Moving on from a couple of missed weeks I’d like to pick up where I left off and start the homeworking discussion. A salient time to do this as not only is there a mental health angle but I was talking with a client this week who was requesting information about employee monitoring software.
My career to date has been sales and pre-sales so I have always worked with people and usually in an office where there is a bit of banter but also with the opportunity to attend client sites. During my tenure at Pulsant, I was fortunate to be able to split my time between a couple of offices supplemented with a day a week at home. I really enjoyed the one day per week at home but the thought of being a full-time home worker fills me with dread as I like to interact with people. I can see the flipside however and recognise some people may prefer the quiet of home, but the question is whether this is good for their mental health? As a business owner, I also see the value in people talking with each other and especially in the support environment the team listen in on other conversations and pick up bits of information as well as often providing input into the support call.
In the UK just 6% of employees say they work a 9am to 5pm job and 31% of employees work from home at least one day per week. From an employee perspective, the numbers are even more interesting with 90% of workers believing they would be more productive if they could have some homeworking time and 58% said their motivation would improve. I can attest to both these figures and strongly believe flexibility allows you to spend more time with the family (you don’t need to catch the 05:58 commuter train) and when you are at home other menial tasks around the house can be included in the working day freeing up your evening time. I am not advocating doing big projects around the house but in the office, we go for a wander, a break, speak to people so taking 10 minutes away from your home desk to empty the dishwasher is really no different.
How we support home workers becomes key and from a corporate perspective we would tend to use the words ‘free,’ ‘trusted,’ ‘in control,’ ‘calm,’ etc yet we can also apply negative connotations to the home worker with terms such as ‘isolated,’ ‘lonely,’ ‘forgotten about,’ ‘out of sight out of mind.’ As we move to a more flexible working environment we need to take into account the well being of our employees, including investing in their workspaces at home to ensure they have an environment that promotes their comfort and well-being. We do it in the office, spending considerable amounts on ergonomic furniture, desks and funky offices so investment must be put aside to address the homeworkers environment.
As a business owner and a strong advocate of open and flexible working, I can see the challenges and also the benefits. IT support is most definitely a function that could utilise remote working. The Office365 suite we support enables remote working and with other tools including Slack, video conferencing etc it should be easy to have a remote support desk. Yet I am still struggling to get my head around the idea of the team not being in the office. High levels of trust are key and there needs to be strong processes but as I look around my office and see the team talking and interacting I wonder how I can set up a virtual office environment for the guys to give them flexibility and increase productivity?