Does Working from Home WORK?
Candidates frequently ask me, “Can I work from home? Does the company have a flexible working policy?” While I’m happy to respond “yes” to these questions at times, not every company believes people are more efficient and productive when working from home. Interestingly enough, a number of large multi-national companies that were previously considered pioneers when it comes to flexible working have made a complete U-turn and are rethinking their strategy.
I’ve always wanted to try working from home, but it wasn’t common practice in the companies I previously worked at. When I joined Elliott Scott HR, I finally had a chance to work from home once a week and it has definitely been an eye opening experience.
I was initially surprised by how disciplined I had to be, but working from home can work and below are a few takeaways from my experience:
I’m focused: Some tasks (e.g. writing this blog, conducting phone interviews, and participating on conference calls) are best completed at home where it’s quiet, I can concentrate and there are no interruptions. Rest assured, I don’t allow myself to focus on housework or errands; otherwise, they’ll eat up my day.
I’m less distracted: Although working from home offers up a whole other world of distractions I frequently get more work done at home than I would in the office. This may be, in part, because of the change of scenery, but it also takes a lot of discipline.
I’m easily contactable: Technology today makes it very easy for me to stay in touch with my team, and vice versa, no matter where I am. I start my day with a team conference call, make sure I contact them throughout the day via Skype or WhatsApp, and I’m always quick to respond to requests. Unfortunately, technology also makes it easier for friends and family to contact me as well! When my mother first found out I was working from home she decided that it was the best day to FaceTime me for a long catch up. Much to her dismay, I had to explain to her that it’s still a work day for me and not the time for chatting.
I’m not “slacking off”: There is an underlying misconception that working from home is not a real work day. If you want to be successful, working from home needs to be just that, work. I write a list of things I want to complete the night before to keep me focused when I start my day, I don’t plan a night out just because I don’t have to go into the office, and I make sure I wake up at the same time I would if I went into the office.
Working from home is about trust: I believe that working from home falls somewhere between a right and a privilege. If you’re going to allow one person to do it then you have to afford others the same opportunity otherwise resentment can build. If you don’t trust your team to work from home then that raises separate issues.
Face-to-face is still important: Face-to-face is important and absolutely essential to team morale and cohesion. I enjoy working from home one day a week and I find the next day I’m looking forward to coming in to the office to see my colleagues. It’s hard to build a company culture and identify company values without that interaction.
Working from home builds company loyalty: A lot of people who are afforded the opportunity to work from home see it as a real benefit and that translates into loyalty and staff retention. Especially as many companies, particularly in Asia, do not offer that opportunity.
Finally, there’s a right time and place to ask for it - and it’s not in the job interview: Most companies say they are open to the idea of working from home, but it’s seen as a privilege that is earned with time. I would not advise a candidate to bring up working from home in a first round job interview. There are still misconceptions about working from home and I’ve had feedback from interviewers questioning work ethic because the candidate brought it up at the start of the process.
Ultimately working from home can work as long as you do!