From the 30th June 2014 every employee was given the statutory right to request flexible working after 26 weeks of employment service. Before this, the right only applied to parents of children under the age of 17 (or 18 if the child was disabled) and certain carers. This flexibility has offered more of us the chance to work from home, and avoid the daily commute.
The big question now though, is how does this actually affect us? Different research draws different conclusions, however the majority highlight that if working from home is approached in the right way, it will make the employee and the business more productive. But not everyone will be suited to working from home, certain roles cannot be completed remotely and more importantly, it doesn’t suit some of us. So what are the key traits that make a successful home worker
Homeworkers need to be self-motivated. This means having a daily schedule that keeps you focused. Without the hassle (or cost) of having to travel into work, you can choose when you start, when to take breaks and when to call it a day. Whatever you decide, the key is to be disciplined and stick to your schedule whenever possible to maintain a sense of structure. In the early stages, this may take a couple of weeks to figure out, so don’t be afraid to allow yourself a trial period. One of the biggest advantages of homeworking is being able to choose the hours that are most productive for you personally, so think carefully about whether you are an early-bird or night-owl.
Even though you’re not going into the office, you’re going into your home office. Making a conscious effort to dress for work will get you in the right frame of mind, detaching you from you ‘home’ life and mentally transitioning you into your ‘work’ life. Additionally, if you’re participating in a video collaboration with colleagues or clients it’s important to be dressed as if you were meeting them face-to-face. So while pyjamas might be a comfier option, visually – both to you and to others – research suggests it can be a real distraction.
- Good communication
When you work from home it’s easy to assume productive working equates to solitary working. This shouldn’t be the case; in fact it should be the opposite. Essentially working from home is about being an even better communicator – using time effectively doesn’t mean sitting at a computer screen all day, it means collaborating with your colleagues and clients. You still need to support and contribute to the business as part of a team. Make sure you’re set up with unified communications tools, ideally video conferencing, and resources to share documents so you can discuss and annotate them with your colleagues in real-time.
- Smart worker
The point of flexible working should be to work at times that are more convenient and therefore more productive. It shouldn’t be a pressure to be constantly ‘on’ – your employer is expecting productivity, not extra hours. You need to be the sort of person who can work smart, not just work hard. Removing your daily commute not only reduces the length of your day, but also means all your energy is poured into work and not wasted on stressful travel.
One way to work smart is to make sure that you have an allocated office or work place within the home that you’ve established with the inhabitants – whether it’s housemates, family or your pet dog. This will ensure this setting is seen as a working environment by everyone, including you. However you also need to make sure you switch off at the end of the day. This doesn’t just mean switch off your phone, your computer and whatever other devices you have, but also mentally switch off. Go for a walk for ten minutes and come back to your house as your home, not your office.
From the early stages of making the decision to work from home, being organised, as obvious as it sounds, is crucial. Organisation comes into play before you begin home working. You need to make sure you have all the right equipment, training and access rights to be able to work efficiently from home. This includes connections to the company servers and the relevant programmes and tools to be able to communicate with your team. Book in an appointment with your IT department in advance so you’re aware of all the necessary security precautions.
Once you start home working you’ll need to remain organised. This means booking in regular face-time with team members and managers, and not letting collaboration with your organisation slip.
Flexible working is fast becoming a valued alternative to the typical 9 to 5 office hours, so it’s crucial that if you are keen to request flexible working hours from your employer, that you take the time to evaluate how you can ensure you will be a successful homeworker.
By Marco Landi, President EMEA at Polycom