When staff at the Liverpool office of Deloitte, the accountancy firm, were told at the start of the pandemic to work from home they probably imagined that it would only be a matter of time before they could return to the office.
Imagine their surprise when, a few months later, they were told that the office was to close, and they would be working permanently from home!
There has been much written about both the benefits and drawbacks of working from home (WFH), much of it misunderstood such as the pejorative comment from author, Malcolm Gladwell that homeworkers are “just sitting in your pyjamas in your bedroom”.
The most often seen misunderstanding is the assumption that all workers have an office or other place of work to go to and that working from home is either an option or imposed on them. This is far from true. In fact, most people who work from home are self-employed freelancers such as accountants and bookkeepers, coaches, designers, solicitors, software engineers, virtual assistants and serial entrepreneurs whose permanent place of work is a home office.
Secondly, the ‘pyjamas in your bedroom’ assumption envisages all homeworkers as cooped up in their back bedroom or on the dining room table fitting work in around their domestic chores, watching daytime television or scrolling through Facebook.
As someone who has worked from my home-office for over 20 years, I have gained an insight into the reality of working from home.
In my experience, certainly amongst the professional home workers for whom setting up a properly resourced home office is a workstyle choice, this stereotype is rarely the case.
When I started to run my own businesses 20 years ago a home office was the obvious choice:
- No need for expensive office space
- No commuting, paying for parking and meals
- Allows me start work earlier and work when I feel most alert
- Safer and healthier
- Fewer interruptions
- Greater productivity
- Better work-life balance
I realised at the outset that creating the right environment is the way productive work ‘gets done’. So a comfortable, distraction-free space to work in was at the top of my list with the right lighting, spacing, temperature, swively chair and of course all the necessary office equipment. I ended up with this…
Which includes my picture of Steve Gerrard collecting the Champions League trophy in 2005 to remind me that it is possible to recover from any set-back, space for my library and, of course, my ‘thinking-chair’.
But working from home isn’t just beneficial for solopreneurs and freelancers; the cost savings both for the worker and their organisation (if the worker is employed by a larger business) are considerable and together with the greater flexibility and autonomy largely outweigh the challenges.
One group of homeworkers who are often overlooked by commentators are the numerous dads and mums (to fit in with childcare and schooling) and disabled people for whom homeworking is a choice or a necessity. This is particularly true of mums who work as virtual assistants or bookkeepers and who can often work flexible hours during school time or evenings to suit their clients.
As I said in a recent post, the future is here and flexible working is very much a part of it. We should embrace flexible working in all its forms and create a society in which it is accepted, and even encouraged, as a means of increasing the poor productivity from which we suffer in the UK.