The new office - part 1

Those who live and work in and around big cities will be very familiar with the daily process we all know and love as ‘the commute’. The physical activity of getting from where you live to where you work is time consuming, expensive and physically exhausting; most people do it on auto-pilot and surely no-one would choose to do it if there was an alternative?

We can blame the Industrial Revolution which sucked people away from local workplaces, usually a farm, to work in a factory or office based in a centralised location.  However, despite progress in the type of work we do and how we do it, and advances in transportation that enable workers can to come from even further away, we haven’t really made any real progress on the basic social model of work here/live there.

Despite this gloomy picture there is an alternative but not one that is yet available to the majority of workers.  A small and growing band of people and companies are showing that with some thought and co-operation on both sides, it is possible to make working from home a success.  I’m not talking about jobs that have been done in the home for many years, such as some types of piece work, but rather jobs that would normally be done in an office that are now being done at home.

Early home working pioneers usually approached their employers rather than the other way round and requests were often in response to domestic changes that required the mother (almost always) to be at home more. So rather than lose income and the company lose expertise, it made much more sense to introduce a new arrangement that worked for both parties.

In many cases these plans have been a success but it has required patience and commitment from all involved to keep such agreements afloat.  Managers have had to learn, for example, how to manage someone without seeing them every day whilst employees have to be able to detach themselves from the distractions of the home environment.  Some companies have really taken these changes on board and have now begun to actively recruit staff to work from home, recognising that it provides a useful differentiator when looking for staff and arguably lowers operating expenses.

It is clearly not an option for many people, factory workers for example, but for many others it might be no more than a question of working out the logistics, acquiring some new skills and saying then goodbye to the daily commute.  In our next post, we’ll cover some of the pros and cons to be considered before anyone proposes or accepts a work from home option.