Making Working from Home, Work

Snow is blanketing much of the North East and schools are closed and businesses are urging many people not to commute. So maybe you, like me, are working from home today.

Maybe this is a once in a while occurrence, or maybe it’s part of your regular routine.

But it got me thinking about an article I read in the MIT Sloan Management Review titled Set Up Remote Workers to Thrive and how to make working from home work (for entrepreneurs or both employee and employer).

 

According to the article, more than 10% of the 2010 work force telecommutes from home, more than triple the levels of 2000.

Lots of forces are at play here. Better remote technology, a shift towards more freelance labor particularly in areas like IT, accounting and public relations.  I am sure there is also a rise in consultants due to the downsizing in many large corporations that also contributes to this rising trend.

The article sites some clear cost savings benefits for employers; IBM saves $100 Million a year by allowing 42% of employees to work remotely.

There are also many benefits for employees including more flexibility, lower commuting costs, and saved commuting time which presumably can be re-invested in family time.

There are also several challenges outlined;

#1 Finding the Right Work-Life Balance

#2 Overcoming Workplace Isolation


#3 Compensating for the Lack of Face -to Face Communication

#4 Compensating for the Lack of Visibility

The article offers interesting management and employee strategies for combating each of these and is definitely worth a read.

I’ve had my own experiences with working at home. I’ve never done it full time but I have done it on a more regular basis (most Friday’s) at a previous job at Interbrand.

Since it was only one day out of five I didn’t really experience the isolation and visibility issues listed above. My issue was more with transition and work/life balance.

I liked the fact that it allowed me to go my kids schools to read for 30 minutes or stop work by 5pm on a Friday night to be able to go to synagogue or start my weekend earlier. My children also liked the fact that I was home. Although they didn’t really see me during the day because I kept my sitter and they often had Friday after school activities. But there seemed to be a psychological comfort in knowing I was home and not in the City.

What I found difficult was that I missed my train ride. I realized I actually cherish my 4o minute ride in and back from the City each day which is pretty much the only “me” time I get on a regular basis. On the way in to work, I read the newspaper, do the crosswords, read a book etc. On the way home, I catch up on emails, chat with commuting friends and generally just shift gears trying to leave the work stress behind me, and begin to focus on my family.

It signals an important transition time for me.

Working at home, you don’t really have that.

I also realized that I ate much more (too much) working at home. Every time I was a bit stressed or procrastinating about a task I didn’t really want to do, I found myself in front of the refrigerator. It was actually pretty unconscious, a bit like sleepwalking.

So to combat these two issues, I started working at my local library. It eliminated my commute and kept me in a productive, quiet place (where there is no food allowed) with a beautiful view of the Hudson river and free wifi as added bonuses. It also provided me the structure of having a place to go with determined hours (9 to 5) but a 2 minute (vs. 40 minute) commute from my home. When I had to do a conference call, I would go out of the library and sit on a bench or in my car if it was cold.

I think we are going to see more an more telecommuting and flexible work arrangements. These may be  driven by cost issues or a desire for more work/life balance. Either way, with advances in technology (like wireless, cell phones, tablets, VPN’s) having minimized most of the connectivity issues, I think it may be time to have a more earnest debate on this.

I heard this statement the other day:  “Work is an activity, not a place.”

I think there’s a lot of truth in that.

That’s my point of view. What’s your twist?

How do you making working from home, work?

4 thoughts on “Making Working from Home, Work

  1. Wow! This is a very timely post given the fact that I too have been working from home. No, it’s not the weather, It’s been nice out. My internet provider mistakenly disconnected service to the whole building leaving 4 businesses out of service for 3 days.
    I don’t like to mention names but the first 3 letters of the company name starts with AT&….

    Surely there are many good reasons why working at home “works”.
    Less time commuting, being alone at home during office hours means you can concentrate of work better etc. However for me, I found that I prefer going to my studio. Going to work gives me a clear separation of home life and work life. These past few days, I found myself working very late only because I know my work was there with me. It probably didn’t make for a good relationship week with my girlfriend given I was in my home office and she was reading on her new Nook in the den.

    Perhaps i just need more discipline when working at home?

  2. @Lee thanks for commenting. Maybe it’s time to make it up to your girlfriend with one of the ideas from yesterday’s Valentine’s Day post 🙂

  3. once again, another great topical-post, Julie… on a personal note, I have just transitioned into working from home to start this month.

    My job, whether at home or in the office, has always been about self-discipline. I am in a Commission-based business, and simply put, I “eat what I kill.” So, for me, focusing on work during the work-day is not really a hurdle I am worried about. Additionally, I feel there is something to prove to your boss by working from home. To reward their faith, you want to reward the bottom-line. Clearly there is less-policing, less monitoring, and slip-ups could become more prevalent if you are not careful. Technologically, I am set-up to work from home quite seamlessly. My job is done via email & the phone, so there is little-to-no adjustment there.

    Like you commented, I too, miss the camaraderie of my train ride as I am a bit of a “social bug”; but in a bit of counter-balance, I also found myself kibbutzing a bit too much in the office at times.

    At home, I have less social distractions. The TV & the fridge are not distractions for me. As a matter of fact, I have found a way to lose 5 lbs in my first work-week from home as I am more focused on getting work done and proving that I can handle the load while taking less time for lunch and eating more managable meals (as opposed to those BEHEMOTH foot-long sandwiches NYC delis made that I was accustomed to eating). Additionally, dinner has been ready by 615pm as opposed to 7pm (or later), and I believe eating a smidge earlier has also been a weight-loss factor.

    I was not sure how I’d adjust to the “silence” of the day & the “pressure” of not having my boss on top of me to pressure me. But so far, I have found an excellent mix of work-productivity & getting stuff done around the house as ways to break the flow & improve the overall quality of my day (i.e., an earlier dinner equates to more evening family time; more time for general straightening & so forth…).

    1. @Gregg thanks for a great comment. I think your point of stay at home workers going the extra mile to prove to bosses that they are productive is really thought provoking. While often we worry about less productivity, maybe your situation will spur you on to more. Congratulations on the 5 pounds and finding the right work/life balance. You are an inspiration!

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