Recently we were invited to talk about flexible working at The PA Club’s January Discussion Forum. It was a lively session of PAs and Team Leaders from a number of industries including the legal and accounting sector. It’s great to attend a session like this, particularly when everyone is so passionate about the subject. It
Is working from home really as brilliant as it sounds?
Whatever the reasons for wanting to work from home – better work/life balance, less commuting, more time at home with the children – you need to think long and hard before you go for it. You may find it’s not the right working arrangement for you.
In our many conversations with candidates and clients over the years, these were their top pros and cons.
There is greater flexibility in where and how you work. Your schedule can be managed by you (although in truth it is likely you will still work core hours and match similar working hours with your clients and peers in the office). But it does afford greater flexibility for other activities in your life or more time with your children.
- Increased productivity – various studies have found a link between working from home including a notable 13% rise in productivity, together with a 50% decrease in staff turnover as homeworkers take shorter breaks and fewer sick. Many clients and candidates we have spoken to would agree with this point as there are less distractions and interruptions at home. Technology advances have supported homeworking, enabling remote workers to keep connected with colleagues through instant messaging apps, Google Hangouts, Webex and many others.
- You can save money on travelling, buying lunches, coffees etc. Although not so much in the winter when it is cold and snowing and you need the heating on full blast!
- Better work / life balance. The majority (82%) majority of remote workers say that they experience less stress and anxiety whilst working from home. It boosts morale and makes happier employees as you are better able to balance career and personal priorities, helping you to cope with personal or family issues or career related matters. This then impacts on better health and less absence or sick days.
- Blurred lines between working and home life. Remembering not to ‘clock off’ so always feeling ‘on’. It is important to remember not to always be answering emails and give yourself time away. This is really important otherwise the pros will soon become cons!
- Working from home can be lonely and isolating. You can feel out of the loop as the informal ‘water cooler’ conversations will not take place, there are no impromptu brainstorming sessions or asking for a sense check on your client email. Businesses have put in technology including instant messaging, Google Hangouts, Webex and others to combat this, but we find that individuals underestimate the importance of human contact and the extra effort needed to stay in the loop.
- No IT department – you don’t miss it until you need it! And sorting out IT problems from home always seems harder. You also have less chance to interact with colleagues outside your team.
- There’s less ad-hoc learning from colleagues and clients. Like the old saying ‘two brains are better than one’, some will suffer from a lack of feedback and brainstorming so you do need to pick up the phone. Working from home doesn’t mean you can’t speak to people.
As with most things there are advantages and disadvantages and only you can decide if working from home is right for you. Having said that, requests to work from home are unlikely to go away. More firms are encouraging homeworking too, typically for one or two days a week, to reduce their operating costs. However, we have also seen other firms, albeit very few, go the other way and have moved back from wholeheartedly encouraging homeworking to now setting strict limits to combat some of the cons we’ve mentioned.
From our own experiences, we like the happy medium: for most people, a few days from home and others in the office or at client sites is an extremely effective way to deliver all the pros and none of the cons of working from home.