So Is It Working? Or Not!

By Lyle Hill

I answered as it began its third ring and offered up my well-worn greeting. And as the person on the other end of the call started to speak, I instantly recognized the voice of Johnny “The Mooch” Rago. Loved by few and feared by many, his name still causes some Chicago westsiders to tremble.

“Hill,” he began, “I need an attorney. All the ones I’ve used in the past have either retired or won’t talk to me. So who you got that you could recommend?”

“What have you done now, Mooch?”

“It’s not for me, Hill. It’s for my kid.”

“Not Moochy Junior! I thought he had a good job and a family and all that.”

“He does, Hill, but let me explain. You see when COVID was shutting everything down, the company he was working for let everybody work from home. Now they want everybody to come back to the office, and he just cannot do that. It would cost him a ton of money, and I don’t think they can force him to return. So now I want to sue them.”

“Okay, Mooch, but I don’t think you can sue them for that. If they are employing him, they have every right in the world to require him to work from the office. And why would having to work from the office cost him a ton of money?”

“Look, Hill, once he started working from home, his wife could work fulltime because he could take the kids back and forth to school and not have to pay for after-school daycare. He’s also able to do fencing work, and there’s a lot of money in that these days.”

“Mooch, what does your son know about fencing work? I thought he was an accountant or something.”

“Hill, I’m not talking about fences like you put around a house or something, I’m talking about the kind of fencing I used to do.”

“Oh, that kind of fencing. Didn’t you do five years for that, Mooch?”

“They let me out after three, but can we get back to my son’s problem?”

“Listen, Mooch, the real problem here is for the company that employs your kid. How can he, in good conscience, take a paycheck from an employer who is paying him to work a 40-hour work week while, at best, he may be giving them 20-24 hours a week?”

“Hill, you really think all those people working from home are giving their employers a full week of work? And as for that conscience thing, he’s like me. He didn’t get one.”

The conversation soon ended, but it again caused me to ponder this whole “work from home” situation. Several large corporations are now requiring that their employees return to their offices anywhere from three to five days a week. I have always questioned this concept because while it might make sense for some, it makes no sense to me. So I called a friend who has been working at home for a couple of years to get his thoughts. He answered the phone on its first ring with a formal salutation that included the company name followed by his own.

“Tom, thanks for taking my call. Have you got a few minutes to talk? I’ve
got some questions I’d like to ask you.”

“Sure, Lyle, but I can only give you five minutes or so. I’m in the middle of a report that needs to be finished by tomorrow, and I have a conference call in about 15 minutes. Or if you want, I can call you this evening.”

“Thanks, Tom. I’ll be brief. I just wanted to ask you about this whole work-from-home thing. I know you’ve been doing it for a while now, and I’m wondering how you feel about it. Does it work for you?”

“Well, Lyle, it’s an interesting topic right now because, as you know, many companies are starting to call their people back to the office. And reportedly, there is a great deal of resistance to this. In reality, a lot depends on what your job entails. If the employee is disciplined and does not need or benefit from regular collaboration with other employees, it can often be a good thing. My job is analytical and I like not having to deal with the distractions that can often take place in the typical office. I like that I’m not spending time or money commuting to the office. You know as well as I do that a lot of office meetings are a waste of time. So I’m good with it. We have scheduled live meetings on Zoom and work schedules that include due dates and task timelines. Even still, my company has also now required certain positions to come back to the office.”

“Okay, Tom, do you feel the ‘work from home thing’ is being abused? That in some cases, productivity has dropped, and that quality of output is also suffering?”

“Of course it’s being abused, Lyle. I‘m sure you’re hearing the same things I’m hearing. Cell phones and laptops make it very easy to give the impression that an employee is plugging away from home while sitting on a beach or doing anything unrelated to their job. I think it’s called ‘human nature’, and it’s just the way it is. However, let me ask you now, Lyle. What do you think?”

“I agree with you, Tom. It’s certainly being abused, but in some cases, I think allowing people to work from home can make good sense. I think it’s situational and not a one-size-fits-all kind of a thing.

“Exactly, Lyle. Now was there anything else you wanted to ask me?”

“Yes, there is, Tom. What do you know about the fencing business?”

Lyle R. Hill is president of Glass.com®, an information portal and job generation company for the glass industry. Hill has more than 50 years’ experience in the glass and metal industry and can be reached at lhill@glass.com.

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