Lesson: BACK TO PORRIDGE (C1-C2)

  • Complete lesson, C1-C2 level.
  • Discussing working from home versus working from the office.
  • Listening to interviews on the topic of returning to work after the pandemic. Understanding the speaker’s intention.
  • Role-playing a disagreement or negotiation relating to issues from the interviews.

1. First: a challenge.

“Back to…”

Brainstorm words which can complete this phrase. How many can you think of?

  • For example “(get) back to work”.

Answers: here.

2. Speak.

  • Did you work or study from home during 2020/21? For how long?
  • What are the good aspects of working from home? What are the negatives?

3. Discuss in more detail.

  • What kinds of distractions do workers face at home? Does being in a workplace aid productivity?
  • What about technology: are Zoom meetings a blessing or a trial?
  • Commuting to and from the workplace versus converting your kitchen table into an office: which is healthier?
  • What long-term effects can you foresee as a result of so many people having worked from home during the pandemic?
  • Do you think most people in your country would prefer to work from home in future, if given the option?
  • What are the challenges of returning to the workplace after a long period of working from home?

4. Here is a comedy sketch about the travails of going back to the office.

Watch and consider:

  • What are the specific challenges referenced in the video?
  • Which of these are realistic scenarios?

5. Think, then discuss.

Imagine that you’ve been told to return to 5-days-a-week office work from tomorrow, after a long period of home-working.

Here are some specific challenges you might face. Can you rank these challenges in order, from the easiest (no problem at all) to the most difficult (you’d really struggle)?

  • re-adjusting to office protocols (e.g. dress codes)
  • going back to the morning commute
  • getting reacquainted with colleagues including their annoying habits
  • relearning skills and procedures (e.g. how to reserve the meeting room)
  • being observed while you work
  • having less time to organise home life (e.g. you can’t do laundry while at work).

6. Listen to an office worker describing her experience of working from home.

  • How did her experience change over time?
  • Is her viewpoint typical of the workforce in the USA?

7. Listen again and answer these questions.

a. Why does the interviewer emphasise the phrase “zooming for work“?
b. What does Jovina mean by rhythm, when she says “I found a rhythm at home that I really really enjoy”?
c. What word does the interviewer use to categorise “make-up, hair and work clothes”?
d. Why does Jovina feel bad about saying she doesn’t miss the daily commute?
e. Why would it be inaccurate to say “60 percent of Americans want to work from home”?

Answers to parts 6-7: here.

8. Now we’re going to listen to two more perspectives on the challenges of going “back to porridge”.

The presenter talks with management professor Arthur Brooks and with clinical psychologist Ellen Hendriksen.

  • The professor mentions two reasons why it’s important to go back to working face-to-face. What are these?
  • What does the psychologist say about social anxiety?

9. Listen again. Each of these quotes from the video contains one incorrect word. Can you find these and replace them with the actual words the speakers used?

a. When you’re meeting with somebody on Zoom, my guess is, 95% chance they’re actually not paying attention to you.

b. Your probability of saying you’re a lonely person goes up 60, 70 percentage points if you’re working at home as opposed to working in the office.

c. What is the protocol in the office, when you return to work?

d. We all are feeling a little bit rusty, a little bit shaky, as we enter whatever this new normal will be.

e. You could argue that, considering what was at stake, what is at stake still, that being socially anxious is the normal response, right?

Answers to parts 8 and 9: here.

10. Let’s watch the final segment of the video.

  • To what extent do the three speakers agree on the way forward?
  • Do you agree with their opinions?

11. Did you catch the fun fact at the end of the video?

If not, watch again from 7:10.

Discuss: what do you think happened to sales of the following things during 2020/21?

  • formalwear
  • flour
  • laptops
  • coffee
  • furniture
  • camper vans

12. Now for some more speaking!

Working with a partner, take one of these role-plays. They’re based on the issues explored in the video, but each is an imaginary scenario.

One of you is student A and one is student B.

Take a few minutes to read your instructions and prepare what to say. When your partner is ready, start the conversation!


If you liked this lesson, please leave a ‘like’ or share!

Lesson: BACK TO PORRIDGE by the owners of englishin3d.net is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except for the videos and main photo, which belong to the respective owners.

Video: Back to the Office by Sysaid.

Video: Back to the Office (maybe) by CBS Sunday Morning.

Main Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels.

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