Working from home isn’t skiving
Last summer after 10 years at my previous company I decided it was time for a change, for various reasons, but a daily commute of over an hour each way, leaving the house at 6:30am and returning home, via picking children up from childcare, at around 6pm was a big factor. I wanted to increase the time I spent with my children and reduce my stress levels.
So when I saw a part-time, home-based marketing manager role advertised I jumped at the chance, quickly applied and was lucky enough to join the Chiumento team six months ago. Since I’ve had numerous comments from friends, family, past-colleagues as to how lucky I am… that I’ve found the dream role and what an easy life I must have… This is at times followed by statements such as.. ‘I bet you get so much done around the house’, ‘So you can squeeze your week’s work into a day and then have the other two off’, ‘Really you’re just sitting at home and watching This Morning aren’t you?’.
This attitude, that working from home is an easy option, that somehow because I am not sitting in an office being monitored constantly means I can get away with not working seems to prevail. It is further ingrained into people’s minds by articles such as this one I read recently
I find this attitude not only very frustrating but slightly insulting. Just because my desk is within my house and not within a company office, doesn’t mean I don’t work as hard. Just like anyone based in an office I still have a boss, targets and a very full to-do list. I have colleagues who rely on me to do certain tasks, to help them do their job. So if I was sitting around watching daytime TV all day, I am sure it would be noticed…
I am very lucky that the culture here at Chiumento is one of trust. My manager, while there if I need him, doesn’t constantly check what I am doing, I don’t get daily calls to see if I’m at my desk and nor do I have to check in. I am treated like and adult and it is assumed that I am putting in the hours needed. I am measured on my outputs and not the time I spend at my desk.
I admit (maybe I shouldn’t as my boss will read this), that at times I take slightly longer than my allocated lunch hour and do a few household chores, that I have attended morning meetings at my daughter’s school and not got to my desk until nearer 10am and I’ve even managed a rather rushed lunchtime trip to Ikea, one which I won’t try again! But to counteract this I have spent many an evening constructing a blog post, or scheduling tweets while sat on the sofa and have happily given a few hours here and there on my non-working days to ensure a deadline is met.
I see this sacrifice of my free time as one I’m willing to make as it means that I have flexibility during normal working hours that many crave. If I am not feeling that creative I can go for a quick walk to clear my mind and come back to my desk energised and ready to get cracking. I am sure that wouldn’t be possible, or would be frowned upon, within many offices. I can get an appointment at the doctors quicker than before, as I can go at any time rather than have to wait for an elusive evening slot. I also don’t have to miss any of my daughter’s school activities and have made it to every concert, curriculum meeting and swimming session. All without a negative impact on my outputs.
I strongly believe that as technology breaks down the practical barriers to working from home, that it should become the norm. Without the distraction of office banter or the lengthy commute I am able to achieve more each day than I did previously. I am considerably less stressed as I don’t have the daily worry that my train will be late/won’t be running and as a mother I have less guilt. I can take my daughter to school each morning rather than leave the house before she wakes up.
This is often called work-life balance and there have been many conversations about how to improve it and what are the key elements of getting it right. For me, that implies that it is always a balancing act and one or the other will always take precedence. I think it’s more about work-life integration, where they both happily coexist with neither one losing out to the other. It’s about integrating your working life into your home one in a way that works for you.
I know I am lucky and not every company is as forward thinking and as trusting as Chiumento. That perhaps many of those who occasionally work from home, do take advantage and do less work than their manager would be happy with. But for many, working from home is just that, working.