Working from home

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carrying_house_pc_1600_wht_4461Given the choice would you rather work from home or commute to work?

In snow bound conditions this might be a no-brainer but generally speaking most people seem to prefer to go out to work rather than work from home.

Even though in Britain this increasingly means longer commuting times, getting stuck on concrete car parks known as motorways, or crushed like sardines in overcrowded commuter trains or metro/tube trains in uncomfortable not to say sometimes unhygienic conditions.

Experts suggest we lose many millions of pounds-worth of business each day due to bad weather in the winter and the country’s lack of preparedness for it.

So what happened to the technology revolution? Surely with lap-tops, wi-fi, smart phones, VOIP (like Skype)and video conferencing, file sharing and cloud technology, more of us should be able to work from home – or from the local coffee franchise. Or does that just apply to the so-called “nomads“: consultants of various kinds forever destined to travel the highways and by-ways, to whom e-traffic is just another hazard to navigate?

There are approximately 25 million people working but well under a million of those work from home. Leaving aside those working in production, manufacturing or retail, there are plenty of service and professional jobs you might think would be suitable for home-working,

One problem might be the slow inter-connectivity over the internet. The UK might have the most users of the internet per capita in Europe but we also have the slowest broadband speeds although ironically BT is one of the few employers which has experimented with home-working.

But it seems most employers like to see bums on seats and managers worry when they can’t supervise (from the latin to “over see“) and, some would say, micro-manage people.

Some research suggests that people are more productive at home – provided they can separate their work zone from their private zone and manage those boundaries to maintain work-life balance and confidentiality – because they don’t waste time commuting. In fact they might actually work harder so as not to be seen to abuse the system.

However we are social animals and it seems that we really need to have interaction with our colleagues – especially if we work in real teams, to enjoy those water-cooler moments, and, at this time of year particularly, the social activities which may be the high point of our work lives and the source of gossip to keep us going for months to come.