HOME SWEET HOME..?
Listening to the radio the other day I was interested to learn that what with all the travel disruption caused by the Olympics, thousands of London-based office workers could be, for a limited period, based from home—simply to avoid the awful commute into work. It makes sense. After all, why waste valuable time travelling when you could hit the ground running---at home?
Like Shangri-La, home working has a strange allure. I’ve experienced the pros and cons of both—and the reality too. Forget those day-dreams of relaxing in your favourite chair with your lap-top whilst listening to 6 Music and sipping a cappuccino. It’s not like that—or at least it’s not for the majority of home-workers and freelancers I know. As one (home-based) colleague told me years ago: “It’s all about self-discipline.” Misunderstanding him, I replied “What, you mean it’s hard to get up in the morning and actually start work.” “It’s the exact opposite!” he declared, adding, “The problem is stopping work.” Having been a freelancer for over four years I know what he means. It’s very easy to fall into the habit of firing up the computer at 7:30am “Just checking my e-mails dear…” and be hard at it at 7:00 the same night when everyone else has long since gone home (and not to work).
Working from home doesn’t mean you stop working office hours. Only when your home is your office it’s very tempting to work at any time---because you can. But if you’re not careful you can easily end up working ALL the time. The upside is that it’s amazing how much work you actually can do when you’re not distracted by all that office-banter and ‘buzz’. The downside is that without the social inter-action of an office, your life can quickly become a very inward-looking—and, not to put too fine a point on it, lonely.
Meanwhile, for managers, the challenge of home-working is juggling the expectations of those members of staff who are convinced it would be great for them—and ideal for you too. It can certainly cause tremendous disappointment (and resentment) when you tell someone, “Sorry, we’ve looked at it and we’ve decided your job is definitely ‘office-based’.” Then there’s the small matter of dealing with the fall-out amongst a team when one of their members IS granted home-working or so-called ‘flexi-time’. Cue grumbles: “How can we work effectively with someone who’s never here?” It’s good question. And if you’re a manager you’d better have a good answer to it. Home-working can be a win-win---bit not for everyone. After the London Olympic flame is finally extinguished maybe someone will do some research to see whether all that home-working, actually worked.