Should you consider homeworking?on 18 September 2009
As someone who works from home, one of the most common questions I get asked is "how do you find it". So, I figured it's never a bad idea to sum up my thoughts, so here are my top five advantages and disadvantages of working from home - hopefully with the end result of helping you decide if it's something you should offer your employees or teams:
- Save time. Working from home will present you with the gift of time. When I'm not working in the office, I can save time on breaks, lunch, travelling, while still getting the hours in and getting the work done.
- Flexibility. If you are a parent, have significant responsibilities or need to work anti-social hours by enabling homeworking you open the door to allowing work to happen, despite the best intentions of circumstance.
- Productivity increases. Without the day to day interactions of co-workers, you really can focus on those tasks which need to get done. It's so often the ultimate frustration when you are right in the middle of an arduous task and someone fires up with an inane question or request.
- Save money. Without the need for travel, buying lunch daily and even the after hours temptations of socialising, it undoubtedly saves an employee money. It can also save the employer money too - image not having to have monitors on every day or losing hours to transport strikes, weather conditions or other unforeseen circumstances.
- Improved motivation. Enabling employees shows that you trust them, which in turn increases the good feeling and makes staff motivated. Trust cannot be underestimated as a motivating factor.
- Lack of interaction. One of the biggest challenges is not having an 'out', being able to bounce ideas in real time. To overcome this, tools such as, instant messaging, video conferencing and online collaboration can improve the situation - but there is nothing quite like 1-2-1 contact.
- Misallocation of time. While trust is a huge issue, it also requires the employee to earn that trust. In many cases, home working has been abused. Whether that is for moonlighting, absenteeism or just using it as a get out for a hangover/long lunch. It's very hard to counter or prove any of these cases, however setting clear objectives during the periods of homeworking can help.
- Inability to switch off. This is my biggest problem. Whereas when you leave an office, you can switch off. You never actually leave your home, so turning off is particularly difficult. You have to manage yourself very carefully and be clear about when you will stop working. Otherwise 10-12 hour days can become all to common.
- Distractions. Of course, it's easy to get distracted. Pets, children and partners can all contribute. The best cure - get a room, shut the door and put some headphones on.
- Being able to collaborate. One of the huge drawbacks is that if the technology hasn't been provided to share documents, contacts and communications, it actually becomes nigh on impossible. There are plenty of tools available to enable it at all kinds of prices - you just need to find the right one for your environment.
As with anything, there are both positives and negatives, and constant homeworking is never going to match up to the benefits of working in an office. However, the benefits in short bursts can really assist and improve productivity - especially as a business continuity strategy.