As the coronavirus continues to spread, Bloomberg reported that this was the "world’s largest work from home experiment". People avoiding public places has had a negative impact on coworking spaces but the use of remote working apps has soared - on Monday 200 million people used Alibaba’s DingTalk app which includes video conferencing. To put that in context, that is the same number of people who had ever registered to use the app last June.
It’s been the week for (groundlessly) critiquing flexible working. Many outlets reported the results of a survey of working parents in Australia with a headline questioning whether flexible working was actually working. However, the survey - conducted by La Trobe University - found that workers were resorting to “informal strategies”, such as making family-related phone calls at work. It found that informal strategies like these led to far worse mental health than formal arrangements. Instead of condemning flexible working, the researchers concluded that this was evidence that either parents needed to make more use of the flexible working arrangements that they were entitled to or that they should be given more flexible working options.
Similarly, The Telegraph released an article with the headline “Has our modern obsession with ‘flexible working’ gone too far?” Despite this, the article was only about working from home - but it made several good points about the hazards of this working environment - from the impact on mental health, the loneliness and the possible distractions. This last was especially relevant given the recent National Rail investigation which found that two trains were 75 seconds away from hitting each other - which was attributed to poor communication between two people who were working from home.
This week's top advocate for flexible working was Emma Douglas, head of defined contribution at Legal & General Investment Management. When interviewed by Investment Week, she stressed the need for flexible working if there are to be more women in top jobs. She added that “we have a way to go before it is acceptable for a senior leader to work part-time. Changing this attitude would help women, and men, build a business life that works for them.”