Does working from home increase productivity at the expense of innovation? And does it suit you and your company? Join the debate!
Ten years ago, remote working or working from home would have been unthinkable for organisations. Advances in technology and connectivity have played a major part. But just as important has been changing attitudes to the concept of home working.
Gone (or perhaps going would be more accurate) are the days of the perception of home working as a way to skive off for a day. Earlier in my own career, people from my office who worked from home were viewed with suspicion.
The thoughts were that they would log on in the morning, go off to do other things, and return periodically to check e-mails to make it look as though they were busy.
While it absolutely wasn’t the case (the people needed an extremely good reason to be doing it), it might have come from a desire for parity, and knowing that the opportunity could be theirs too.
Seeing the Benefits
But as time has moved on so have attitudes. People are more receptive to the benefits of working from home.
Australian bank, ANZ, polled their employees, and 81 per cent of them stated that they believed that the quality of their work should be measured by what they do, rather than where they do it.
Last year, a survey carried out by the Office for National Statistics found that one in seven people in the UK worked from home. In the USA, 67 per cent of employers were allowing occasional remote working by 2014, up from 50 per cent in 2008.
Companies have woken up to the fact that not only can they offer a better work-life balance to employees, but they can offer a more attractive package to retain their best employees. This is on top of the financial benefits that they can realise too.
Sun Microsystems’ telecommuting programme was saving them $64 million in real estate costs and $2.5 million on electricity each year. Additionally, employees were saving an average of over $2000 each on commuting costs.
Productivity vs. Innovation?
It came as a surprise to many, then, when Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer banned the company’s 12,000 employees from remote working. While agreeing that productivity was higher when people were at home, she argued that innovation and collaboration were suffering from people working separately.
Yahoo stood by their decision, and another big name, HP, followed suit soon after. However, more recently, both organisations have softened their stance.
In some industries or organisations, the concept of home working or telecommuting is considerably easier. In industries requiring more face-to-face interaction, or physical presence, things will, of course, be more difficult.
Ultimately, it’s going to hinge on how a job is performed, and whether there is even scope for remote working.
The Great Productivity Debate
But how much of a difference does working from home make on productivity? Speaking from personal experience, I would say that I’m probably more productive working at home than I was working in an office full time.
However, working from home suits both my job – a role that can be done from anywhere with a power socket and decent wifi – and me personally.
And that’s what I believe the productivity debate boils down to. Some roles don’t suit working from home. And plenty people will admit they couldn’t, or wouldn’t want to, work from home.
Some people are more productive when they can get their head down in isolation. Others are more productive when they have other people, and the buzz of an office, around them. And there are people who thrive in both settings.
The ideal situation would be where organisations are in a position to offer both home and office working. Knowing that working from home is an option may be enough for some people when the occasion arises that they need that flexibility.
Making it Work – And Maintaining Your Sanity
Even if you thrive on working from home, you need to plan your tactics in order to make the set-up work. After two and a half years working from home, here are some of my tips to help you stay sane!
Plan Your Tasks
Start the day with two to-do lists. One will be tasks you can do on your own, the other tasks you need you colleagues for. Doing this will allow you to line up your next task if you can’t get hold of people on the phone.
It’s Still a Work Day
Don’t get distracted, treat your day as if you were in the office. Take breaks and get up from your desk, but remember, you’re working in your house, not doing the housework.
Get the Tools
At Procurious, we use Slack and Skype to communicate, Google Drive to share documents, and a good, old-fashioned phone call (at least one a day in my case), to stay in touch. It’s allowed me to continue working remotely, while still feeling like part of the team.
Find a Third Place
You’ll inevitably need a chance of scenery at some point. Find somewhere local where you can work. It might be a coffee shop, or a library, but it’s going to help you stop staring at the same four walls.
Breathe the Fresh Air
Get out the house once a day, whether it’s a walk before or after work, or running an errand at lunch. Plan some exercise into your day too. You’re going to be less active when you don’t have to leave your house to go to the office.
Meet the Team
You might be a remote worker, but you still need to meet your team. Getting into the office once in a while will help you stay up to date and connected.
If you want to work from home, make sure you sell the how as much as the why. With all the tools on offer, there’s no reason that communication should be what’s stopping you.
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