…and why they may now be changing their minds
Homeworking is a topic that tends to divide opinion. Employees have driven the growth within small and medium-sized businesses, not the business owners. Business owners and managers want to run their businesses efficiently and profitably. But, until very recently, business owners, in my experience, have not been particularly supportive of the practice.
So. Why is this? What do employees like about the practice? And why don’t their bosses feel the same?
We may not need to establish the reasons, for one simple reason. COVID-19! In what may turn out to be one of the most prominent’ pilots’ of changing working practises ever, the pandemic lockdown in the UK, in March 2020, changed everything.
The tables were turned on businesses as their premises shut, and the UK public told to’ Stay at Home — Protect the NHS — Save Lives’.
Now the only way in which numerous companies could survive, was for their workers to do as much as they could from the safety of their own home. The survival of many businesses depended on this being successful.
So, let’s return to the pre-COVID-19 world.
Did the worker who requested homeworking think:” I genuinely believe that I can communicate better; work harder; liaise with colleagues more effectively, and earn the company more profits…if I work on my old laptop in the bedsit that I share with my flatmate and her 2-Year-old toddler”? I think not.
Might they have thought:” I hate my commute, and am sure that I could be just as productive working from home, even if the working conditions are far from ideal. I also wouldn’t have to put up with Frank looking over my shoulder every five minutes.”
Conversely, Frank (The Boss) believes that the only way to manage someone properly is to look over their shoulder every five minutes to make sure that they are’ doing what they are supposed to’.
If only there were a way in which to test who was right. Without the need for a global pandemic that is.
The key to success is a combination of mutual trust, clear communication and the ability of the manager to define what’ Good’ looks like.
So, close your eyes. No really. Close your eyes. Now imagine you are an employee and your boss, has just said,” Next month, I don’t want you to come into the office at all. I don’t even mind how many hours you work, or when and where you work them. The only thing that I need you to do is to deliver X, by the month-end, by Z standards, and to advise me weekly, at a mutually convenient time, of your progress, with evidence if necessary.”
How would that feel? I believe it would be liberating?
Now imagine that you are the boss, and your employee has just delivered X, ahead of schedule, and to a high standard. Not that this was a surprise to you, because they had kept you informed every step of the way. Also, you never had to check up on them, so you had more time to do what you needed to do as well.
This scenario may all sound somewhat perfect, but it is possible. Some businesses are taking this approach.
Time will tell as to whether the’ pandemic lockdown’ will have persuaded some Managers to change their previously negative attitudes towards homeworking.
Now, more than ever, creativity and adaptability are factors that may be the difference between survival and failure.