Has Work From Home Become A New Status Symbol?
I am not the first to ask this question, and sure thing, I am not going to be the last.
It is open season to evaluate all consequences and implications of one of the most important moments in human history. The latest pandemic did not travel light. It paid us a painful visit with an extra-large suitcase of the most profound changes. Everyone and everything is affected. Not only how we do our business, but also how we live, interact with each other, and eventually, define ourselves.
The Winners and Losers of Transition Economies
It is not a coincidence that the first ideas about working-from-home as the new status symbol originated in Germany. Deutsche Welle (DW), “a German public state-owned international broadcaster,” was the first to publish an article about it.
The Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 marked the beginning of many things. The transition economy was one of them. My family witnessed it first-hand. My parents were the losers of this process of the overnight transition “from a centrally planned economy to a market economy.” Or in plain English, from socialism to capitalism. I share this with you without bitterness. That was a tough time to learn some important lessons.
I learned the hard way that the difference between success and failure had nothing to do with the “new circumstances.” It was all about one’s ability to adapt and change. Many people just could not accept the fact that the old world was gone. They refused to acknowledge the extinction of socialist “comfort zones.” On the other hand, there were others who discovered and unleashed their entrepreneurial potential and business talent. The tech revolution taking place in the background was an extra boost of opportunities.
That is why transition winners turned out to be the pandemic business survivors.
The Birth of A New Remote Working “Class”
Thirty years later, give or take, I found myself in the midst of dramatically changing circumstances, just like my parents once did. This time, I was prepared. Don’t get me wrong. I haven’t become a “winner” of the pandemic transition. Instead of wasting my time complaining, I decided to invest my energy in adapting that is productive.
I have also become aware of the survivor’s (syndrome) guilt phenomenon during the pandemic. People who already worked remotely or were able and willing to transition felt bad about their “less fortunate” friends, former colleagues, and family members. At the same time, I didn’t want to turn a blind eye to the real-life sufferings and losses.
I am pretty much sure that many of you had one of these conversations.
Lucky you! I wish I could also work from home just like you.
What’s stopping you from doing it?
You know, we can’t all work from home.
True! But, you know, you can make your work or business to be more online-friendly. The pandemic has nothing to do with it.
Getting back to the DW article about WFH as a new status symbol. The authors of this article embrace the findings of “a survey by TU Darmstadt,”
and the conclusions of “Andreas Pfnür, head of the Real Estate Management and Construction Management Department at TU Darmstadt.”
I tend to disagree with the claims that "working from home is on the way to becoming a status symbol for the winners of the new working worlds," and especially that "home office could pave the way for a two-tier society."
My favorite quote from the movie “Ready Player One” is: “Reality is the only thing that's real.” So, let me share a few real-life examples with you of my friends and family who defy the circumstances with success, and still manage to stay humble. They don’t see and identify themselves as the new “aristocracy,” not even remotely.
One of my uncles is a farmer who has never owned or used a computer in his life. He doesn’t need it. You can order his fruits and vegetables online. There’s an online platform where you can buy groceries, and support local businesses. He’s happy to pay a membership fee because, for the first time in his life, he can’t meet the demand.
My next-door neighbors, a young couple with a baby, have the time of their lives. They’ve never been happier. Once they started working from home and using Slack, they couldn’t think of going back - to their old offices. And, you know what? Their employers are OK with it.
One of my best friends is a professional chef. He doesn’t have the looks of Bradley Cooper, but he can teach the guys who made the movie “Burnt” a lesson or two about cooking. The restaurant he used to work for had to close. But, here’s a big plot twist. He launched a catering company.
My wife’s cousin’s beauty salon is “hibernating,” to put it mildly. But, here’s the catch. She’s fully booked not only until the end of 2021, but also for the first half of 2022. The moment all the pandemic-related restrictions are lifted, she would have to work 24/7. She is looking for additional staff as we speak.
The Gold Lining of Remote Working
Well, the Hacker Noon staff decided to increase the tips they leave to the local small businesses during the pandemic. Plain and simple, the "COVID tips" have to be at least 20%, and even more whenever and wherever possible. (That’s why it’s called the “COVID 20+” rule)
There’s no point denying it. Call it what you want, but working from home as a new status symbol is more than just semantics. “The new class,” “the new aristocracy,” “the new elite,” “the lucky ones,” etc. I ran out of quote marks.
Here’s the thing with the status symbols. Do you feel good about owning or claiming them? That’s good. Do you think that they come for free? And, by saying “free,” I mean without obligations and responsibilities.
It’s up to doctors and scientists to save lives. You, my fellow remote workers, have work to do. Our work, which is more of a mission, is to save the economy. It will take more than just leaving generous tips to the local businesses. Work harder and longer to minimize the damage caused by the pandemic. Share your knowledge, skills, and above all, the remote work message, so new jobs are created and new people get hired.
Feel free to enjoy your work from home status symbol because you earned it. Just don’t show off and don’t rub it in other people’s faces because you know better than that. You have to lead by example. So, lead and don’t try to save the world, but make a new better one. The new world with pandemic-proof businesses.
Remote it as if the fate of the world depends on it - because it does!