23 June 2020
What is Talking Points?
Cambridge News asks a representative of each local political party to answer a question on a local issue in just 300 words. The answers are then published in the physical copy of the Cambridge News every fortnight. Here, we share our response to the question.
Today's Question: Will the end of the pandemic see prolonged working flexibility for employees?
Yes, but we need to be adventurous in our thinking.
As in so many other areas the experience of the pandemic has made us question our assumptions. What was previously unthinkable has become everyday.
Now that we see that working from home is possible for many people, there will undoubtedly be calls to make it part of the new normal. The advantages for workers lie in avoiding the commute, the advantages for employers is a reduction in costs. The advantage for the community is less congestion, less air pollution and fewer stressed citizens. However increased home working must be a genuine partnership. In using homes as workspaces employers need to ensure that employers are adequately equipped and that it is not a pattern that is forced on those whose homes are not suitable, as has been the experience of more than a few in lockdown.
Looked at more widely there are other potential benefits. Business travel, particularly flying, may be reduced by greater use of video calls. Added flexibility in working patterns can be made to favour those with caring responsibilities, reducing the numbers of people, particularly women, who leave work to look after children. As access to the internet becomes a normal expectation, we can use the opportunity to reduce the digital divide.
But we can do more. Once we realise that work patterns are not the straitjacket that they once seemed, we can take steps to leverage the new found flexibility to improve the lives of everyone. In May the New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern mused in public about moving towards a four day week, ‘it would certainly help tourism around the country.’ she said. The pandemic may be just what is needed to make us consider radically new and more humane ways of working.
Our response was written by Jeremy Caddick. Jeremy is your Green Party parliamentary candidate for Cambridge in the event of a snap general election. He is a local campaigner and the Dean of one of Cambridge's colleges.