It used to be that if you worked from home you would try and disguise the fact. I remember there was a television advertisement once for what we used to call a “telephone company” but which would now be called a telecommunications or media company, the point of which ad was that by using some of their technology you could appear to be a “real business”.
Nowadays I routinely come across people who have quite successful, even international businesses, who have no problem about acknowledging that they work from home.
Perhaps the fact that we know from the mass media that more and more businesses are home based is making “working from home”, if not yet generally a badge of pride, at least something to be willing to acknowledge, without feeling that your listener or reader is going to think you don’t have a “real business”.
And yet, and yet…
Yes, I am sure there are many people, probably in their millions, who still think it’s not a “real” business unless you put on a suit, or a dress, or other “work clothes” as the case may be, commute to an office or shop or other “workplace” and join the other people doing the same thing, and have people working for you in the same physical location, within an organizational and production framework that hasn’t fundamentally changed in decades or maybe a hundred years or more. And then commute home again in the evening.
And some of those people would undoubtedly think that if they were working from home that would mean they had fallen on less successful times. Which of course for some could be true.
So why do some of us feel quite ok – even, dare we say it, a tad smug – that in working from home we have a googd deal and even, perhaps, the better deal?
Here are five reasons off the top of my head. They are my subjective reasons and it would be interesting to know what reasons others have.
1. No Boss
There was a time, when I was younger and probably by definition more naive, that I used to be ambitious to climb in the organization, to get the better position, especially if it meant having an office of my own, a car, a secretary – first on a shared basis and later my own secretary – and I could make decisions for others to carry out rather than being at the mercy of sometimes eccentric, sometimes bullying, sometimes dumb bosses – with a few honorable exceptions who were smart, wise, supportive and admirable, but they were the exception.
I discovered that there was always someone higher up and that even as the chief executive of a company there was had a board and shareholders cracking their various whips. And when I got to that executive role and had a staff of twenty and a chairman and board of directors to report to I thought I was the bees’ knees, until about five minutes into my first board meeting.
I also observed that in the public service there was a head of the department, but then there was the minister, and then there was the cabinet, and then there were the voters. Funny thing, somehow that “chain of command” did not always lead to what the average citizen would in an honest moment regard as rational planning and decision-making.
Indeed I once pulled out of what I had been given to understand was a fairly assured promotion to a coveted position within a government department because, as I said to a clearly puzzled supervisor at the time, I couldn’t see myself being happy with arguing one policy position forcefully today and the opposite position equally forcefully tomorrow, just because there had been a change in the political wind. The supervisor was no doubt puzzled at my attitude because that was his normal working day.
If I have bosses now, it’s my customers, or me. Realistically, there is no boss in my business. And that works for me.
2. My Own Priorities
If you want to get on in the world of work and business as most people know it, you have to be ready and willing to drop today’s priorities, shift gear and respond to priorities set by others. If you have rational, well-focused management, that need not be a major source of stress, but in an age where one of the most in-demand products on the market is anti-depressants, you have to be very shrewd or lucky or both to get a bunch of managers and a board of directors where everyone is a fully-evolved, rationally-functioning person. Dream on.
I set my own priorities and I am fundamentally accountable to myself for meeting them. Which doesn’t mean I am not mentored of have no one else to be accountable to, just that the person or persons I am mentored by or accountable to are people I’ve chosen, not just someone who got a promotion ahead of me.
3. Healthier Living
When I worked in air-conditioned offices, as I did for many years, traveling to work for at least half an hour by bus or car, I used to get sick. The ‘flu came around and I got it. Admittedly I smoked for a long time, so that didn’t help. But now I work with the door and windows open most of the year and don’t breathe in carbon monoxide on a daily basis, just on rare trips to the city.
My desk is positioned to look out on the garden. There are lots of birds and the occasional water dragon darting across the lawn. The only irritant is the noise, from time to time, of the gardeners at work with cutting implements and leaf blowers – a small price to pay for living and working close to nature.
And because I eat at home there is much less temptation to have the less-than-healthy lunches I used to have. Not to mention the drinks after work, which always seemed like a good idea at the time.
I can get to the beach or the gym whenever I like, in ten minutes or less.
Generally, a whole lot healthier for me.
4. I Only Have to Deal With My Own Idiosyncrasies
There was a time in my life when the average Dilbert cartoon would have been more painfully close to my day to day reality than I cared to admit. I would guess that any of us who have worked in any business or government agency, or organization of any kind, have found the biggest challenge to often be dealing with the idiosyncrasies – to put it politely – of others we had to work with, bosses, workmates and customers/stakeholders. Sure, they had to deal with our idiosyncrasies, but we didn’t see that as our problem . And when I was doing a lot of training programs I used to find that one skill people in organizations felt was really essential for them to do their job well but which they routinely did not feel they had to a high level was “dealing with difficult people”.
Now I only have my own idiosyncrasies to deal with. And if a client or supplier has idiosyncrasies that stress me out too much I can decide I don’t need or want that client or supplier any more.
5. The Technology Has Arrived
When I think about the power and reach of the technology available now on the desktop at home, and increasingly with Web 2.0 applications accessible from anywhere with an Internet connection, I remember with some degree of disbelief the sense of lesser business capacity I had when I moved nineteen years ago from having full access to the computing and telecommunications power of a big organization to having an ICT infrastructure of a fixed line telephone and fax machine (for which I suddenly had to pay all the bills myself) and a PC with a 40 Mb (!) hard drive and stacks of floppy discs.
Now I can work from anywhere in the world, with free international and local telephony via VoIP, internet faxand a laptop computer with the sort of storage and computing power that once we used to have based in its own air-conditioned room, with someone attending it to make sure it worked.
And did I say I can go to the beach when I want to?
Surfs up! I’m off.
Working From Home Rules OK!