So today, Friday 17th May, is National Work from Home Day, an initiative that’s been run by not-for-profit Work Wise UK since 2006 to promote modern, ‘smarter’ working practices.
I like to think that at Wildfire we’re already on the right road to supporting our team with flexible ways to work. And so we should be, as we represent many tech clients that enable more collaborative, productive ways of working regardless of where employees are based.
We do believe it’s important to bring our team of 28 people together, in person, at least some of the time every week, but this is balanced with work from home options, desk space in a shared London office and spending time at clients’ offices.
For me, working from home a day or so a week ‘works’. It cuts down on a 30-mile commute, allows me to focus on tasks that need real concentration, and it brings that all-important work-life balance.
However, I do find myself having to brush off some preconceived ideas — usually from those who aren’t in an ‘office-type’ job. My Mum thinks it’s perfectly acceptable to call me when I’m working from home as I’m not really ‘at work’. While my sister believes I spend the day watching back-to-back Homes Under the Hammer.
Oh, if they only knew. Here are a few assumptions that people typically make about home working and my personal experience of what it’s really like:
- We have loads of extra time. Admittedly, the ‘commute’ from my bed to the home office isn’t a long one but clocking on at 9:00am and closing the laptop at 5:15pm is rare, as the discipline of knowing when to ‘down tools’ is missing.
- We work in our PJs. Well, I prefer to refer to my more casual attire as ‘lounge wear’. But yes, ok, sometimes I find myself wearing loose trousers and an old t-shirt all day.
- We don’t do very much. The reason I tend to find myself in ‘comfy clothes’ all day is that I throw these on when I get up at 7am, make a cup of tea, open the laptop to check my email and three hours later I realise I’ve barely moved.
- We over-communicate to prove we’re working. The thing about being in the office is that everyone can literally see you. At home, sending messages and emails are the way to be visible when you are not physically present — at a frequency that is rare when actually in the office.
- We get our washing done, so we don’t have to do it at the weekend. Ok, this one is true. But let’s be honest, filling a washing machine with a ‘full load’, throwing in a laundry capsule and pressing the ‘on’ button takes about as much time as it does to make a cup of tea when in the office.
While I’m lucky enough to work in a company that supports work-life balance, I know many businesses remain sceptical about flexible working. But the evidence of the benefits, such as better employee engagement, wellbeing and productivity, is mounting.
So while working from home isn’t something that suits everyone (and for some it’s simply not possible), Work from Home Day seems an apt time for every business to consider new ways of working.