Thursday, 7 March 2013

Home And Dry

If you do the Twitter thing, follow me at @hotpixUK
or LinkedIn here uk.linkedin.com/pub/tony-smith-bsc-hons-acih/a/979/351/


You will have no doubt read that news item last week about how Yahoo have banned working from home (WFH). Marissa Mayer would clearly like to see those employees clocking in and out, being visible around the place.

It does make me wonder if the Yahoo offices look anything like those scenes over at Google. You know, a bit like at Bromford Housing Group; crash areas, open plan kitchens, leather sofas, booths where you can update Facebook, Twitter, PInterest and other social media. That approach makes your work environment look more like a home environment, the theory being that as employees, the line between the two becomes blurred and we spend longer at work (hopefully working!). Admittedly Google HQ (at least the London one) has more video games, more designer furniture and antique lampshades that any (forward thinking) RSL I have ever visited. Check it out here - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/picture-galleries/9461561/Inside-Googles-quirky-new-London-headquarters.html?frame=2303595

Reading behind the Yahoo headline however, the reality is more like 200 or so out of 12,000 employees who used to exclusively work from home. Well does this penalise honest workers who have carved out a fair work-life balance while going their roles well OR reveal the amount of shirking that happens when you work from home? When exactly should WFH be appropriate?

For many that is down to organisational culture, how well employees are managed, monitored and what kind of IT infrastructure supports them. That last point is crucial. If an employee can adequately work at home or on the move with full access to systems, documents and files, they can take full use of virtually everything they have at their fingertips in the office. Can you say that of your systems? How many documents are still the subject of an office paper chase?

In an age where EE are offering 4G at £42 a month, it’s a sad fact that many places we have social housing, there is seldom decent 3G. WiFi is a great way to get around this. One RSL I work with have put this in to many schemes, with a view to tackling Digital Exclusion. While residents pay a small service charge for this, it’s ideal for travelling staff who can get on to Citrix Receiver on a tablet/ipad or laptop. This means their full desktop is available when sitting with residents.

I have experienced traditional environments where working from home was allowed. In one case a programmer was perceived to have abused that privilege. As a punishment, all working from home was banned with some disappointing and discouraging consequences. In my experience where working from home has been successful (particularly in the IT area) people can be best managed in a goal based way. I.E. ‘products’ (in the PRINCE2 definition) of some kind should be delivered for a set time or date. The employee can then arrange their home day however they wish in order to hit that deadline. Thus you can fit the school run, a bit of shopping, waiting for that delivery or whatever around your day as long as you deliver. WFH is often relevant just for certain roles, projects or positions at different times. It’s important to make that point clearly to staff to remove ambiguity. They also need to act responsibly and fairly while in a work role.

Justifying WFH can be done based on many factors. Better for people and the environment, perceived greater efficiency, reduction in mileage claims where staff travel direct to sites (not via the office) etc. Provision of decent systems, Citrix/Terminal Services, hardware and data connections obviously introduce costs. Many organisations are allowing or encouraging BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). This can cut costs and make WFH much more convenient for staff. Access to systems needs then to be controlled and also deployment of apps etc on those users devices.

I work very much like that currently and more inclined to work way more hours than is perhaps healthy. I do miss the opportunity to ‘collaborate’ in a traditional office environment. That was one aspect cited by Mayer and a particular thing she wanted to achieve. It is enjoyable being out however and I do like being in business attire when on site. Anyone who knows me well will know my extensive tie collection, one that would allow me to work in one place and not wear the same tie again for over 6 years, if I had a mind to. The nice thing is when the shirt and tie is replaced with t-shirt and jeans, there is a psychological break from work to home. I know then when to stop!

Read on to: What's stopping us getting more mobile?

You can link with me on LinkedIn here - uk.linkedin.com/pub/tony-smith-bsc-hons-acih/a/979/351/ It would be great to connect !

Gerry Rafferty - Home and Dry.


(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting www.acutanceconsulting.co.uk 07854-655009

PS If there are subjects you might like me to tackle on this blog, please get in touch and let me know!

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