Opinion and Analysis
Save time by working smarter at home
Posted Sunday, August 19 2012 at 17:13
I was recently on a conference call with some colleagues in London. Having just returned a few hours before from a week-long trip to Asia, my toddler daughter was not about to leave my side for any reason.
I had chosen to work from home as I was still knackered from the flight and since teleconferences allow you the luxury of participating in pyjamas I took full advantage.
I tried as much as possible to muffle her happy gurgling in the background without much success, only to hear one of my male colleagues CJ on the other side drop his phone after his toddler son had run into his own home office and caused major disruption.
There must have been five participants on that teleconference, all of whom laughed off the incident and didn’t hold it against CJ for having his child within the vicinity of a business meeting or for disrupting the call.
He later confessed that he had heard my daughter’s noises in the background as well and factored them in as the future generation being present in the here and now of business today.
Now this is by no means a story with a moral at the end of it. If anything it is simply an illustration of the modern father and, more importantly, the concept of physical presence in the office as a prerequisite to career success.
CJ is a director in a large multinational firm of consultants and spends a regular amount of his time working from home. His telecommuting work aspect is replicated in many other institutions across the UK.
But the key element here is that lack of a physical presence in the office does not in any shape or form dilute his career progression nor does it reflect on his work performance.
His organisation, like many others has incorporated a result oriented work culture rather than the physical presence culture that so many organisations are celebrating.
A culture of physical presence wrongly or rightly places importance on a person being at their desk pounding away on their computer as a sign of good performance. But a worker whose mind is on his or her sick child, or a maid gone who has gone AWOL will be utterly and completely unproductive for every single minute he or she is made to sit at their desk or face consequences for not tapping up to work.
If you have ever taken the time to actually look at what your staff does while seated at their desks you might be surprised to find that in an eight hour work day, actual productivity is just 50 per cent of that excluding a one hour lunch break.
The rest of the time is spent shooting the breeze at the water fountain or coffee vending machine, chatting up Tom, Dick and Harry on the phone, trawling the office corridors (with their computers at the desks turned on and papers left in disarray to signify presence) looking for a colleague to catch up on office gossip with or surfing the web on their smart phones (since you – the boss- removed internet access on all office computers except yours).
Now, if you were to give your staff targets to accomplish within a predetermined period, and those staff were not customer facing therefore do not need to be present at your physical place of business, why would you make it mandatory for them to sit and take up valuable, costly real estate in the name of office space?
Yes, I know the argument that team members sharing the same work space build a camaraderie and all that lovey-dovey stuff, but you can build camaraderie with people over the telephone. It’s just a matter of communicating in a not-so-uptight manner over the phone during work discussions.
Besides which, there are some instances where organisations simply do away with office space for seniors and convert that space into a hot desk area where tele-commuters can come in to the office at least twice a week to “check-in” or have a work space in case of an office team meeting. Read my typewritten lips: One must not be physically present to get one’s job done.
So who would fall into the potential tele-commuter category? People in accounts, human resources, IT support (if he can log into the system remotely, an IT support guy can give you assistance from sunny Timbuktu), legal and company secretarial as well as procurement.