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Friday 25 Sep 2020

The Next Grandiose Idea
David Simmonds

All the talk during this pandemic has been about working from home. It’s here to stay. That’s the prevailing wisdom, anyway.


A twist on working at home.

Hold on a minute. There is an alternative arrangement that trend spotters say could outstrip the work from home movement once the COVID-19 workplace restrictions are lifted. Call it the home-at-work movement. 

A Toronto-based futurist, Krystle Bahl, explains it this way. “How many ZOOM calls have I had to join where people are wearing pajamas, eating their breakfast and looking like they’ve just woken up with a bad case of bed hair and it’s three in the afternoon. The television’s on in the background and half their mind is tuned into a text message on their smartphone.

“There’s no doubt about it,” says Bahl. “Working from home results in a sloppy lifestyle and sloppy thinking, which produces mediocre work. Better to urge people to be productive in a specialized environment. 

That got me to thinking. People pay two thousand bucks a month for a tiny one-bedroom apartment on the 24th floor of a high-rise building, overlooking the 24th floor of another high-rise and they call that home. 

Why not, Bahl said to herself; “offer workers the chance to get rid of their home environment completely and live instead in the place they work.” That would do away with the need for a 24th floor box. Instead, you charge them thirty per cent of their income and provide them with a place to sleep, shower, shave and eat three square (sic) vegan meals a day.

Bahl has a home-at-work plan to put in place in her own company, FlashForward Inc., the minute she can do so. She has every confidence she will get more productive employees once it gets going. She is likely right.


Not demanding too much (sic) of workers.

“All we will ask of our employees,” says Bahl, “is that they be available for work 18 hours a day, 12 hours a day on weekends and they be on call on statutory holidays. We don’t want to demand too much of people. Instead, we want to make living at work attractive.

“We will have a library, a sauna, maid service and an exercise room. It’ll be a step or two above your average college dormitory. In a way, it’s more like your old-style lumber camp, with avocado smoothies instead of pork and beans.

“We will even offer a personal companion service,” says Bahl, “so that people won’t have to spend their precious free time looking for friends or spouses. On top of that, we will offer recreational services, such as a community choir, which allow residents the fulfillment of singing songs together to express their appreciation to the company and their faith in its mission. 

“Our expectation is that people won’t miss having a personal home and, with our thirty per cent cap, they’ll end up with more money in their pockets. Not that they will have any time to spend it!” she exclaims, with a mischievous grin. 

Bahl notes the small environmental footprint that the home-at-work movement leaves. “Just keeping one centre of personal operations going and doing away with commuting will cut energy consumption considerably,” she says. In addition, it will free up more residential spaces, thereby increasing supply and making housing more affordable.

Bahl acknowledges there may be zoning issues to contend with before home from working can really take off, but she believes that regulations will eventually follow social trends. “Just think how exciting it will be for people to live and work on the 48th floor of an office tower and to look across the street and wave to the people who live on the 48th floor of that office building. You can’t stop that with regulations.”

Bahl concedes there are potentially troublesome issues to address. What special quarters will be designed for families? Does the employer have an obligation to ship an aging employee off to a retirement home? Can an employee who is fired simply be turfed out on to the street?


Overcoming obstacles is easy.

Bahl sees these as obstacles that can be overcome. “All it takes to become a believer in home-at-work” she says, with the air of someone with experience, “is one more person in a ZOOM call munching corn flakes and you’ll be an instant convert to the home-at-work movement.” Whether you live on the 24th floor or not.

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose, not infrequently laced with savage humour. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Pete Hamill and Mike Barnacle; the late Jimmy Breslin and Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington, Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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