The Home Working Imperative

It’s amazing how old attitudes persist in the face of all evidence and reason, isn’t it?

I recently ran across a press release from global recruitment firm Korn/Ferry International with the headline, “61% of Executives Surveyed Believe Telecommuters are Less Likely to Advance Compared to Employees Working in Traditional Office Settings". This is ridiculous.

In an age of crazy fuel prices, too many employees are pouring too much of their disposable income into their fuel tanks. Many fear they can’t keep up with expenses. When people are worried, it’s hard for them to focus on their projects.

Employers are anxious too. The cost to heat, cool and light an office space has grown dramatically over recent years, putting pressure on already lean profit margins for many.

There is an alternative to the traditional office environment. With ‘hot desking’ and home working employers could reduce the space they need to run their operations by half or more in some instances. And who said the office environment is the most productive place anyway? According to research sponsored by Internet firm AOL, a staggering 2.09 hours a day is wasted by the average worker, with office gossip being one of the main distractions.

In contrast, the managers at Technology Management have found that many of their home workers choose to log on and start work at the time they’d usually be getting into their car to start their commute.

Nevertheless, an unbelievable proportion of managers hang on to the entrenched idea that an employee who is out of sight is somehow less worthy than someone who is. “Managers have this fear of losing oversight over employees, and I don’t know if it’s justified,” says Kurt Reymers, a sociologist at Morrisville State College, SUNY. He cites a variety of studies, including one published in the Journal of Applied Psychology showing that people who have the flexibility to work from home are more productive and less stressed.

To be sure, physical presence is required in places like plant floors and retail stores. But for a knowledge worker who can operate dependably and independently, a home working option makes complete sense. According to independent research 6 million people in the U.K. could potentially do their jobs at home. And with the average UK commute now taking 45 minutes to travel 8.5 miles – 17% further than a decade ago and the worst record in Europe – the time is right to make significant savings for all involved.

To me, the evidence is clear. Managers should now do everything they can to encourage home working. It’s true that many like the social aspect of working in the office, but even if this were cut to only one or two days a week, the benefits remain significant. Managers can start by:

Measuring performance, not face time. This is very old news, but it bears repeating. If knowledge workers do quality work, then it should not matter where or what time of day they do it.

Investing in meeting and collaboration technologies. Home workers who need face-to-face chats with bosses or colleagues or who need to attend meetings and collaborate on documents now have a range of excellent new options. For example, Microsoft Communications Server offers users instant messaging, Voice over IP telecommunications (VoIP), audio and video conferencing. Microsoft SharePoint can support teams with project and document collaboration – with workflow that can identify where projects have stalled and prompt users to address the problem. And, of course, many Microsoft business systems, including their customer relationship management software, are now accessible through a web browser.

You can learn more about home working technology at this September’s Technology Expo in Wolverhampton. For more information visit www.tecman.co.uk/expo

One thought on “The Home Working Imperative”

  1. the only problem that might arise is a lack of motivation, that is otherwise present in the social setup of a workplace. but with the great communication and conferencing tools out there, where you can hook up and talk and see each other and work together on information, this social need is also provided for to an extent.

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