It’s good to be lazy. Far from decrying the nation’s reluctant returners to office life as lazy, we should be celebrating this most important instinct that I would argue is responsible for much of humanity’s success.
OK, you will have to forgive my amateur evolutionary psychology here*. But hear me out.
My arguments against a full remote working revolution are now well-rehearsed. From my chapter in Aftershocks and Opportunities, through other posts on this blog, to various interviews and social media chats over the last few months. In short, I don’t think we have a good alternative to the office yet for lots of constituencies. Young people learning the etiquette and behaviours of business in their first job. Those without a domestic situation that allows them to work safely, comfortably or productively from home. Those who just thrive on the office environment.
I also don’t think that our current digital channels have the sensory bandwidth to replace the experience of being there. It’s just different, and for many things, better.
But I say all this as someone who has worked remotely for much of the last fifteen years. And loves doing so. I am lucky enough to have a good setup at home to allow me to be productive. And my periods of working in offices and collaborating with others have shown me when it makes most sense to isolate myself, and when it is best to come together. I recognise that working remotely I can be a lot more productive in many tasks. And not only that, I don’t waste large parts of my day travelling.
As well as having a continuing fear of infection, lots of people – and their employers – have now recognised these benefits of working remotely. They have found a better way of working for many of the things they need to do. Once you have found this better way, why on earth would you want to go back?
Lazy people make good decisions
This is what I mean by it being ‘good to be lazy’. A core part of the human story for the last few million years has been our drive to find an easier way to do things. We have applied our understanding of the world to create all manner of tools to ease our lives: languages, wheels, currency, computers. We are driven by this innate laziness to do things better.
“We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”
Sure, and we do many things to challenge ourselves. Climb mountains. Dive seas. Read Ulysses. But these things, however heroic, do not tell us the bigger story of humanity. That is one of systems, processes and tools designed to strip friction from our lives. The fruits of our laziness are the systems on which modern society is built.
Do things better
It’s good to be lazy because people with the right type of lazy mindset do things better. They are less likely to be busy fools. They are more likely to be the type of ‘essentialist’ described in Greg McKeown’s popular book: focused on the things that matter.
We shouldn’t be calling out the ‘lazy’ people staying away from the office. We should be celebrating their better instincts. And at the same time, working out how we support those for home remote working just doesn’t work.
*Though some scientists would call all evolutionary psychology ‘amateur’ – and worse.