Saturday, 21 February 2009

10 c's of teleworking

Flickr image:neoporcupine

I don't get why some people don't get working from home. I have had various comments about the lack of socialisation, the fear of being ill-disciplined in their work habits and .....well, that's it mainly.

So why do I love working from home? And how do I overcome the discipline/socialisation thing? Here are the advantages for me:

1. Commute: 30 seconds from breakfast table to pc compared with 1hour minimum drive. No brainer.

2. Carbon footprint - see 1 above. Plus, as I work in a sunny, well insulated room in my house, with large south facing windows, I almost always don't have electric light or heating on. (OK - I gave in during the last couple of weeks of unusually harsh British Winter). My office at work is North facing and single glazed: dark and cold even in summer (its one advantage, I grant you).

3. Comfort. I have THE BEST office chair money can buy. I know the one in my "official" office is supposed to meet basic health and safety requirements but it sucks. Same goes for the cathode ray tube monitor I am supplied with, the migraine inducing overhead fluorescent lighting, the desk that's too high and the foot rest that's too low. At home I have a height adjustable desk, that really excellent chair, a footrest suitable for somebody shorter than 6', bags of natural daylight from my French windows, a flat screen monitor, wrist rests for the keyboard and my mouse hand. All of these were supplied many years ago by the company I worked for on an official "home working" contract. They took their responsibilities seriously, paid for the right equipment and let me buy it back when I left.

4. Company: yes, I do have company at home in the shape of my two lovely cats. They are never grumpy, depressed, jealous, competitive, bitchy, sarcastic or petty. (Except of course with one another, but that's cats for you!) They shower me with love, they are quiet, appreciative and hang on my every word & gesture with blatant adoration.

5. Community - ok, ok: even I know I need a little constructive criticism from time to time. My community consists of my online network. Twitter, Yammer, Skype, blogs, even the odd telephone call or email keep me in touch with a huge community of co-workers in my wider institution, my profession, right across the UK and beyond, who influence my work, provide feedback, ask intelligent questions, work in collaboration on projects, want advice, and yes, provide humour, support, sympathy and human warmth. Non social networkers don't get how it is possible to have real relationships mediated by technology. But it is. And if you doubt it - ask your kids if you can wrestle them away from their mobile phones, MSN or MyBeeboBook for two minutes.....

6. Concentration and creativity - these two go hand in hand for me: in order to research, write, plan, develop and design (even to mark assignments) I need space in my head and on my desk. In the office if I am not directly interrupted, I am constantly aware of people around me and in the corridor. My difficulty isn't in applying enough self discipline to focus on work when I am alone, it's applying too much. I have to remember to get up, stretch, turn away from the screen, have a short walk .....

image: author's own

7. Which brings me to countryside: I chose my house because of its location. A short walk to the rear of my house brings me to a classic English countryside of rolling hills, trees, and water populated by fluffy sheep, friendly cows and cute little squirrels. The birdsong provided by the thrushes and blackbirds is almost deafening....bluetits and robins flit through the branches.... the river is crowded with swans, geese and ducks, along with the odd heron....yes I know the City has Caffe Nero and John Lewis, but really, there is no competition.

8. Computer applications. Work systems are locked down and I don't have admin privileges on my own pc. I can't install anything. No Skype, no Jing, no Tweetdeck, no E-lluminate or Wimba Classroom. No webcam. No headset. Moving from home to office also affects continuity of work (I run around with multiple memory sticks containing whatever project I am currently working on as my work pc never has what I need). And the server is sooooo SLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW even searching on the internet is painful. All of this of course restricts my productivity. I reserve office time for face to face meetings: I don't expect to be able to produce anything there.

9. Children (maybe that should be kids to keep the alliteration going): I have two. I like to see them occasionally. Its great to be here when they get out of school so we can chat over the day's tribulations and challenges (theirs and mine!) They are actually teenagers now and won't be around much longer, one way or the other, so this is important time we spend together.

10. last but not least Coffee: I don't really miss Caffe Nero or those other places: I make the best coffee, because its the coffee I like, and I can even do frothy milk now and call it cappuccino.....

If there is a disadvantage it is the occasional suspicious glances of those office-tied individuals who think I put WFH in my diary as a euphemism for watching daytime tv, shopping or private consultancy......

I am lucky in being supported by a boss who judges me on outcomes and not attendance, but to make it a successful and accepted alternative, homeworking does really need proper institutional support.

Teleworking isn't science fiction: it's happening now in millions of homes around the world. One day, as the recession deepens and global warming reality bites, home working will be the norm, and the suspicious glances will be directed at those demented individuals in cars passing each other on congested motorways as they travel in opposite directions to work. "Do you really NEED to do that?" we'll be asking...... "can't you work from home?"


  1. I love working from home. Have been doing it for over 15 years. I like the idea of not getting all dressed up to go to work, and not having to deal with office politics. Great post. Thanks, Anna at

  2. Thanks Anna - you put it very succinctly!

  3. Thanks for putting this so beautifully Jane. I am so much more productive on the days I work from home. The main drawback for me is that I find it difficult to switch off some evenings as my office is so inviting...

  4. I too can go over the limit some days - it is hard to switch off: but the pay off for me is that I then take time to do (personal)things I can only accomplish in daylight hours, wihtout feeling guilty! I think I have developed a much more fluid sense of work/learning/homelife: helped by the fact that I love my work and am learning through it too...!

  5. Number 8 is just _so_ true! And good points altogether. .. But I need to add that for some the community part and the required discipline for others can be a real challenge.

  6. thanks Jaakko H: you are so right. These are the main things people say to me when they are anxious about or sceptical of home working. I guess there are new skills to be learned in this area....