Working from home is a growing trend with many organisations already giving the majority of employees the right to work flexibly. However ‘home working’ – as it is often labelled – can be misleading. Working away from the office is not just an opportunity to work in the comfort of your own home; it is about working from where you are most productive.
Employer resistance to home working has been recently highlighted by Marissa Mayer, the chief exec at Yahoo. Her decision to stop allowing employees to work from home was based upon the notion that some of the best decisions and creative ideas come from people based in a central office.
Here employees interact face-to-face on a daily basis. There is also a belief that the speed of completing a task is affected if people are working at home. Whatever your opinion on home working, the idea of being free from the restraints of the office is to increase productivity and therefore company revenue.
The productivity puzzle
However, having narrowly avoided a triple-dip recession, UK output is struggling to recover to pre-financial crisis levels. Output per hour worked fell 2.3 per cent in the final quarter of 2012 compared with a year earlier. Although, the job market is growing. Data released by the ONS earlier in the year showed that employment has climbed above previous peaks. Simply put, Britons are working harder to produce less.
Remote working is easier and more effective than ever and it is well recognised. National Work From Home day reached its eighth birthday in the UK this year. Created for all the right reasons, the day looks to recognise the ‘cultural, economic and social changes that are altering attitudes to how we balance or mix work and lifestyle.’ Whilst certainly the balance is shifting, it’s important to step back and ask the question why?
The answer is increased productivity. Remote working is not about making life more convenient, it is about allowing people to work in the places and environments in which they are most productive. The technology exists that will allow people to work from the location where they are most productive – but this might not necessarily be from home.
Productivity not profligacy
This is why at Siemens Enterprise Communications, we didn’t jump like so many others to condemn Marrisa Meyer’s move to ban remote working at Yahoo! earlier this year. This was a company-specific decision, made to address an issue of productivity that is supported by internal research done by the company. The decision also lays clear to all what the bottom line is: CEOs are focused on how employees are most effective, and will pull out all the stops to make sure this is the case.
We need to take the ‘home’ out of remote working. The secret joy of writing emails in your pyjamas doesn’t truly deliver value and won’t push the changes in work life that we all crave – increased productivity does. What this means is if you’re not effective at writing your reports in an office, you need to be vocal about it. This doesn’t have to mean you’re working from ‘home’ either. It could be in a park on a warm day with a laptop or tablet. It also doesn’t need to be an isolating experience. With the right tools in place teams can be just as effective virtually as they can when all sat in an office together.
Take some time today to analyse your working week. How could you get more done? Do you have a commute you hate that could be removed with the right technology? Can you head straight home after a remote meeting and continue the workday from there? How much time can be saved that can then be poured elsewhere?
Businesses must focus on creating a workspace that encourages a mobile, flexible and agile workforce. Without a focus on creating a work environment that unlocks the true potential of team performance, full productivity will not be achieved. Remote working (or ‘smart working’) is the future, and is as liberating a transformation as the journey from school to working life, all over again. We just have to make sure we keep the end game in sight, or we risk losing the way.