Friday, 26 August 2016

To work at home or not to work at home, that is a very good question

I read a very interesting article this morning. Please click here to read the article about working from home or more precisely, not working from home.

I would like to look at this article and look at it from an introvert's perspective.

First of all it might suit an introvert to work from home. As we all should know by now introverts are energised by being alone or with a small group of selected people while extroverts are energised by being around people and socialising and the author of this article does talk about socialising on a couple of occasions. By definition because you are in an office with a big number of people then it must be an extroverted environment and the author says this a couple of times in the article.

Lets go through the points that the author makes in this article and relate it to the introvert.

First of all he says that if you are working from home then you are out of sight and out of mind. This maybe true but surely if you are doing the work and doing it to a high standard then it shouldn't matter where you park yourself during the day.

Although when I think about this point I think about the following scene from the hit comedy show of the 1990s and 2000s, Friends.

In this scene, Rachel (my favourite character. Fans of the show will know why) discovers because she doesn't smoke she is missing out on important work matters. The one that comes to mind is that her boss decides to ask one of Rachel's colleagues to go on a trip to Paris with her. Rachel is shall we say, not amused.

Could this happen in real life? Quite possibly. You create a good relationship with your boss through a shared habit and then the boss may look at you to do the job and get the credit. So, yes out of sight, out of mind could be a problem. I know that a lot of people here in Japan go out with the boss after work, not because they like drinking or that they particularly like their boss but they know that if they want to climb the corporate ladder then they need to socialise with the boss and other colleagues.

The author says this "Working from home is socially isolating. Tightly knit groups of people are impossible in a work from home environment."

This is interesting isn't it? Obviously this guy is an extrovert and it is all about the social things that working at a centralised place brings. I just don't think he understands that half the population doesn't work well in groups. They are much better and productive when they are let go by themselves.

This brings us to productivity. He says when you are working remotely it takes away from the fact that you can get up and ask someone in the same room a question or you can run your ideas to the group quicker than by mail.

This is all very well and good but at the risk of sounding like a broken record, half the population do not do well in this kind of environment. For some people the constant distraction of people coming up to them makes them lose their focus and concentration and their work output goes down. The extroverted person loves this kind of social interaction and as a result their output goes up.

I don't think this author understands the other half i.e. introverts because he energises by being in the group setting then he thinks that everyone must energise this way. For the introvert it must be a real pain in the you know where.

The next section he talks about is communication and finally he and I agree on something. Email and other communication tools are no substitute for the traditional face to face. Even the face to face is better than the phone and phone is way better than mail. How many times have to tried to organise something over email? Does it frustrate the hell out of you as it does me? You are trying to organise a time and you have to go back and forth for what seems to be hours until you get a consensus. All of this could have taken three minutes with a phone call.

There are many distractions at home which would affect the workers concentration on his or her work. So I can appreciate this as being a problem for working from home. Children crying, dogs barking, the lure of the television and the fully stocked fridge also the fact that you are working by yourself may mean that you want to look at various websites that you shouldn't really do and you wouldn't be able to in an office situation. So chalk one up to working at an office.

The final part of his article is about trust and let me write out what he says:

"Being social, we have a tendency to trust those whose faces we see every day. Working from home is a sterilizer for many human behaviors and feelings - of which trust and appreciation are the worst recipients. The last 20 or so years of communication technology evolution can not undo millions of years of our own evolution. In the end most of us are social creatures."

I'm sorry sir this goes back to my previous point. Do you want your workers to do a good job or do you want them to attend a party? Yes, I agree we are social creatures but I don't know how many times I can say this but some people work better by themselves. You can't make someone become instantly a social animal. You can help them become comfortable in that environment but they are always going to be better working by themselves.

So, is working from home better? Well I'm going to give a very definite case by case. I know for me personally I don't like working from home that is why I go to the library to work. Just the idea of getting out of my room and going somewhere motivates me to do some work because of the aforementioned distractions.

Working from home does have its benefits both for the individual and the company and it shouldn't be discounted. I wonder how many traditional companies here in Japan will go that way. The trains in the morning will certainly become less crowded.

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