Working from home is in vogue. From trendy companies like Google to the boring old CBI, everyone is at it. But is it actually helping anyone?
Earlier this week our Marketing Director Karen Webber posted this LinkedIn post about how much value she gets from being able to work from home whenever she wants – a policy that Axonn put in place a couple of years ago.
It got me thinking about the rise of what was once called ‘remote working’ and how it is changing not only how we approach our work-life balance, but also the way that we interact with colleagues and work on collaborative projects.
The death of the office…
The Financial Times’ fantastic Lucy Kellaway speaks a lot about the subject of working from home and how it can cause people to feel more separate from their corporate culture, but for me – perhaps the most millennial of millennials – I can’t help but think the opposite.
Sure, some homeworkers might feel this way, but for flexible hybrids such as myself (I work in the office about three days a week), the freedom of being able to break up productive Axonn work with some hoovering, laundry or life admin aligns me with the invisible zeitgeist of the larger company. 8am to 5pm isn’t just my work time. It’s my productivity time, leaving me to actually get some rest and relaxation in the evening.
While I’m reticent to back up my feeling with any stats, as I have a deep suspicion that anyone who conducted a study which concluded that remote working was bad for productivity probably wouldn’t publish it due to a fear of going against the current, the best proof you can get is that so many companies are allowing their staff to do it.
…has been greatly exaggerated
But where does this leave staff that either can’t do their job outside of an office, or those that prefer to come in every day?
There’s no doubt that this is an issue that hasn’t yet been resolved by the startup-think hivemind, but I think it can be improved by making offices a more attractive place for people to come in for either a 5/6 hour stint of work, a full day or even just a coffee.
I’m in the process of revamping our Manchester office by installing much-needed air conditioning, which will be followed by a change in table layout to a) encourage collaboration and b) make the office more aesthetically pleasing. Hopefully that makes the office work for everyone, no matter their position or disposition.
The stigma of the skive
But despite the platitudes above, I still feel guilty working from home. I imagine my colleagues murmuring that I haven’t come in again, or that my lack of presence there is unbefitting of a manager.
Remote working might have been around since the dawn of the internet and beyond, but it’s only really captured the workforce’s heart this decade: according to TUC, ten per cent more employees now work from home compared to 2005, although I’d imagine in our big cities this is much higher. It takes time for attitudes to change.
We all come from schools where attendance was compulsory and skiving was linked to poor performance and all sorts of other bad stuff. It’s hard to get that image out of our head when we think of our colleagues working from home. Even I – a huge advocate of remove working – catch myself doing it from time to time.
But thankfully, our economic system, as well as most people’s career progression, rewards results rather than appearances. The UK’s modern business culture – for all of its faults – doesn’t really care if you get that upsell wearing slippers or £600 shoes.
I’ll go for the slippers.