People WFH moan about small stuff, but who’d be a farmer?

Workers at their desks at home may gripe... but they have it lucky compared to many others, says Trevor Laffan
People WFH moan about small stuff, but who’d be a farmer?

People lucky enough to work from home complain about their wellbeing, and feelings of isolation and loneliness

THOSE of you not up to speed with modern work practices, may not be aware that there is a section of today’s labour force known as hybrid workers; people who divide their time between working at home and going to an actual office.

The possibility of earning a living without having to step outside the front door will be an alien concept for those of a certain vintage. Particularly those who spent their working lives in shipyards, factories, coal mines and the like, usually on shift work and in tough conditions.

They didn’t have it easy, but some of these hybrid workers feel they are having a rough time of it too.

Brian O’Donovan of RTÉ, reported recently about new research from Microsoft Ireland, which revealed that some workers are struggling with the hybrid lifestyle. They’re finding it difficult to cope and feel they are missing out by spending so much time in the house.

They’re finding it hard to disconnect from the job, while a quarter of them feel demotivated or uninspired.

The ‘Work Trends Index’ also revealed that almost a quarter of hybrid workers felt removed from the company culture and senior leadership.

A total of 44% of workers agreed that it was harder to build trust with colleagues in a remote or hybrid environment, and more than a third said that their team culture had deteriorated; 36% of them said they felt lonelier.

The survey also revealed that Irish workers place high value on positive work cultures, flexible working hours, and benefits that promote positive health and wellbeing. Poor company culture and a negative impact on mental health were the top reasons why workers left their roles in 2021, and 27% of workers said a lack of flexible working opportunities led them to seek new employment last year.

Maybe it’s just me, but that sounds like whingeing.

There must have been workers in the real world choking on their breakfast cereals listening to that piece.

I can think of some who wouldn’t mind spending a few days in the comfort of their own homes, sitting in their recliners, tapping away on their keyboard.

Those who work outdoors and battle the elements every day to make a living wouldn’t mind a shot at it, but they will never get the opportunity because they have to actually leave the house to do stuff.

Take farmers, for example. I know very little about farming and I never fully appreciated how difficult it is until I watched Jeremy Clarkson’s TV series, Clarkson’s Farm. While it was funny and entertaining, it also opened my eyes to what they have to deal with on a daily basis, and having watched it, I have no idea why anyone would want to go into that line of business.

There’s no rest. They’re in a constant battle with the weather while trying to deal with things that want to eat their crops and infect their animals.

They’re under pressure to get seeds planted, then under pressure to get the crops harvested, while tending to sick animals and dealing with a million other things demanding their attention.

They can’t switch off. Do they struggle to disconnect? You bet your life they do, but they don’t spend their time moaning about it because there wouldn’t be any point, so they just get on with it.

Do they feel demotivated or uninspired? Probably, but they suck it up.

My father was a small-time building contractor who worked long hours in all weathers. There were other guys in the town in the same game and they were all making a living, but none of them became wealthy.

They had a lot on their minds too because they never knew where the next job was going to come from, or even if there would be one. They were also weather dependant, which meant they were constantly juggling indoor work with outdoor jobs.

It didn’t matter whether they were sick or sore, motivated or not, they still had to go to work, or the money simply didn’t come in.

Did they place high value on positive work cultures, flexible working hours and benefits that promote positive health and wellbeing? Did they feel lonely?

Maybe they did, but I suspect they didn’t have time to worry about such things because they were too busy trying to make ends meet.

“The next 12 months is a pivotal time for many leaders as we try to determine how to transform our workplaces and best meet the needs of our employees after such a dramatic change in ways of working,” said Anne Sheehan, General Manager of Microsoft Ireland.

“It is clear from our findings that the shift to a hybrid workplace begins with culture - one that embraces a growth mindset and a willingness to re-imagine nearly every aspect of the way work gets done,” she added.

I’ll tell you what’s clear to me. People who have the opportunity to work from home are privileged and anyone moaning about it needs to take a look at themselves. They definitely ‘need to re-imagine how work gets done’ and a dose of reality might help their thought process.

For their next training activity, or bonding session, or whatever they’re called these days, bring them to a farm or a building site on a cold, miserable day and hand them a pick and a shovel.

At the end of the day, when their backs are aching, their hands are blistered and they’re covered in muck with little to show for it in the way of remuneration, they might think differently.

By the time they return to their cosy home office, they will be in a better position to reflect on their loneliness and their coping mechanism.

They might even learn to appreciate how good they have it.

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