Just this morning, I took a call from a client from his hospital bed. I admired his determination (or perhaps it was the boredom of the ward) that inspired him to beg his boss to bring him his iPad, but I couldn’t help remembering the time when if you were out of the office, you were out of the office.
The advancement of technologies- such as the iPad, wireless Internet and email connectivity- has enabled people to keep in touch with colleagues, customers and allow managers to check in as necessary. Not all jobs are suitable for remote working- but the chances are if you work with a computer and a telephone, you’ll be quite capable of doing it from home.
Now, my client is working from the hospital, worrying about if the doctor arrives when he’s on the phone to a customer. How many people are doing this all over the UK and indeed, the globe? Remote working is a growing trend- with more people than ever completing their daily tasks at home, on trains, and even in coffee shops.
One of the biggest attractions to working flexibly is reducing the cost of childcare. Setting up an office in your spare bedroom and keeping the eye in the back of your head on the kids is a huge money saver for families- and allows single parents to go back to earning earlier than they would if on leave. In April 2007 legislation was extended giving rights for working people to request flexible or remote working to allow care for children, spouses or partners. Another advantage is reducing commuting time- if you live in Somerset but want to work in London, you’re faced with a hefty season ticket, a relocation or no job. Asking for flexibility can ease the pain of a 2 hour commute or aid the transition period if you’re moving.
There are, of course, risks associated with working from home. Firstly, there is distraction. Ever started a task in the house only to stop after 20 minutes because you’re dying for a cup of tea or you really should put a load of washing on? It takes focus and organisation to ignore the pile of laundry and take a break when it’s appropriate- as you would in the office.
Also, there is a chance that whilst you’re out of the office, there is an important meeting or conversation that means a missed opportunity, event or memo- and if your colleagues forget to update you, you’re behind the times when you get back to your desk.
For managers, the risk is making sure your employee is completing their work to the standard and during the working hours that they expect. Working from home sounds awfully convenient but when target’s aren’t met and deadlines are missed, managers would be expected to investigate and if necessary, re-evaluate.
Managers experiencing a shift in staff working patterns could benefit from training in cultural change. When handled correctly, an organisation can be greatly benefited by flexible working, raising morale, motivation and lowering costs for employer and staff.