As with most things in Modern Society, the way we work is evolving. Legislation changed to encourage the concept of “flexible/family friendly” working hours, and many people took the opportunity to escape the rush hour rat-run; starting work earlier or later, with corresponding earlier or later finish times. The idea of “job sharing” also took off, allowing many workers to share a full-time role and pick up their partners slack at holiday times or if a doctor’s appointment was needed. Recently, the concept of working from home has taken off big time, but why is it so popular?
The most obvious reason concerns the soul-crushing commute to work; whether you go by private or public transport it never runs smoothly 365. Accidents on the roads can see lengthy delays for motorists, and delayed or cancelled trains are guaranteed to get peoples teeth gnashing in annoyance. When we eventually make it to the office, our nerves are already frazzled and we’re in no mood to concentrate on anything.
Working from home eliminates this factor straight away, with the added bonus of some extra zzzz’s in bed! A leisurely shower and freshly made breakfast help to reinforce a positive state of mind as the strenuous walk of a few dozen steps to the “office” is done. The importance of a decent breakfast cannot be over-stated; our bodies and brain need fuel to work efficiently, and a wolfed down pastry from a station counter simply doesn’t cut the mustard I’m afraid to tell you. One of the Chicks at Social Myna, Bex, rather niftily sums it up thus: “Home working means I have a very easy, low carbon commute” i.e. it’s pretty much a zero carbon-footprint! Bex also has a young family, so the ability to work from home means she can juggle professional and family duties with the minimum of fuss.
Having to wash and iron work uniform is a chore we’d all really rather avoid, and this is another bonus of home-working. If you have no meetings or video conferences to attend, then you can shimmy downstairs in your lounge wear or PJ’s if you fancy (character slippers optional!)
I think of home-working as being more “office un-bound”, and you do need a high level of self discipline and motivation to stick to deadlines. With the kettle within easy reach it is all too tempting to take rather more breaks than is strictly necessary; you’re probably thinking a few minutes extra won’t hurt, but when you tally these minutes up over the working week they can soon add up to a substantial chunk of time.
Working from home can be incredibly flexible in some areas; social media and more creative types of work such as writing, for example. Personally, I love this uber-elastic set-up. My creative juices are a little quixotic to say the least; sometimes I can sit there in the day and nothing at all will come into my mind, it’s like tumbleweed, and at other times my keyboard is emitting sparks from my feverish fingers pounding it!
If you don’t mind letting go of the stereotypical 9-5 mentality, working from home can be the most incredible thing to ever cross your path, believe me. The downside is that when inspiration strikes for the latest project you’re working on, it can come at any time of the day or night. I have, on several occasions, found myself suddenly awake with an idea and had to frantically scramble in the dark for my dressing gown and rush into the office to type words down; my husband is a saint, that’s all I’ll say.
Technology nowadays is so mobile that meetings can happen anytime, anyplace, anywhere. This can be great on one hand, allowing us home-workers to adapt quickly to client and workplace needs; you do need to be able to switch off though. It’s all too easy to just answer that email as dinner is cooking or whilst catching up with the soaps on telly, so keep a beady eye that it doesn’t interfere with family life or begin to stress you out when you “can’t let go”. I find that having a dedicated place at home to work from helps me to separate the two elements of my life.
Having said that, it’s precisely because of technological advances that working from home, well, works. You could say that being able to answer emails whilst the pasta is cooking saves you valuable minutes during otherwise “empty” time; literally, multitasking at its sharpest edge! There are a plethora of apps that allow the Social Myna team to quickly and easily reach out to our clients, which gives us the ability to respond to their needs should they suddenly change.
Kaye a.k.a The Boss feels that all the software and apps available to us mean that working from home need never feel isolating; no fear of that boss, us chicks blow up WhatsApp with our “chick chat”! In fact, the chick chat is something that another member of the team, Hayley, loves, saying that she’s never felt lonely working from home as there’s always chatter going on. Actually, we often use this medium to brain-storm ideas and because we do it “on the fly” (no pun intended) a lot of time is saved; we don’t have to schedule a meeting anywhere and come up with material in a rigid timeframe.
New mums can really cash in on the joys of home-workings fluid nature; when baby is napping they can join in the slumber party or take the chance to catch up with emails or make (quiet) phone calls. If the weather suddenly perks up then things can always wait for an hour or two whilst fresh air and play time in the park is taken advantage of. Appointments with doctors and post-natal checks can be worked around with little or no fuss, and definitely no guilt-trips from bosses to deal with! Social Myna Chick Charlotte is a very busy mum to two young children and for her the flexibility of working around their routines is worth its weight in gold.
I’m writing this from a female slant (obviously), but the truth is that men will equally benefit from a home working set up. Stress affects us all regardless of gender, and I’m sure that families would hugely benefit from a non commute-weary Dad that wants to play rough-and-tumble with his son, or be his daughters pretend Unicorn that she can ride on. Mum would benefit too, but I’ll gloss over that – you might be reading this before the 9pm watershed *ahem* ;)!
One hot topic-du-jour is the crucial work/life balance; “burn out” is seen all too often nowadays and not just in the high pressure stocks and shares trading floor environment. Mental Health is currently in the spotlight and our Boss Chick, Kaye, loves the fact that working from home allows her to practice her Yoga and Meditation as her mental wellbeing is very important to her. Kaye is also a big fan of the great outdoors and walking her two dogs provides her with the perfect excuse to escape into the countryside and “clear her head”.
A lot of people’s best ideas and work comes to them when they’re relaxed and actually feeling “switched off” from work. It’s as if our brains process the data needed for the task-in-hand, but need freedom to form this into something tangible and usable. Music is another form of therapy; personally I love nothing more than yowling along to some quality “choooons”. My family wish there was a mute button they could press in my neck; let’s just say that I have all the enthusiasm, but none of the talent! My fellow Social Myna Chick Rachel is on my wavelength, as she loves being able to listen to whatever she fancies on Spotify – I feel sorry for those who have to listen to Dirge FM just because the boss likes it.
So, that’s just a few perks of working from home, and some pitfalls to be aware of. I think that as we work from home more and more, this mode will evolve and technology will grow to support it even more. Some enlightened companies don’t even have permanent headquarters, renting meeting space on an adhoc basis and even utilising local parks as the boardroom when weather permits.
There’s a lot to celebrate, so let’s toast working from home, raise your mug of tea now!