Mention flexible working and you’ll get a barrage of opinion quicker than you can say ‘wi fi-enabled’. Broadly speaking, you’re either a Boris Johnson (‘We all know [flexible working] is basically sitting wondering whether to go down to the fridge to hack off that bit of cheese before checking your emails again’) or a Richard Branson (‘Remote working is easier and more effective than ever’).
Well, to Mr Johnson, I’d say: don’t judge others by your own dubious habits. And to Mr Branson: I could rule the world from a hammock in the Caribbean given half a chance, thanks very much!
Weeks into my own new way of working, I’m beginning to believe that there’s a middle way which appears to be a win-win for everyone. And I don’t say that lightly – after 30 years in office-based corporate environments, this is the first time I’ve tried a mix of home and office working.
On a personal level, I’m saving a fortune in train fares on the meeting-free days I can opt to work from home. As an additional benefit, I can avoid the commuter grind on a daily basis and it also means I no longer have to share the same carriage space as people who think it’s a socially-acceptable activity to pick their noses and examine the contents. (I won’t even start on bags on seats, pensioners who travel in the rush-hour and smelly food!)
Because I’m not working at home every day and I’m in hourly contact with the mother-ship by phone, email, Yammer etc , I’m not – yet – missing the social interaction that some home-workers complain about. If it gets too lonely, I can always talk to the dogs or the chickens. And there have been other side-effects. My sixth-former daughter nearly had heart failure when she skived off school for the afternoon last week only to find me at home, and my son says I’ve ‘ruined’ his revision plans once school stands down next week and that he’ll now have to go to a mate’s to ‘revise’! (Obviously, I’m now intrigued as to what he was actually planning to do, but he won’t speak to me!)
There’s a bit of pressure to prove I’m pulling my weight on the couple of days a week I’m at home and my husband has suggested I need to find a natural point to finish the day and make sure I take a lunch break. I’ve added these to my to-do list! When there’s minimal distraction, it’s all too easy to keep tapping away answering emails and updating the remote CRM.
Figures from the CBI reveal that there is an increase in people in the UK being offered the opportunity to work from home by employers. It’s a similar story – Yahoo aside – in the US.
And I think the key is flexibility – seconded by trust. Forcing unwilling workers to work at home on a cost-driven basis or making them do so without adequate tools and support will never work. On the other hand, working in a ‘people’ industry with corporate clients, I don’t think we could remain effective without the occasional foray into the office to interact face-to-face with colleagues.(It also means you won’t forget that jogging bottoms and a sloppy Joe just won’t cut it out of the home office!)
A lot is said about treating employees like the adults they are so I am proud to be working for a company which doesn’t just pay lip service to a professed ‘grown-up culture’ and trusts me to get on with the job I’m paid to do whether I’m at home or in an office. And a bit of both seems to be an ideal solution.
Now, another cuppa anyone?
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