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The truth about working from home


I consider myself fairly lucky in that most of what I do as an information worker can be done anywhere – including from home.  The only notable exception is having meetings - the time honoured alternative to doing work.

When I do choose to work from home though, I am concerned that the historical stigma associated with not being “at work” would appear that I’m slacking off or dodging responsibility in some way.

Our friends at Citrix recently ran a survey which had some alarming statistics – 43% of remote workers watch TV or movies, while 20% play video games.  Even worse, around a quarter of the people surveyed drink booze, take a nap or do household chores or cook dinner.

Perhaps surprisingly, the story goes on to say this doesn’t actually worry managers too much.  The good news for me is that flexible workers are recognised as often more productive than people working in the office.

Businessweek quotes a manager who says if the employee is doing the work and getting the right results, it doesn’t matter what they get up to during the normal workday. He goes on to say the whole point of teleworking is to allow employees to fit their work into the rest of their lives.

In my case, having the flexibility to choose where and how I work based on what I’m doing is crucial to being productive.  Thinking about my weekly tasks, many involve collaborating and working as part of a team, but a large number also require focus and uninterrupted time to think and work through a problem or project.

My work environment at Gen-i often involves distractions and working towards a shared goal – which can be easily fit in when in collaboration mode, but disruptive when I’m trying to focus.

Flexibility allows me to be more productive and happier.  Work is something I do, not somewhere I have to be.  This ability to work from anywhere has blurred the line between work and play, for the benefit of all involved.

Reflecting on the Citrix article, I’m wondering if the 20% of time spent playing video games and watching TV isn’t necessarily instead of working.  Instead of commuting to work in rush hour, I could save at least an hour by working at home.  I could also save valuable minutes by not showering or ironing a shirt.

I’ve heard of people who spend part of their working day in pyjamas or sit at their home computers unwashed and unshaven.  That’s something which I expect to change in the next few years as New Zealand’s UltraFast Broadband (UFB) rolls out connecting suburbs to thefibre network.

UFB will make videoconferencing an everyday event and I guess I will need to pay some attention to the way I look on screen: at least on the top half, anyway.

David Reiss is a Propositions Manager for Gen-i

Comments and questions

I have worked from home, in a one-man business, for over 25 years and never had any problem remaining motivated and keeping my customers happy.

When I started practice as a barrister, a local member of the judiciary asked me where my chambers were. 'Oh, I just work from home,' I blithely said. The atmosphere cooled as my status plummeted. I didn't bother to explain that I had decided I liked the outlook from the window over the rose garden more than potentially travelling every day to an urban office, even when I could have afforded the urban office. (I eventually had to get an urban office but I delayed it as long as possible.)

Over 20 years for me. The key ability is being able to honestly judge your own productivity, and make up the hours if you're falling behind (which may mean 4 extra hours in the evenings). Naps and games are for when you're way ahead!

I started working at home in 1981. Only problems: friends thinking you're free to receive visitors, and roving collectors and religious nutters. Motivation not prob. You just think: 8:30-5 is work time and do it. Never need to work at night, that's a mug's game. Early mornings (pre breakfast) are sometimes good tho. Another important one: eat three times a day - at the same times every (working) day.

Mr Reiss speaks of a truth and that is teleworkers at present need to justify themselves to the doubting commuter colleagues and directors. After 20 years at home and many of my colleagues similar in other countries, we pioneers achieved more I suggest than the corporate environment employees I visited often in my many overseas travels. Add the time zone problems that sometimes meant we often pulled all nighters, I know our lifestyles were being constantly questioned. No question in my mind that all things considered home workers outperform all others

Here I am , sitting in my holiday home, connected remotely via mobile phone as modem, and working in pleasant surroundings at my own pace, without interruptions, kept up to date with the office by email and the odd call. I would deny anyone to say this is any the less productive... when the work needs to be done it is done. Mr Reiss speaks a lot of truth. I seem to remember clever telecom TV advert with just this subject of teleconferencing from the holiday home on the beach while the bottom half was in shorts and jandals out of view. There are more flexible ways to work in these days of technology without having to be in an office.