Earlier this week it was reported that in a bid to ease congestion over this summer’s Olympics the British Government will be allowing their staff to work from home over a seven week period. From July 21st until September 9th civil servants will be encouraged to stay away from the office and either work from home or take leave.
The Daily Telegraph cites fears that “civil servants would use the arrangements to spend time watching the Olympics on television” and this highlights one of the key inhibitors to the future of home working. For many business leaders homeworking means not working.
As we highlighted in our previous blog “Work Smarter Not Harder, the art of flexible working” the vast majority of people want to do great work, and to feel proud that they’ve made progress during a day. The concept that all employees would lie on the sofa if they didn’t have their manager looking over their shoulder is a fallacy. In reality, giving employees the opportunity to work on their own, without interruption can lead to improved productivity.
Presenteeism is not the same as Productivity
The Olympics presents an exciting catalyst to removing concerns around home working. In driving forward a strategy of homeworking over an extended period of time, a fantastic amount of data can be collected across areas like morale, engagement, productivity, travel costs and employee turnover.
Employees might start to see that 2 or 3 days a week working from home improves their family life and well-being. They might find that they are achieving more and making more use of the time when they are in the office.
Managers might see that being present is not the same as being productive, and to have trust in their employees to do the work they need to do.
How many will return to the office?
Once the home working concept has been adopted by employees and managers, then it will be interesting to see how many return to the office full time. A seven week period allows individuals to gain confidence in the technology and the processes for working outside of the office and I believe could be the catalyst for wider adoption of home working across the public and private sectors.
Once an organisation has tested home working, and learned that it isn’t the same as not working, I believe we’ll see companies implementing it across their teams and then asking more interesting questions like “if my team don’t need to come to the office, then surely I could recruit employees from anywhere in the world?”
Might we look back in five year’s time and agree that the Olympics really did bring the world together, and changed working practices in the UK for ever?