Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Working from home: The future of business is remote

Working from home: A government agency tells the truth and it's wonderful

It's tempting to think working from home is the new normal. However, one government agency wanted employees to know what it really is. And the message is brilliant.

Male businessman working on laptop from home

He may be more productive. For a short while. What then?

Getty Images/iStockphoto

We roll with it, don't we?

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We blithely call it the new normal and find new ways to make jokes about it.

But mass working from home isn't normal, even if it does occasionally have humorous moments.

Of course, many tech companies seem happy with the results. A few, I fear, haven't necessarily thought through the potential emotional and psychological effects of the new working regime.

SEE: Life after lockdown: Your office job will never be the same--here's what to expect (cover story PDF) (TechRepublic)

I was moved to go outside and watch the bluebirds for a little while, therefore, on hearing of an email sent to employees by Parks Canada and then disseminated further to the Canadian Wildlife Service.

Posted to Twitter by cartographer and RPG game designer Mark Richardson, the email offered employees a more accurate perspective on what working from home truly is. Right now, at least.

Sample: "You are not 'working from home,' you are at your home, during a crisis, trying to work."

Isn't that much more accurate, as well as honest?

And how about: "Your personal physical, mental, and emotional health is far more important than anything else right now."?

When you're trying to survive a difficult time, one that could threaten your livelihood and even your life, you don't necessarily want to be wondering how productive you're being.

Actually, talking of productivity, here was point No. 3: "You should not try to compensate for lost productivity by working longer hours."

These people seem to bathe in a strange level of sanity, as well as honesty.

Some tech companies want everyone to believe that employees are proving to be more productive, especially as they no longer have to commute.

Yet Parks Canada would prefer that you stop being so competitive right now. To wit, point No. 4: "You will be kind to yourself and not judge how you are coping based on how you see others coping."

Surely you know that everything you see on your screen may not be the whole of reality. Or even much of reality at all. We've learned to fake it when we have a camera pointed at us. Facebook and Instagram showed us how.

But come on, all this airy-fairy Canadianness will surely not matter when it comes to looking at results. In the end, we're all judged by our results, right?

Here, though, comes the final element: "Your team's success will not be measured the same way it was when things were normal."

How refreshingly frank. It may be true that, in some businesses, working from home has made employees more productive. That may not be the case over time.

After two months of sheltering in place, many humans are showing signs they've had enough. They crave a little of the life formerly known as normal. They're desperate to do some of the simplest things and make some of the simplest gestures.

A hug or two wouldn't hurt.

So when an employer -- even if it's a government employer and even if it's a Canadian government employer -- bothers to offer an accurately human view, it's worthy of enormous respect and not a little loyalty.