Rants & Raves

5 reasons why the office is a bad place to work

I don’t usually do this, however this time I just couldn’t resist. I just had to respond to such an ill thought out, badly researched and the be honest just completely full of fallacies piece of journalism. In the piece, Five reasons why the office isn’t such a bad place to be,  attempting to identify why working from home is a bad idea. However, all that was brought to attention were the incorrect stereotypes associated with working from home.

In my opinion, most of the items raised are completely incorrect and outdated. In fact I believe Mitchell & Webb, provided a more realistic view of the difficulties associated with working from home.

I’ll raise objections to the post by addressing each of the supposed issues raised. I have been working full time from home for a number of years and prior to that I was able to work from home at least a couple of days a week, so I have more than enough experience to provide more objective view points. I would be the first to concede that working from home is not for everyone, a point I have addressed in the challenges of remote working.

 

 

Social Interaction

It is a complete misconception that you don’t have Social Interaction working from home. On the contrary I have probably too much social interaction in working from home. Currently I work for Tasktop Technologies, a company specializing in fully automated, enterprise-grade integration software life cycle management tools to enable and enhance true agile software development practices. Here’s the rub, the company  comprises of an over 75% distributed work-force, spanning the globe. My colleagues I work with closely on a daily basis, a spread across multiple time zones and geographic areas including Canada, USA, UK, Ireland, Germany, Sweden, Finland and India. For the most part, we are in daily contact with each other, we share jokes, wise cracks and generally have a lot of fun.

 

We’ll have any number of private webcam chats a.k.a Face to Face discussions, group web cam conference meetings, chats and VOIP chats. We even have the concept of virtual water coolers. I admit it takes time to build camaraderie online, but it is entirely possible. Personally, what I think works in our favour is that majority of our team are 100% home based, and therefore everybody accepts their own individual responsibility to make this work.

 

We do have people in our team, that operate from the Vancouver based head office, however they also enjoy the opportunity to work from home several times a week. We have recently, had a situation whereby a truly valued and key member of our solutions team, had to move from Vancouver to San Francisco because her spouse was offered a once in a lifetime job opportunity. We could have lost her altogether and  the great contribution she makes on a daily basis, or we could  allow her to work from home 100% from San Francisco. The company obviously chose the latter option and that decision is still paying dividends

 

It seems pointless to me, as according to the referenced article, to value sweaty Lycra clad colleagues, over effective, productive value driven colleagues, for the sake of knowing glances across the office!!

 

The discipline



Framing the occasional interruption of plumbers and delivery men, as huge impacts? I experienced exactly the same in an office, the fact is that is just part of working life. It doesn’t matter the location where you work, you still require the discipline. Working in an office comes with a lot more distractions. I have worked for an organisation, who although implemented a mostly work from home policy, still required a once a week semi mandatory/optional office day in central London. It was widely known by all concerned i.e. Management and Staff that this incurred a severe productivity hit, because staff were at least 50% less productive in the office, it was still considered worthwhile from a Team Building and camaraderie point of view.

 

Working from home, does require discipline, it requires discipline in not working too much! Personally I struggle with this. It sounds weird but for me, the temptation to quickly sneak back to work to just “finish one more thing” is always there. I love what I do for a living and most importantly I love the way I am enabled to do it. I can honestly say, I never felt that why when I worked in an office. I absolutely hate working in offices. It’s all the cr@p that goes with working in offices, the 1 – 2.5 hour commutes, the dress codes, political wars, uncomfortable office furniture, the soul destroying cubicles or even for that matter open plan environments, ineffective management and most of all the archaic Time practices. I hate the hum drum of the 9-5 ethos! I much prefer working my own hours.

 

My current role requires me to put in an 8 hour effort everyday, how I make up that 8 hours up is entirely up to me.   Of course there are meetings and regular commitments one has during a normal work day, but mostly I work my own hours.

 

I don’t care about how my colleagues make up their hours during the day and for that matter they don’t care about how I do it. We all understand and know we need to get stuff done and getting stuff done is our main objective.

 

I would have to agree that attempting to work from the dining room table or sprawling on the couch, is not the best way to work. Instead I strongly suggest establishing your own home based office.

Visibility



There is no better way to be visible than ensuring that all your work is done. If you’re working for an organisation, that still has the archaic principle that because you are seen therefore you are doing work, then I can only suggest that you seek alternative employment.

 

I worked for a spell for a consultancy  whereby the managers prided themselves when looking up from their desks at 18:30 , that there were still people “working” at their desks.  I’m not sure how they determined the value or the need but I can assure you it wasn’t productive.

 

The fact is, effectively managing distributed teams can be tough and there certainly are challenges but they are solvable and the rewards are fantastic.  However, I have to concede that it may not be the perfect solution for all organisations.

 

Technology

The technology in this space has certainly radically improved, if I compare the technology available today, compared to what was available even 8 years ago, we are quite literally light years ahead! It certainly appears that improvements are made daily. I frequently have calls with colleagues in Vancouver and I get the impression they are just around the corner.

 

No one else does

This one is tricky. I disagree with the concept saying that “it just hasn’t taken off yet!”. I would say it maybe particular to the UK, primarily due to outdated and archaic management practices, in contrast companies based outside the UK have had to embrace the concept of distributed workforce in order to attract and keep talent. I would also have to agree that, there are still a number of jobs that will always require a physical workplace for them to be performed. However, from my experience from the type of work that I do, there literally is no need to be in an office, despite the fact that what I do is pretty much a team sport. It just doesn’t need the team to be in one physical location.

 

Enabling distributed working and changing the existing workplace cultures to enable it, certainly is a challenge. I have to admit that it is a lot easier to setup a distributed working environment in a company from the outset, so the company is established and from it’s core views itself as a distributed work-force, then your chances of success are significantly better. Changing the ethos and culture of an existing company to suddenly embrace and incorporate a distributed working policy is harder. It is the same challenge faced when transforming a company from a monolithic process driven organisation into an agile organisation.

 

Summary

The world of work is changing and it will continue to evolve. I doubt there ever will be a one definitive correct way to work. By the same token it doesn’t mean anyone method of working is any better over the another. I believe the manner of work  is a personal lifestyle choice. I deplore working offices and all the secondary hassles that is associated with it, my lifestyle choice is to work from home. Excuse the pun but it works for me.

 

In my opinion the author is deeply out of touch, with the work from home economy. You don’t actually have to be in any specific country to able to work from home. There is no need to move the Netherlands or any other country for that matter. I have worked for a number organisations worldwide without leaving my Wiltshire Village. The fact that I now work for a Canadian company from the comfort of my home office and I have colleagues dispersed geographically, tells the true story of how this global trend will continue to grow.

 

I do concede that working from home is a lifestyle choice that will certainly not appeal to everyone, but it is certainly a viable option and rewarding for those who wish to persue it.

 

The working from home sector can  have a very positive impact on the overall economy, for instance, working from home does provide you the freedom to set up home anywhere there is a viable broadband connection. Therefore no need for people to live in close proximity of motorways, railway lines or any other huge infrastructure based amenities.  This would enable people to move out of cities and major towns to other locations in need to population, thus rejuvenating small towns and areas.

Gary Woodfine

Freelance Full Stack Developer at threenine.co.uk
Helps businesses by improving their technical proficiencies and eliminating waste from the software development pipelines.

A unique background as business owner, marketing, software development and business development ensures that he can offer the optimum business consultancy services across a wide spectrum of business challenges.

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