I am on holiday this week on the south coast catching the last of the summer before we head into winter. I always enjoy this holiday as it gives me a chance to actually read the papers cover to cover while dodging rain clouds. One supplement this week in the Times was all about home working and the benefits it brings the employer and the employee. It got me thinking as to how useful it actually is and if anything are we ruining the work life balance as it becomes easier to do?
I for one have never been a big blackberry fan and still haven’t managed to hook my iphone up to email. Partly because of the security the company employs on the internal network and partly because I don’t want to become a slave to my phone. I see what it can do to people and more importantly how destructive email can be to productivity. I always hate constructing a concise, informative email, only to get a few line reply from someone who feels it is important to just reply rather than give me the considered response I was looking for. What is the point? Yes you might be working at 1 am but then surely your next day in the office is going to be complete rot and in fact you could have waited 12 hours for a better response.
I am of the firm belief that while there has been a big push away from the office environment that actually it produces some of my best work. Before starting the business it was always a real challenge at home to motivate myself to work. I might have worked 18 hours but didn’t get the levels of work I can produce in the office during a 10 hour stint. I think that as long as you can manage your time effectively, not taking work home is actually the nirvana rather than this ‘work everywhere’ attitude.
I am not too sure who it helps either. From an employee perspective you spend your life checking email, firing off responses and never giving yourself an opportunity to switch off and think about family, friends or your home. You have a constant sense of anxiety that something is outstanding requiring your urgent attention. Granted if you have a young family flexibility in your hours is useful but to be expected to work all hours is exhausting and surely not good for your work or home life.
From an employer’s perspective it too can look attractive on the surface but dig a bit deeper and there are a number of potential issues to overcome. Firstly one of the benefits of working in an office is collaborating with your fellow staff – the creative discussions over a cup of tea or the quick meeting to make a decision. Body language and team work are all important business elements which can be lost to the home worker. Secondly security for a company can be a big headache. What happens when the employee leaves the laptop on the train or more easily the blackberry? How do you prevent your client list being passed over to a competing business by a disgruntled employee? All of these are solvable problems but ones that become more difficult the more time staff spend away from the office.
Don’t get me wrong I love the ability to be able to check email once a day while on holiday or at home. But not to be expected to do so all the time and have it in my face at all hours of the day. Sometimes it is good not to talk, our parents generation seemed to manage ok.
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