Irish Daily Mail

Do you want a job or a career? That could be the dilemma if you plan to work from home...


THERE was a man standing at the rear passenger door of a car on the overtaking lane of the M50 and, from his clothing, I presume he was the groom on the way to his wedding reception. It was soon after 4pm on Tuesday and there had been an accident on the northbound carriagewa­y, near the junction for the M4 to Sligo and Galway.

I was driving south, and saw the tailback stretching almost all the way back to Dundrum.

The traffic opposite was at a standstill, which I presume is the reason why he got out of the car to have a look – somewhere, no doubt, a photograph­er was waiting and a dinner was going cold.

I shuddered. I’m a native Dubliner, but I moved to north Co. Wexford years ago, and the one thing I can’t handle anymore is traffic – I hate it. If I go to Gorey to shop, I encounter three roundabout­s and just three sets of pedestrian lights.

The main street is roughly 10km from my house and I could set my watch by how long it takes – ten minutes up to town, two minutes to find parking, and ten minutes back.

In summer, there might be a little extra traffic because so many Dubliners have mobile homes in my area, but it is rare indeed, almost to the point of never, that I would get stuck in a traffic jam.


I have been in south Dublin for the past week, housesitti­ng and dog-sitting.

It has been nice to visit a few of my old haunts around Dún Laoghaire and its environs, but, even locally, there are just so many cars, so many sets of lights, I find myself irrational­ly agitated, roaring at strangers in colourful Anglo-Saxon.

So, I imagine, do many others who have worked from home during the pandemic and who now find themselves compelled once again to be physically present in shops, cafés, cinemas and, yes, offices. Even if only on a rotating basis two or three days a week, many friends are back at their desks as life slowly returns to normal.

I don’t envy them. I’ve worked with this newspaper for over 20 years now, the last 15 of them from home, which is what made the move to Co. Wexford possible in the first place.

My ‘commute’ is approximat­ely four metres from my bed to my desk, in another bedroom converted into an office. I don’t have to live in fear of being clamped if I forget to top up a parking meter.

I don’t have to queue for coffee or to buy a sandwich. I don’t have to worry about getting a suit to the dry cleaner’s or to iron a shirt.

Many others will have discovAlre­ady, ered these joys over the past 18 months. Relieved of the need to be physically present, they will have learned the benefits of working from home, relished the extra hours reclaimed from the misery of commuting, and spent more time with their children than ever before.

Many will wish this could continue forever, but there are ominous clouds on the horizon. big tech firms in the United States are warning they might reduce salaries for those who don’t return to office work, and there are rumblings in Whitehall, the epicentre of the British civil service, that anyone who wants to stay home might lose the London ‘weighting’ of the salaries, additional payment designed to cover the often eyewaterin­g cost of public transport into the city.

Such scenarios are unlikely here in Ireland, because we have legal protection­s that make profession­al contracts hard to renege on, but there are other ways in which firms might be able to turn the screw.

For starters, promotions might be harder come by – there are plenty of bosses who never will be convinced someone working from home is as productive as the person he or she can see beavering away at a desk.

This might prove to be particular­ly bad news for women in the workplace.

There is no excusing this, but if one person from a couple is to return to the office while the other works from home, and there are children in the equation, chances are it will be the woman who stays at the kitchen table on her laptop computer.

That will mean yet more potential leadership talent lost forever, as it has been because of everything from the marriage ban to the cost of childcare, both of which saw far too many women forced out of jobs they loved.


Making an appearance is not an issue for me, because I’m very happy doing what I do and have no desire to be promoted to any other job, but I’m not sure I would feel the same way if I was 20 years younger and anxious to climb the ladder.

Ability is always the key to promotion, but there is a social aspect to it too – a boss has to trust you, and often actually like you, to favour you over another candidate, and that means getting the measure of you in person, and not just over Zoom.

As we exit the stricter restrictio­ns of the pandemic, there is much we have to renegotiat­e, and the way we work is at the top of the list.

Some will be happy to work from home forever, others will want to get back to the office full time, and more still will favour a mix of both. Ultimately, though, that might mean the difference between having just a job or having a career, and that will be a personal decision for all.

As for me, well, I hope the groom finally got to make his speech, and that all those people trapped in cars going nowhere finally got somewhere.

I’ll give them all a fleeting thought tomorrow night when I hit the M11 before leaving the motorway and negotiatin­g my three roundabout­s and three sets of pedestrian lights, before pouring myself a glass of wine at the kitchen table, exhaling loudly, and praying I don’t have to get back to Dublin any time soon.

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