Is work the worst place to work?

Here I am sitting at home working.  I’m parked at the kitchen table looking out into the garden with my laptop open in front of me.  I’m connected securely to the work’s network and I’m happily and productively beavering away.  The sun is just starting to rise.

I’ve halved my inbox, done most of the tasks that I’d set myself and had several instant message conversations, all before I’m supposed to be at work.

Working from home is great, I get so much done.  I get to do all of those work things that I just can’t do when I’m at work because work is the worst place in which to try and work.  It’s paradoxical but when I am at the place in which I am supposed to work I get interrupted, distracted and otherwise knocked off track.

When I’m at home I don’t, at least until my good lady comes along.  I’m able to focus and concentrate on those things that need doing.  It is easier to work away from work.

That is as long as what I have described is my work.  In truth I have two types of work: that which I can do at home or anywhere for that matter and that which requires me to be in amongst people, either customers or colleagues.  The latter I can never do from home and yet is really much more important than the administrative or bureaucratic.

We’re encouraged to believe that work is about the tangible.  It’s about doing things that can be measured and benchmarked, making widgets, writing reports and installing software.  And a lot of our role still is.  Things still need to be done but there is another less tangible side to work which is about encouragement, communication, engagement, persuasion and leadership and the only place to be really effective with these is when you are there, where the people are.

There is a lot of discussion about agile, modern ways of working and homeworking these days but they miss the point.  Too much of the focus is on the building, the physical aspects of where you work rather than the things that you do.  For many work is still a place that you go.  Homeworking and office working are not separate but rather parts of the same continuum.  In truth work needs to be done where the customer requires it.  If you need to be in with the people then that is where you need to be, if you don’t then you can work from wherever you can.

So this morning I have got a lot of work done from home but now I’m off to work to do some more, it will just be a different type and both are just as valid.

6 thoughts on “Is work the worst place to work?

  1. Phil Good post with good points. Work at home is for those tasks that require perspective, reflective thinking, and focus.

    What most managers do at work is supervise. Staff expect them to supervise their work rather than manage it. Ma,aging the work requires team work, problem solving and above all interpersonal skills. The manager has to have a regular if not ongoing conversation with their staff about what needs to be done, what is the best way to do it and what constaints exist.

    In many way, management is about setting a lot of little action plans to deliver the larger plans. The conversation though is ljteral and figurative. We are not talking instead of doing but doing enough talking to direct the work.

    Supervising by contrast is regularly monitoring the work and making sure it is done in a specific way in a specific timescale. Children need a lot of supervision; adults usually less.the danger is that adults treated and trusted like children leads to a need for more supervision.

    The challenge of mobile working is managers, especially senior ones, is that are good at setting management tasks. Instead they revert to supervision which is why they want their staff close to them. They confuse physical proximity with control. The telephone and electronic working allow for the same control.

    What mobile working needs to succeed is managers to set work goals and packages that are suitable for it. Meetings can be held virtually and het managers demand a physical meeting. Projects where a manager is editing the work simply revert back to supervision.

    The future is mobile it is the managers who will have to adapt their thinking to set work packages that can be done remotely or virtually.


    1. Yes I agree. There is a great paradox for many which is that I can be trusted to work of my own volition but I can not trust those that work for me. We need to be able to trust our collegaues (and deal appropriatley when that trust is broken) and trust that our own manager is looking out for us.

      1. Trust is key. Too often people are caught up with appearances and become unable to defend choices, such as working from home, for fear of what others may think. Present is ingrained in such thinking rather than setting goals and tasks and monitoring them within a relationship based on trust.

  2. Working from home is great, I do a fair bit of work from homw, but what about the support for remote or out of hours working.

    Since a lot of IT work can be done remotely, its a good way of offering a basic level of out of hours IT support by allowing the IT staff to work from home. By accessing the helpdesk and monitor support calls from home and where possible fixing any problems they can offer almost the same level of service.

    Its nice to have flexible working practices but as an IT person we need to be flexible in how we work and support everyone else.

  3. One issue that is nearly always over looked it the ability to switch off. Often we trust our people to complete the amount of work allocated within a given period, in fact often faster and more reactive when at home. However this bring the flip side of the equation when at home when do you start and when do stop .. an extra 5 minutes here or there becomes an extra hour often with the family tea cooling on the table.

    Higher levels of mobility such as iPhones and Tablets makes this position harder to control after all your colleagues are also within the same environment so may not see the issue with pulling on your time.

    There needs to be a fundamental mind set change which is to supervise outcomes and deliverables rather than hours worked, trusting the individual to provide the level of effort required to work the ebb and flow of demand.

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