This post was prompted by an interview on BBC Breakfast this morning. The discussion centred around whether workers should be allowed to work remotely and why some companies insist on their staff being in the office.
Of course, technology today means that working remotely is easy with very few barriers to overcome, but is it really the most efficient and effective way of working?
Before I began my copywriting agency I used to work in a traditional office environment, actually is was a bank. Needless to say due to the nature of the work I did, remote working wasn’t a consideration. Being in amongst my colleagues meant that there were always people to ask for advice, always someone to bounce ideas off and a real camaraderie. Granted, at times it could be a noisy and distracting place to work, but on the whole it seemed beneficial.
Then I went out into the big bad world of business alone. Suddenly, rather than being surrounded by friendly faces I was on my own. Overnight I had become the boss, financial controller, marketing director, sales executive and customer service officer – quite a leap. But more than that, I’d gone from an office of 20 -30 people to an office of 1.
Now my colleagues were virtual and could only be contacted by Skype, email or phone. None of these are exactly difficult to use, but it wasn’t quite the same as being able to turn around and speak to someone on the desk next to me.
To my surprise it didn’t take me too long to get used to this new working environment. As I became a competent tweeter my network widened even further to include other professionals with expertise in areas that I knew nothing about.
Although the buzz of a hectic office was gone, I found the silence comforting and beneficial. So much so that now, should I have a second person in my office, it is very annoying and makes it very difficult for me to concentrate on what I’m doing.
Home or away?
Whether you should or should not allow your workers to do their jobs remotely comes down to the business you’re in.
If you’re working with confidential information then it’s a no brainer, unless you want sensitive data left in the back of cabs or on trains. But if your workers are doing a job that doesn’t demand high levels of security, that doesn’t require them to work constantly within a team environment, then why not let them work from home?
Some companies argue that it is beneficial for their staff to work within their team, so they have people to refer to because it enhances their knowledge and will help them to become better employees. OK, for some that might be true, but for many people the option to work from home at least once or twice a week would benefit them greatly. And it they’re happy and it makes their lives easier, surely that will bring benefits to the company too?
After a quick glance at the i newspaper at lunchtime, a story about Yahoo! caught my eye. Apparently they have banned their staff from working from home. A memo was sent by the company’s head of resources told Yahoo! staff that they had until the summer to migrate back to the company HQ in Sunnyvale, California or forfeit their job amid mounting concern that workers were “hiding” from bosses who had lost track of who was supposed to be where and doing what.
The memo went on to say “to become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side by side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices. Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people and impromptu team meetings.”
The article then goes on to say that in response, Richard Branson commented that “If you provide the right technology to keep in touch, maintain regular communication and get the right balance between remote an doffice working, people will be motivated to work responsibly, quickly and with high quality.”
Over to you
Whether you’re an employer or an employee we’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue.
Do you wish your company would let you work from home? Perhaps you’d prefer to remain in the office?
Whatever your thoughts, air them in the comments section below – I’d love to see what you have to say on this issue.
Sally Ormond, Copywriter and MD at Briar Copywriting Ltd