More and more employers are allowing their employees to work from home. In certain work situations working from home can provide financial and other benefits for both the employer and employee. Of course many, if not most, jobs are best to be done at a specific workplace but for many, especially backstage office employees, working from home should be seriously looked at. This instalment looks at my story when I took my office job home with me. In follow-up blogs over the coming weeks I will look at the ineffientcy of a typical office, plus the risks and rewards for both the employee and employer of letting staff work from home. My last entry will discuss changing salary structures to focus more on tasks completed than hours worked.
A few years back I wrangled my way into working from home. Essentially I gave my employer an ultimatum. Let me work from home or find a replacement for me for 9 months. You see we were expecting twins and I was entitled, since I work in Canada, to take parental leave. Parental leave was not our best option but we decided that it was better than the alternative of working away from home leaving my wife alone with 3 young kids. My position was not easily replaceable so we worked out an arrangement with my employer. When the twins were born I was allowed to work from home for 14 months.
To make them feel like I did not lose all connection they requested I come into the office two afternoons a week and to make sure that I was available during the day if I had to put out some fires. Other than that I could work whenever I wanted as long as the work got done. My home responsibilities included doing the cooking, cleaning, supporting an overwhelmed breastfeeding mother, and most importantly, having fun with our oldest daughter who was feeling left out with the two new arrivals. This meant I worked before she got up, at her nap time, and in the evenings 7 days a week. It was an exhausting 14 months but I am very proud I made it work. I was nervous that the craziness that was happening at home would overwhelm my work responsibilities but they rarely did. Once I got into a workable routine it became obvious just how more efficient I could be working from home.
Sticking to a schedule was vital and it was also important I got done what I needed to do as efficiently as possible. I had to prioritize what was important and cut out tasks that had very little value. I streamlined the communication process as I did not have time for too many meetings and long winded conference calls. I took the ones that were essential to get the job done and I politely refused everything else.
Everyone I dealt with on a daily basis worked different core hours than I was working and surprisingly it worked very well. While everyone was working Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm I got most of my work done earlier in the morning, later in the evenings, and on weekends. When I worked during those hours there were little to no interruptions of phones ringing or e-mails coming in. I would plow through my tasks in no time and send out all my communications asking for specific answers in return. I would then monitor e-mail and phone throughout the day and only respond to the emergencies. Any non urgent requests would be ignored or dealt with later. This opened up most of the day to spend with my family, take my daughter swimming, or go grocery shopping. You can save a lot of time going shopping at 10am instead of 5pm with everyone else coming home from work.
My job required working with a lot of different people, including many who had more impressive job titles than I did. These are people who like to think they deserve to have answers instantly. I was worried that these demands would force my schedule into the middle of the day and I would have to choose between work and family commitments. The fact that I was out of sight seemed to lower the amount of problems that were sent my way or at least diminished the urgency. I got very few complaints about being away from the office and in fact I got more complements on the quality of my work.
My second instalment in this series will look in detail just how much inefficiency there is at an office and how working from home can improve on that. It was a real eye-opener to me to realize just how much more I could accomplish just by being removed from the office.