1. Not everyone in the office is working: I clearly remember being in a leadership meeting a couple of years ago which had a glass wall, and watching a contractor from a different department spend almost an hour and a half watching shark videos on YouTube! Also a significant amount of shopping goes on in the office and it is not for office supplies. The first reality is that just because people are at a desk in an office, it does not mean they are being productive. The above examples are extreme but not uncommon. On the other end of the scale how many of us find that we are spending our time managing our email, or sitting in endless back to back meetings that are not primarily focused on driving the business forward? We all know people that appear to be very busy but don’t have a great deal to show for it!
The big fuss over the benefits and pitfalls of remote working following recent decisions by Yahoo, and Best Buy to revoke the right to work remotely, has certainly thrown up some interesting debates with my friends and colleagues. Whichever side of the fence you decide to fall on here are four realities to consider before you make that jump.
2. Working from home isn’t all it is cracked up to be: There is this myth that those that work from home either permanently or on a part-time basis have the easy life. Have you ever tried to sit in the sun with your laptop it isn’t as great as it sounds as the glare often means you can’t read the screen, you soon get hot and sweaty particularly with a hot laptop on your lap. Also the power runs out and the wireless doesn’t quite reach the shady spot you have just moved to! In all seriousness though there are plenty of distractions from families, washing machines and gas works in the road outside. That coupled with the disconnection and isolation that some can feel does not necessarily make remote working the easy option.
3. Everyone is busy and no one has time to think: One of the biggest complaints I hear from people is that they don’t have time to think. There is a relentless drive to fill up every second of the day in the office with meetings and leave no time for critical thinking that results in breakthroughs for problems or new strategies. Creating time both in the office and at home is essential for ideas to be incubated and turned into meaningful business action through collaborative development of ideas. Maybe we should insist that employees take a lunch break so that they spend non-structured time with colleagues rather than fill it up with another meeting or hope that they will have an epiphany in the corridor.
4. It isn’t an either/or question: There are clear benefits both to working at home and in the office as long as people are actually working. Face to face conversations are vital for building strong relationships and establishing emotional connection amongst teams. Water cooler conversations can occasionally turn up interesting and innovative ideas for a business, but let’s not kid ourselves. How many of those bump into someone in the corridor opportunities actually turn out to be critical work conversations or are they just bitching sessions about the latest poor refereeing decision in the Champions League! Working from home gives people time and space to think, cuts down on commuting/pollution and ensures that critical workers from all walks of life can participate in a business. This is particularly important for working mothers who have to balance family and work. Key I think is to give employees the tools to help them be productive wherever they are and whatever time they are engaging in productive work.
The reality for a lot of people today is that they work both in the office and at home. We need to be able to blend our work and personal lives as more is expected of employees that extends beyond the 9 to 5 and something has to give the other way. How do you measure workforce productivity? It has to be the results rather than the hours in the office or in meetings. What do you think?