Snow is blanketing much of the North East and schools are closed and businesses are urging many people not to commute. So maybe you, like me, are working from home today.
Maybe this is a once in a while occurrence, or maybe it’s part of your regular routine.
But it got me thinking about an article I read in the MIT Sloan Management Review titled Set Up Remote Workers to Thrive and how to make working from home work (for entrepreneurs or both employee and employer).
According to the article, more than 10% of the 2010 work force telecommutes from home, more than triple the levels of 2000.
Lots of forces are at play here. Better remote technology, a shift towards more freelance labor particularly in areas like IT, accounting and public relations. I am sure there is also a rise in consultants due to the downsizing in many large corporations that also contributes to this rising trend.
The article sites some clear cost savings benefits for employers; IBM saves $100 Million a year by allowing 42% of employees to work remotely.
There are also many benefits for employees including more flexibility, lower commuting costs, and saved commuting time which presumably can be re-invested in family time.
There are also several challenges outlined;
#1 Finding the Right Work-Life Balance
#2 Overcoming Workplace Isolation
#3 Compensating for the Lack of Face -to Face Communication
#4 Compensating for the Lack of Visibility
The article offers interesting management and employee strategies for combating each of these and is definitely worth a read.
I’ve had my own experiences with working at home. I’ve never done it full time but I have done it on a more regular basis (most Friday’s) at a previous job at Interbrand.
Since it was only one day out of five I didn’t really experience the isolation and visibility issues listed above. My issue was more with transition and work/life balance.
I liked the fact that it allowed me to go my kids schools to read for 30 minutes or stop work by 5pm on a Friday night to be able to go to synagogue or start my weekend earlier. My children also liked the fact that I was home. Although they didn’t really see me during the day because I kept my sitter and they often had Friday after school activities. But there seemed to be a psychological comfort in knowing I was home and not in the City.
What I found difficult was that I missed my train ride. I realized I actually cherish my 4o minute ride in and back from the City each day which is pretty much the only “me” time I get on a regular basis. On the way in to work, I read the newspaper, do the crosswords, read a book etc. On the way home, I catch up on emails, chat with commuting friends and generally just shift gears trying to leave the work stress behind me, and begin to focus on my family.
It signals an important transition time for me.
Working at home, you don’t really have that.
I also realized that I ate much more (too much) working at home. Every time I was a bit stressed or procrastinating about a task I didn’t really want to do, I found myself in front of the refrigerator. It was actually pretty unconscious, a bit like sleepwalking.
So to combat these two issues, I started working at my local library. It eliminated my commute and kept me in a productive, quiet place (where there is no food allowed) with a beautiful view of the Hudson river and free wifi as added bonuses. It also provided me the structure of having a place to go with determined hours (9 to 5) but a 2 minute (vs. 40 minute) commute from my home. When I had to do a conference call, I would go out of the library and sit on a bench or in my car if it was cold.
I think we are going to see more an more telecommuting and flexible work arrangements. These may be driven by cost issues or a desire for more work/life balance. Either way, with advances in technology (like wireless, cell phones, tablets, VPN’s) having minimized most of the connectivity issues, I think it may be time to have a more earnest debate on this.
I heard this statement the other day: “Work is an activity, not a place.”
I think there’s a lot of truth in that.
That’s my point of view. What’s your twist?
How do you making working from home, work?