I have been involved into an interesting conversation on LinkedIn about working from home and if the Cloud could help going into that direction. I was surprised by the number of people interested into this subject.
Some months ago in February, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer announced a ban on working from home. Now, Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman announced that she wants everyone to work at the office. She justified it saying that “During this critical turnaround period, HP needs all hands on deck.”
Which I think is funny because this supposes implicitly that you’re ‘hands off’ when at home.
I have a friend in HP who had all his meetings done trough teleconference during years. Alright, this is not like working at home, but if you can do meetings without anybody in the same place, you can do that at home. And all these big companies, the HP and Accenture and IBM, they all have been promoting telecommuting, reorganizing the office space so that anybody can plug his laptop anywhere and nobody use his own deck.
So the trend is not anymore going toward more independence for the employee, and this has nothing to see with the Cloud or any other technology.
Workplace is enterprise culture
I have been working for a french software provider where the boss was happy if you were working 09:00-21:00 every day. And then came a new guy who was working late like until 02:00 or 03:00 am, and thus was arriving around 10:00 or 11:00 in the morning. He was asked to do as everyone and be there at 09:00 (although nobody asked him to stop work during the night, sure). The guy was so upset that he took the first opportunity to work on a long term contract inside a customer, so that he would be able to do 09:00-18:00 like any other worker of this customer, and the company had to find 2 guys to make his job. How to demotivate completely an enthusiastic and dedicated employee.
I have seen this kind of attitude also in a spanish company, where my boss was throwing me some kind of condescending pitiful haughty look if I was leaving at 19:00 while she was taking more than 2 hours to go back home for lunch (when I was having a 30 minutes lunch or even a sandwich), or was talking loudly on the phone during long hours with her friends while everybody was trying to concentrate. Not speaking of imposing us shrilling piercing opera music in the office, just to show us how cultivate and highly special she was.
I also know a french software company where this is not a problem as even high executives are working at home. And it is more and more accepted that if you have something important or critical, better stay home and work quietly because everybody know it’s impossible to concentrate more than 10 mn in the office without being disturbed.
So, as we have seen in a previous post Freelancers and Solopreneurs, work might be where your computer is located but working from home is in fact a question of corporate culture and if your company or your boss does or not trust his teams or want to play ‘aquí el jefe soy yo’.
Workplace and productivity
I am much more productive working at home.
I don’t waste time going to work. In Paris, you are considered lucky if you can go at work in less than one hour and the same to get back. Work, eat, sleep.
I am in front of my laptop 40 mn after I wake up, taking my time to prepare me a good breakfast and start well the day. It’s 1 to 2 hours more time a day and a lot less stress.
Every time I meet a customer, it’s open space everywhere. Nice to see your buddies but not always easy to concentrate. I hated that when I was late on a difficult work and ‘buddies’ went talking loud about soccer, cars or any stupid realTV show.
Not talking about the guy who thinks he could have been a great drummer, put his headphones and don’t stop taking solos on his desk or with his feet.
I don’t have so much distraction at home. I take 30 mn every morning to have a look at mails and news and LinkedIn, but I am not looking at Facebook or Twitter every day.
It’s not so difficult to get some discipline once you arrange a corner as a space to work. Sure don’t work on the sofa in front of the TV. I don’t put a shirt with a tie but I don’t work in pyjamas too.
I think that companies have become much more aggressive about the mandatory winning culture and you are supposed to be in the challenging/fighting mood all day long. And I have seen some fierce competition when it comes to know who has the longest tongue to reach the rear part of the boss. The time I don’t waste playing “la comédie humaine”, I can spend it reading articles or blogs about how to improve efficiency.
I have a gym near home and I can go when there are not so much people. Homemade food. Healthy life.
The only inconvenient of working at home, in my personal experience, is that you don’t really stop. Even if you love your work at the office, it’s not difficult to cut for the week-end and let everything on friday evening waiting until monday morning. When your office is at home, it’s a little bit more difficult not to work during the week-end and you can easily get burned if you don’t take care.
So no, productivity at home is not really a problem, au contraire.
Each time someone working in an office asks me if it’s difficult to be productive at home, what he really means is ‘Can you find the motivation to work without being watched?’ I can convince him in 2 minutes that he would be productive too, and his last words are always: ‘what a stupid life at office I have’.
And you, how is your life at the office ?