A recurring conundrum around our TAB board tables is whether to allow staff to work from home, and if so, how to ensure we do it right. As business leaders, we feel a duty and a desire to demonstrate flexibility, and I know we all want the best for our employees. We also want the best for our businesses, so bridging the gap can feel a little tricky.
A few years ago, Skype (a not unbiased party in this scenario!) published a survey on working from home, so let me summarise the key points for you as they continue to resonate with me:
- Video conferencing, desktop video and VOIP are set to dramatically increase. The use of e-mail and the phone (expect to see one on Antiques Roadshow any day soon) will decrease
- An average 62% of businesses now allow staff to work remotely
- 56% of decision makers believe remote workers are more productive
- And after salary and working environment, the ability to work from home is the next most important factor in job satisfaction
But they would say that, wouldn’t they? Or am I being cynical? No two ways about it, working from home is an idea whose time has come. And yet it polarises opinion. Some people think it’s brilliant – an equal number think it’s a disaster.
I’d love to hear your views, because I know that a lot of this readership does often work from home (as I am doing right now as I write this). Does it work for you? If so, how do you make it work? I like to think I manage it quite successfully, so if it helps, here are half a dozen suggestions for you and your employees:
- You must have a designated working space: the kitchen table isn’t the answer. I’ve never yet met anyone who could work successfully from the kitchen table – just too many distractions (but if anyone knows a trick for “anchoring” the office-state-of-mind when you’re at said table, please share it).
- Ideally, convert the spare bedroom into a specific ‘home office’. What’s that? You were careless enough to open another bottle of red wine which led to an extra child and you don’t have a spare bedroom? Sorry, there are limits to even TAB’s advice…
- I don’t think hours matter. One of the great plusses of working from home is that it really allows you to work when your body-clock’s at its best. So, if getting up early and starting work at six suits your metabolism, just do it. The amount you can get done before nine can be astonishing.
- Make sure your technology is up to speed. If you’ve a state of the art computer in the office that zips around the internet at the speed of light, you’re going to get seriously frustrated if you come home to a laptop that thinks dial-up is a bit racy – and work will suffer. And when you buy a new laptop, don’t forget the built-in webcam, for those all-important Skype calls.
- Make use of technology as well. Software such as Google Docs and Dropbox will allow you to collaborate with the hapless souls still trapped in the office.
- If you’re working – you’re working. The kids have to appreciate that. And by the same token, you have to be strong. No nipping out for a game of golf just because the sun’s shining.
I hope those tips are helpful. Whatever you think about Skype’s survey, more and more of us are going to find ourselves working from home in the future.
By Ed Reid, TAB (UK)