Working from home
If there is one thing that all local government staff can agree on it’s that no-one can agree on the appropriate place for ‘working from home’ within the local government world.
Too often the response of colleagues when you tell them that you will be working from home the next day is to raise their hands to the side of the heads, put their index and middle fingers in the sky and then bend them as they say that you’ll be “working” from home then.
Despite this there are plenty of good reasons for why both the organisation and the individual should work from home and very few reasons why they shouldn’t. Working from home benefits the work life balance, allows for more focused work and saves the council money. There are, of course, different ways to manage the home working.
Personally, I like to work from home when I’ve got a big piece of work to do. I like the ability to put on my own music, get comfortable at my dining table and just delve into it. Without the inevitable distractions of an office environment I estimate increased productivity of at least half. I don’t do it very often but sometimes the act of clearing your diary and working from home can be deeply beneficial.
Similarly, one of my previous managers used to have so many meetings that he would block one day per week to work from home. During that day he would clear all his e-mails, write his reports, set tasks for nearly all of us and did some of the strategy work that can get lost in the mire of the daily grind. He also had the rare chance to drop his son off at nursery and pick him up as well which he really looked forward to.
For those staff who are often required in the office and who don’t spend enough time at their desk working from home can be an amazing benefit. For those with a long commute which damages their family life it can be a life saver.
However, for a lot of our staff there are also other considerations. Many staff are working from their desk nearly all day every day and as long as we give them a computer, network connection and a phone they could be in Timbuktu for all it matters to staff efficiency or effectiveness. The trick is not to be too prescriptive about it. Some staff really enjoy working from home and would like to do it permanently if they could. Some staff value the camaraderie of the office and are motivated to achieve by being around others.
Many councils are currently in the position of downsizing their office portfolio, asking staff to hot desk, work flexibly and work from home so that the council can close down offices that would otherwise be costing them lots of money.
This is to be welcomed. Working from home is rarely “working” from home. Yes, it requires different styles of management but as managers never stand over their staff anyway it isn’t too difficult to handle.
However, just because it saves money doesn’t mean councils should implement it in a one-size fits all way. We are social animals and the ability to talk to colleagues and work together should not be lost in the working from home mix.
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