Working from Home?

Working from home is now relatively common in many workplaces.  Technology makes it easy for people to do so – they can access files and systems from home and the telephone system can be configured so that home workers appear to be “in the office” and so calls can be transferred, or calls made from home which appear to come from the office.

But many employers still resist any requests from staff wanting to work from home – and their argument is that they think people will “waste time”, not be productive and/or simply not work at all and just pretend they are working!

Whilst there will always be some people who will work the system so to speak, it’s my contention that most people actually get MORE done when they are at home.

working from home productivity

In any working week I will spend some time on client site, some time working in my home office and some time in a co-working space and here are my (anecdotal) thoughts!

Admittedly, I am not answerable to anyone else other than myself so in the famous words “it’s my own time I’m wasting” if I choose to bunk off during the working day!

However, I often start very early and get work done at home before emails start pinging in or the phone starts ringing.  It can be a very productive time of the day.  But if you are the employer, you may need to consider whether it’s acceptable for a member of staff to be working at 7am?

Many people say they would get distracted if they were at home, and end up emptying the dishwasher.  My view is that 10 minutes spent completing that task – possibly whilst waiting for the kettle to boil for a much-needed cup of tea – is a very efficient use of time!

When I am on client site, sitting in an office, I see many instances of “time-wasting” – water-cooler conversations, multiple interruptions from other members of staff (for valid reasons) and meetings. Home-workers, by contrast, probably get lots of uninterrupted work done, without phones ringing, without distracting conversations, without people asking questions and yes – without meetings!!

The answer to the problems in the office would of course be better time-management and meeting management!  Have you considered limiting all meetings to 30 minutes, for example, or having standing meetings?

In general, home-workers probably get as much done as people sitting in the office.   If you can’t “trust” your staff to work efficiently at home (and yes that does include recognising that unloading the dishwasher is not wasting time) then it’s a bigger HR issue than home working!  And if a member of staff is putting in the hours between 7-9am then you may have to live with them finishing at 3pm.

I mentioned the co-working space – and I find this works (for me) in two opposing ways – and I would be interested to hear what others think.

I find that if I have a particular piece of work I want to get done, the change of scene to the co-working space affords me the mindset to finish the task without distractions.  On the other hand, I sometimes value the time in the office as an opportunity to interact and collaborate with others!

This article argues that people who work from home are happier and more productive – and from the employer’s point of view it comes down to good performance management – whether your staff are in the office or at home.  And if you can’t trust people to work productively at home – maybe you shouldn’t have employed them in the first place?!

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