I’m working from home today. This is not an especially unusual occurrence – I work from home for part of most days, though it’s more unusual for me to block out a full day to be at home.
Working from home, in my view, is a little like Marmite. You either love it or you hate it. And we’ll explore some of the rationale behind that in this blog post. But regardless of whether you’re a “WFH” fan or not, the fact remains that, with the rise of technology and the associated change it has brought to our working conditions, working from home is here to stay.
Extroverts v introverts
I am self-confessed extrovert (those who know me well will be not in the least surprised by this!), which is one of the reasons I’m not naturally drawn to working from home. I thrive when surrounded by a lot of activity and human interaction, and, unlike many I know, am able to completely block out distractions even in the middle of the busiest office. For this reason, for me personally, the ability to interact face to face is incredibly important to me – and while technology is amazing, it can’t (yet!) replicate the intricacies of a face to face conversation.
However, in contrast to myself, society is also filled with introverts, who by their nature have a preference for working in quiet, private conditions. For introverts, home working is a blessing which allows them sanctity from the hustle and bustle of an open plan office, and enables them to focus without unwelcome distractions. As an extrovert, I have found Susan Cain’s book Quiet absolutely fascinating when it comes to better understanding the opposing traits of introverts.
Maximising the chance of success
And, the fact is, that even despite my extrovert tendencies and love of working in a busy office, I can’t deny that there are times when it can be invaluable. I blocked out today knowing that I had a number of key projects to complete. While I’m fortunate to be able to still focus even in the very noisiest of environments, I knew that I would undoubtedly maximise my chances of success if I removed the inevitable interruptions. In a thriving, friendly office, it is surprisingly just how many times someone just pops over to your desk, to ask a question or to request a meeting. I welcome such interactions, but over the course of the day they do add up. Working from home provides an opportunity to get your head down without these.
There are other benefits of home working too. For organisations who really embrace it as a way of life there is the inevitable knock on impact of lower overhead costs for office facilities; employees no longer have their commute each way eating into their day. But even when it’s done on more of an ad hoc basis, the benefits shouldn’t be underestimated.
If I’m not in the office, it gives my team the opportunity to step up and to run the day to day operations without me. Providing increased autonomy and responsibility for our people is something we should all always look to do more of. It gives me more time to think outside of those day to day operations, and focus on our forward strategy. And, as CPO, it’s also a very valuable opportunity to replicate those working conditions of our remote workers, and ensure that the home/office link and communications are as seamless as possible.
What are you afraid of?
And so, with all of this in mind, for those of you who are perhaps still reluctant to embrace the rise of home working, I would ask the question why. What is it that you are afraid of? It is of course true that not all roles can be carried out from home. It is also important to ensure a balance between remote working and that all important face to face communication. But, when managers tell me they couldn’t possibly permit home working, what I often find they really mean is that they don’t trust their employees. In other words, they don’t trust their employees to behave like adults, and do the work that they’re supposed to do, unless they have their line manager keeping a close eye on them.
If trust is an issue, then you need to address that. But don’t use that argument as a reason not to embrace a way of working which all of the studies actually show increases productivity, not suppresses it. Home working is here to stay, and organisations which turn their noses up at it will increasingly find themselves missing out in the war for talent.
Oh, and if you needed any further proof of the effectiveness of home working… without distractions, I got that blog post typed up in less than 15 minutes. Now that surely makes it worth consideration!