Recently, with the introduction of new flexible working legislation, there has been more and more attention paid to the subject of home-based working and on the way home this evening I heard that today has been designated National Work from Home Day by Work Wise UK.
As someone who frequently works from home, I don’t need to be convinced of the benefits for me personally (less time commuting; less money spent commuting; less money spent on snacks at work; potential reduction in waistline measurements by not buying up large sections of the Marks and Spencer food hall each lunch time; and actually getting to see my family for a short time each day) but there are also benefits for employers (I’m more productive when I work from home; they don’t need to provide as much office space – just some “hot desks” for the days I am in the office; and my travel expenses are reduced) as well as for the nation as a whole (fewer commuters means less congestion).
Working from home is not for everybody though and some people may find it difficult (particularly if away from the office for long periods, or even on a full-time basis). When my wife left a busy public relations consultancy, to set up her own business working from home, she missed the office “buzz” at first (although now she finds the flexibility to be a major advantage). Personally, I find a quiet environment more conducive to work. What can be difficult though is remaining highly motivated and disciplined to keep up the work momentum when you are on your own all day. Some days I find that I can’t get going – more often I find myself putting in extended hours because I’m “on a roll”. Indeed, whilst the break from distractions is initially welcomed, without the movement of others around it is all too easy for the hours to slip by and it can become hard to separate work and private lives. This can be hard enough in a demanding job, but can be even more difficult when home is also the work place so its still important to plan breaks away from work.
One way to compensate for a lack of human contact whilst spending all day working at home can be making a conscious effort to get out after work (using all that commuting time that has been regained, perhaps taking up a hobby or sport).
It’s also possible to keep in touch with colleagues or clients by phone and email on a regular daily basis but this contact cannot replace face to face contact – a lot of information gets passed on informally when people bump into each other in the office and so it’s important to make an effort to keep in contact with the right people.
Of course, some jobs just cannot be done from home, but as the UK moves from a manufacturing-led economy to a service-led economy there are more and more opportunities for home-working – especially with the expansion of in broadband Internet connectivity and consequential growth in associated technologies like voice over IP.
Unfortunately (for those who have dinosaur managers who insist in staff being present at their desk for a fixed number of hours and at certain times each day) and fortunately (for those who could finish work at the end of the day without spending hours in traffic), we had a mini-heat wave in the UK today and I’m sure not everyone would have heeded the message from Work Wise UK that:
“National Work from Home Day is not intended as a holiday, or an extension of the weekend. Its aim is to let staff, and employers, see just how it could work – how productive we all can be.”