National Work From Home Day?! It’s that time of year again where, as long-time advocates of smarter, flexible working, I take a moment to reflect – to think about Work Wise UK, its activities and ours in the context of the day, the issues of our time, the last couple of years and, just as importantly, the future. So where do we begin…?
Well, let’s cut straight to the chase and get the B word out there. Brexit. Love it or loathe it, it’s with us. What does the post Brexit future look like? Will there be a Brexit? When? Will it be hard or will it be soft? What do we do about it? How will we need to adapt?
When I look at these questions I imagine worst case scenarios. Not because I’m a pessimist – quite the opposite – but because I want my recruitment business, Catalyst, my family and friends, the UK and the world, to survive and prosper, come what may. At almost 15 years in business, granted with a long, long way to go, we seem to have managed that pretty successfully so far and, if I’m honest, I’ve created bigger challenges for the business and myself than any “external forces”, Financial Crisis included. That makes me think two or three things – “you can’t control these forces – they’re way bigger than you”, “the worst case is probably not as bad as your worst experience”, and so, “you can probably deal with it”, and, “you will learn a great deal”. Accepting our history, our challenges, past and present, we’re all very, very lucky to be British – to call Britain our home - and I, like very many, from hugely diverse backgrounds, am incredibly thankful for that. That’s what I focus on, when I think about Brexit – equally that where there is change there is opportunity to improve, however challenging it may feel to look at things that way. Am I with Nigel, Boris and Jacob? Only as much as with, say, Grace Blakeley. It’s all about balance.
So what else is going on? Besides the continuing technological revolution? Besides globalisation? Besides population growth? Besides our living longer? For me, there are two words – Greta Thunberg. Oh go on then, four – David Attenborough. I’m not sure I need to say any more, suffice to say, I think that we’re all beginning to take notice – AT LAST!
And what has this got to do with National Work from Home Day? Well, when, oh when, will we really start to question the idea we make millions upon millions of CO2 producing commutes and flights that can be saved by increasing adoption of home-work and technology? Millions upon millions of hours sitting in traffic? Millions upon millions of square feet of office space saved or repurposed? And, why, oh why, do we accept the productivity gap, when a sure fire way to improve it is to adopt smarter working practices like homeworking? To me, it’s just bizarre to penalise congestion and pollution without offering an incentive or reward for behaviour that counters these issues. I suppose the good thing about increasing productivity, though, is that in many cases, the benefits are there for employers and employees to enjoy immediately – often by doing little more than adopting a new mindset.
I get it, I do. There can be great value in having a workplace – for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes it’s an absolute necessity, of course – a home for certain activity, equipment or machinery. But, for me, there’s still a huge opportunity for gain for UK employers and employees by increasing adoption of smarter working practices. Thankfully, we’re seeing it more and more. Is there a correlation between the OECD’s newly adjusted and improved productivity measures and the rise of homeworking? I hope so. Can we do more? I know so.
What I love about this is that the opportunity, that Work Wise UK stands for, seems to be uniquely suited to the UK. Our small, relatively densely populated, wealthy British Isles largely enjoy the technology and infrastructure that’s needed to adopt smarter working easily – quickly – faster. What I hope is that we continue to grasp that opportunity and go for it – accelerate - get to the homeworking tipping point, to coin a phrase – before Brexit or anything else necessitates it.
At Catalyst, we consider ourselves to be 100% homeworking, though we do use office space. My colleagues love it and we have suppliers who are similarly engaged. Candidates we work with increasingly look for smarter working practices from employers and we have a good numbers of clients – very different businesses - who employ homeworkers successfully – here are some of their thoughts on the subject:
Martyn Cole, Group Service Director, Roundel Manufacturing, “We actively promote home-working and have several virtual teams between London and Scotland meaning we benefit from greater flexibility and diversity of insights and mindsets. Forward thinking, we’ve invested smarter working methodologies for a number of years with around 30% of our workforce benefitting from homeworking in some capacity – and the company from reduced overheads and expenses.”
Andy Ward, Director, xBIM, “In our modern connected world, on any given day at xBIM we can end up working simultaneously with clients from around the world – I could be working remotely from my Newcastle home-office with a Central London business in the morning, and another in London, Ontario by the afternoon. Not being tied to an office location, and getting rid of ‘the Commute’ lets me do that while retaining a sensible, family-friendly work-life balance.”
So, for me, and others, there’s a bright future with smarter working and homeworking, Brexit or not. And it might just help save our planet.