I get asked this, almost without fail, by friends, acquaintances and previous colleagues from my once hectic military life, when I tell them that I now work from the ‘comfort’ of my own home.
The Stigmatic Myth
Like hearing the legend of St George and the Dragon, for those that have never day-to-day remotely worked, the concept of what it’s really like working from home is, like the dragon slayer, largely centred on myth. But the myth that countless coffee breaks, daytime TV and household chores are likely to be the distracting focus of my working day is a difficult one to shake and for my first ever home working role, this has been a self-induced burden that I’ve gradually had to adjust to.
Why Work From Home?
According to the Independent newspaper, remote working is becoming ever more popular for businesses across the UK. Data from the Office for National Statistics shows that 4.2 million people in the UK regularly worked from home in 2015 and last year, the Trades Union Congress found that the amount of people remote working has increased by nearly a quarter of a million (241,000) over a decade.
Forging on with our Revolution in Defence, Inzpire has long since adopted the overarching technology trends that are driving transformation throughout the business world, most notably cloud computing and rapid smartphone developments. These technologies are fuelling both the demand and potential for remote workers; remote I.T. support tools, advanced gateway security measures and ever-evolving collaboration and communication tools have made it easier than ever for me and a growing number of my Inzpire companions to efficiently and effectively get our own evolutionary business done without even stepping out of our front doors.
What is not myth, are the obvious benefits to a company like Inzpire that allows and actively embraces home working. From recruiting the right candidate, who doesn’t want to move from where they have settled in the UK (or even mainland Europe) to the savings made to office- based operating overheads, it has been proven that working remotely increases productivity by on average between 15 and 20%.
So why has the daytime TV myth burdened me so much…?
Fighting the Myth!
Just to get the elephant in the room out of the way: no, I do not usually work in my pyjamas/underpants! Most would agree that this would set the wrong working tone from the outset; I like to think that I’m too professional for that. Besides, it would make answering the door to the supermarket delivery driver a little awkward….
However, when I recently entered into the world of remote working, despite not having the sometimes welcome distraction of a passing work colleagues, I was acutely aware that I was not going to be totally free from domestic distractions. In fact, the myth of watching hours upon hours of daytime TV is just one on the list of endless distractions when you’re working from home. You can be tempted or cajoled into washing the dishes, tidying up around the house, putting on a laundry load or just blasting out something from your ‘favourite’ playlist whilst snooping on social media. As a consequence I had utterly convinced myself that the expectation from my Line Manager and everyone else around me, was that these distractions were going to affect my output. But, I was determined that I would not be beguiled by these wicked diversions.
The result was that, for some time, I had overly burdened myself with the notion that I had to remain at my desk at all costs, or I would be judged against how often I was away from my laptop doing anything other than work. I felt like I should reply to an email within milliseconds of it landing in my inbox and I didn’t want to fail to pick up the phone before the second ring, or worse still, take a business call whilst in the kitchen making a coffee, with the “Homes Under The Hammer” theme tune blaring out from the TV. If this happened, it would send me into a blind panic. So, not once did I break for coffee, or lunch, or any other request that might have come from my wife who was incredibly pleased to at last have me as a more permanent fixture in the family home; there was no way on earth I was going to just take the dog for a quick walk around the block! Instead, I would prepare a packed lunch, take it upstairs with me at the start of the day and settle down at my desk and stare at a computer monitor all day. I was barely adhering to the 90/270/EEC Directive on minimum health and safety requirements for work with display screen equipment, but at least my Line Manager would appreciate my dedication. Eventually it was my emphatically patient wife who said to me “aren’t you supposed to be working fewer hours than when you were in the RAF? It’s like you’re not even really at home”. This prompted me to disclose my less than idyllic home working routine to my Line Manager, who kindly pointed out that all of this was of my own making and no one was checking up on how much time I spent sat at my desk. I felt silly.
Indeed, no one was judging…except me. And it transpires, that on chatting with other members of the increasing Inzpire cohort of remote workers, I am far from the only person that has harboured these crazy perceptions. It seems that overcoming this burden is a routine step most of us need to take when adjusting to the daily grind of working home alone.
So, what’s changed? What have become the positive outcomes that I have experienced in becoming a remote worker?
Counting the Cost
According to a ‘Totaljobs’ survey, the average UK employee spends £146 per month commuting (double that if you’re travelling to/from London). The survey suggests that over a lifetime, this can amount to over a whopping £135,000! Unless you’re in the fortunate position to be able to bike or walk to work, that’s a huge load of cash to be spending on fuel, car maintenance or public transportation. OK, I still travel every now and then to the Head Office in Lincoln and attend other such meetings elsewhere; but now that I work most of my time at home, my commuting costs have been slashed significantly – walking up a flight of stairs in my own home to go to work is now an eco-friendly 2 minute commute! Yes, home utility bills have seen a slight increase, but overall more of the money stays in my pocket. But it’s more than just about saving the pennies – working remotely has effectively eliminated the waste of time that was, in my case, a lengthy daily commute. Instead, I can be flexible about how I use all that extra time. I can start and end my working day earlier/later as I need to or I can give more time to my family at the breakfast/dining table. And this additional flexible working regime is where the real benefits starts to show…….
Learning to Love the Flexibility
After adjusting to the realisation that being permanently fixed to my desk was not a company requirement, I have eventually come to appreciate that the best part about working remotely is that I get to work from anywhere. That may sound a bit bombastic, but it’s true. Instead of having to check into the same office every day, I wave goodbye to my wife and son at the breakfast table, walk up a flight of stairs and park myself in my ‘bedroom converted to office’ workspace, that is furnished with an Inzpire a laptop and screen! Then, if the British weather behaves itself, like it has in recent weeks, I may decide to work out in the sunshine at the patio table in my garden, or walk down to the local coffee shop and set up my laptop there. Having the flexibility to work where I like means I am able to create or transition myself to the ideal workspace that suits my needs or my schedule.
However, the biggest change in my mindset has not just been about the flexibility in where I work, but more about when I work. Whilst I do have people to see, regular meetings and other scheduled constraints and project deadlines, these generally take place during regular business hours. However, remote working for Inzpire gives me the freedom to set my own hours and plan my own schedule as I most see fit in order to complete my project requirements and workload. This invariably allows me to schedule in the occasional school run and the other necessary but distracting everyday family tribulations, such as servicing the car or being available to take delivery of the latest online purchase, without having to worry about when I’m going to get that next proposal finished. It may necessitate working evenings or weekends, but that’s the beauty of flexible, remote working – it’s my choice.
How? It’s All About Trust
One of Inzpire’s 7 behaviours – all of which are intrinsic to the Company – is practicing empowerment; whilst it took me a while to appreciate this, I am unquestionably trusted to further develop my capacity for self-management and seize the opportunities to show how successful I can be independent of direct supervision. Without this trust, home working would be a nightmare. To be an effective remote worker, within a revolutionary company, I cannot afford to wait for somebody to give me answers to the day-to-day problems I face. Instead, I have to proactively create my own solutions and that’s exactly what Inzpire empowers me to do…….as long as I keep delivering!
Have I adjusted?
Now that I have shaken off my self-induced burden that had me glued to my desk from the moment I woke up to the moment my incredibly patient wife would shout me down for tea, I’ve settled in to a flexible, unburdened routine that not only gives me heaps more time to be with my contented family, when it matters, but also allows me to give so much more productive time to our Inzpire business.
Don’t get me wrong, although remote working comes with significant advantages, it is definitely not for everyone, and what works for one individual won’t necessarily work for the next. Particularly if you thrive on the hustle and bustle of an office environment and lively colleague interaction – remote working can be incredibly lonesome. But, for me and my family, it has finally become the way to work.
The six gazillion dollar question is: has my productivity increased by the magic 15 to 20%? Well, you’ll just have to ask my Line Manager, Rolfy, for his definitive and honest answer! Whatever the answer he has about my personal contribution matters not, as he would almost certainly agree, as a team, our UMIX business is getting a whole lot more interesting.
And, if you were wondering whether this remote way of working makes sense for you, then there’s only one way to find out………