Is working from home really the best option?
Homeworking is held up as the holy grail, but is it really the best for your business, and for you personally? Other options give greater flexibility, maybe freedom to choose is more important?
According to Forbes, the most productive people are those who work from home . But before everyone runs out of the office declaring that having a workspace in their home will solve all their troubles, lets just have a look at the intended audience. This article is aimed at those who work for larger companies and want the option of working from home. Having the option of working from home, and having no choice (or feeling like you have no choice) but to work from home are two completely different things. A new business owner may not have the resources to obtain an office, and therefore is required to work from the shed/bedroom/tree-house to keep overheads down. This is extraordinarily stressful- trust me I know, I've been there.
The employee who now has the flexibility to work from home, whilst maintaining a salary, feels like Christmas has come- they can now fit work in around life and opt in to social contact as required. A growing business, usually, requires social contact for the purposes of networking at the very least. Social contact is probably also required to stave off insanity, it is not after all, good for people to be alone. Choosing to work at home and choosing to go into the office when required brings a dynamic that staves off the feelings of isolation that do occur. Business owners who feel 'trapped', who feel that they have to 'be in the office', which also happens to be their home, do not always get that same sense of freedom. Now, do not get me wrong- this is not everyone, I am more or less talking about my own experience. I have a friend who works in the states who loves home working, although home working may be a bit of stretch as he spends several hours in coffee shops. Nonetheless, he declares that he is a homeworker and it suits him perfectly, (although I would argue that he works remotely, which is a different topic and one that will be discussed in the future).
For me, having a separate work area, an office away from the day-to-day activity of my house was vital. I need a space that I can leave, where I can leave work and get back to my family, my home and allow myself to switch off. This is how my brain is wired, I compartmentalise in order that I can be the best I can be in different environments. When I'm at 'work' I am totally focused on that, when I'm at 'home' my focus is my family. Being an employee and having tasks to complete is a different kettle of fish to growing, or trying to grow, a business. I found that I spent more time alone trying to get the administration sorted, in order that I could then leave and go networking and grow my business. But the importance of the admin started to decrease the amount of time I had to network, compounding the growing feeling of isolation. I am generally very productive, Forbes is right in some respects as being without distraction meant I could get huge volumes of work done. However, Sir John Timpson is also correct when he suggests that there is no replacement for sitting next to a colleague. Having the opportunity to bounce ideas of another person is great for an external processor, it may reduce productivity in the short-term but getting the creative juices will be beneficial for longer term growth.
My intent is not to put anyone's back up, this is the perspective that I bring to a very broad and ongoing discussion. I believe that giving people the freedom to choose how they work is beneficial to all organisations, whether that be your own or someone else's. But lets not kid ourselves and say that everyone is more productive when they work at home. People are more productive when they have the freedom to choose how (and when) they work. But this isn't only at home- for some people this will work, for others it will not. I found as a business owner I became more and more isolated, which was not good for my mental health, which in turn was not helpful for my business. Yes, it may have cost more financially to get an office in a more social setting, but would the immediate non-financial benefits outweighed the higher monthly cost. Having an office contained within a local business community, geographically accessible from my home, would have done wonders for my need for community and social interaction. This would have created a triple benefit for me: it would have given me personal connections, business connections as well as the office I need to be productive (my own creative space). It would also created a professional address, one that was my business, which would have allowed me to keep my home for family and sanctuary.