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Working at home – Lifestyle AND Career Choice

Working at home – Lifestyle AND Career Choice

It’s becoming easier.   Technology enables working from anywhere.   Go into any coffee shop and see the number of people working at laptops, holding meetings and sharing cell phone business conversations with the world at large…
But if you work for a corporate and are planning a big career, do the advantages of missing the daily commute and the noise and buzz of open plan space outweigh the disadvantages?
I do not believe that absence makes the heart grow fonder in the work environment.  In fact, just the opposite.
Teams work because they are close together.  You don’t build ability in a sports team by everybody practicing in separate venues and coming together five minutes before a match.  The same goes for a choir.
Or is that changing with social media?   Are people able to build up great team spirit and work effectively without proximity?
I think it’s possible unless the model is not consistent.  
So if you have a team of 10 where 5 work in the office and 5 work from home, the chances are the 5 who work together will tend to work more closely together, while the 5 working from home may also build a rapport.
Two teams of 5, though, loosely grouped into a team of 10 when necessary….
There does seem to be a fair amount of evidence to show that if the whole team works from home, the team spirit is easier to create.
Of course, it depends on what the work is.   Some jobs lend themselves to flexibility and work from home.
So what to look out for if this is the path you have chosen, and you still want promotions.
1.       Share that this is your current choice, and that you are looking to grow your career.  Your boss might believe that working from home is your career choice and not consider you for opportunities.
2.       Be aware that people in the office are more likely to be given those ad hoc type of projects simply because they are there.
3.       Managers are more likely to build emotional connections with people they see every day, so in tough times their decision making processes might be influenced by this.
a.       Remember the Executive lift story – there is a view that if you are seen after 5 or before 8 you are working hard, so if you catch the lift at the same time as senior execs in the evenings it will add to your credibility.   Irritating, yes!   Politically savvy? Maybe.
4.       Proactive feedback into the team and management is stress relieving because anything you get as a manager without asking for it is a bonus! 
5.       There is a perception that people working from home are less structured in their time management ie spread their 8 hour work load over 12 hours.   That is OK if management agree to those terms, but if you are at a swimming gala or toddler’s party when your boss thinks you are at your desk, trust levels will drop.
6.       Learn to write emails using positive language, it is too easy to blast off a quick response in writing without realising that it might not be seen as constructive at the other end.
Do try to separate your home and work space so that people contacting you are not privy to home background noises.   Once again, the perception received is that of a professional and where you are becomes irrelevant.
a.       At Business Connexion and Telkom we are working with the Senn Delaney concept of “Be Here Now”.
b.       A key component of this is giving your full attention to the space you are currently inhabiting.   So being able to close the door on work should assist with this.

8.    Ensure that the deliverables are clearly defined and regularly re-evaluated.   It is very easy to slip into a comfort zone and not be aware that your boss is satisfied but not delighted.
9.       Should you be one of a few people who contribute from home, it is important to try and build relationships.  
a.       Whether you are an individual or a branch office, distance can cause exclusion;
b.       If you play golf, try and arrange the odd game with your work mates;
c.        As a woman, (and non-golfer)  I have found that finding the right opportunities to socialise and build relationships at a distance is not easy, so an awareness of this and communicating that you want to participate in social events is important.
10.    Working from home also can give your family and friends the impression that you are available during business hours for personal issues.   Have the conversations about this early so that you can prevent hurt feelings and misunderstandings when you are clearly at home, but not available.
Working from home can be productive, time saving and cost effective, but I also know that changing perception around it is a work in progress.
Traditional company culture might pay lip service to flexibility and work from home but unconscious – or conscious - bias against people who are not present daily can have a negative impact on career growth. 
As part of putting this article together, I discussed the downside of work from home with my colleague, Cathie Webb.   We both adhere to the “getting everybody together in one room to quickly resolve a problem” principle.   While we know that technology (to be really effective, though, there is a cost) and good planning can assist with this, efficiencies may be lost.   We also talked about how many good ideas come from spontaneous brain storming sessions.  
 I am very interested to hear from people who have made a success of this in a corporate structure, and get their input on how they have managed the process.

Links, References and Notes

Accsys provides people management solutions ie Payroll, Human Resources (HR), Time and Attendance as well as Access Control/Visitor Management.
The company develops, implements, trains and services our solutions.  We provide readers, turnstiles, booms and CCTV.
We run both on premise and in the cloud, as well as mobile options for ESS.  Recruitment, online education and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) are part of our offering, too.
twitter:   @TerylSchroenn
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