gaby Hinsliff (Remote working is making the UK a more equal place – however much Jacob Rees-Mogg may sneer, 15 May), is at odds with my research findings. On Sky News’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme, the business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, translated it to be less cheesy as “people’s concentration … isn’t as focused perhaps at home than it would be at work”. But employees typically report precisely the opposite: that they are more focused working at home, not least as they get fewer interruptions.

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At home they may develop more of a rhythm to their workflow, focus more on priorities and give more in-depth consideration to tasks, and thus improve the quality of their work. This will not, however, necessarily amount to increased productivity, as people may be working longer hours to complete the same amount of work. This illustrates that the issue of the productiveness of home working goes far beyond the prime minister’s fear of “forgetting what it was you’re doing”.

Moreover, the valid argument which Hinsliff draws attention to – that going to the workplace is vital for sharing experiences and developing ideas – adds to the complexity, as it means we must differentiate short-term and long-term performance effects.
Prof Stephen Wood
University of Leicester

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