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I’m here today to talk to you about working remotely from home, and even remotely working from home. A subtle difference which I’ll cover a bit later. Of course I’m not here at my place of work, I am in fact at my home, which is my place of work, as today I am working from home, not my place of work.

An employee working remotely from home is said to be in a situation whereby they ‘work mainly from home, communicating with the company by email and telephone’. Of course, depending on the remoteness of the home in question, a remote worker could possibly communicate with the company by letter or telegram. These methods take a little longer but the theory of the system is the same. 400 years ago, the great naval hero Sir Francis Drake was known to communicate by semaphore when working from home on board the Golden Hind. Indeed, Nelson had a similar system based on flags, it was the least England could expect.

Now a ‘workplace’ by definition is a place where one works. Working from home therefore takes a bit of acclimatisation as the home becomes temporarily one’s place of work. In order to consider WFH, (working from home), there have to be benefits to both the employee and the employer. It has to balance out as very quickly ‘WFH’ becomes ‘WTF!’. Let’s look at those possible benefits for a moment.

Benefit Number 1. ‘Increasing Worker Productivity’.

Now, there is a mathematical equation which proves that there is neither an increase, nor decrease, in worker productivity, but that it is all relative. This equation, known as the ‘Theory of Relativity – Part the Second’, was chalked up by none other than Albert Einstein, a great exponent of WFH. Albert’s theory states thus: ‘Time expended in travel from X to Y, cancelled out by lying in bed +/- the sum of 1 hour extra, is equal to the sum of not having to get washed or dressed, to the power of hanging around in dirty underpants, offset against the chances of your boss turning up unexpectedly, multiplied by the square root of the stress of the doorbell ringing whilst making the fourth cup of tea of the morning, exponentially dividing pi by the number of teaspoons in the sink’. Thus, ‘all things are equal’.

Benefit Number 2. ‘Lowering Employee Stress’.

Debatable. (See benefit number 1.)
Spending the day in a hyper-state of readiness with half an ear cocked.

Benefit Number 3. ‘Lowering Carbon Footprint’.

Debatable. (See benefit number 1.)
Emissions from dirty underpants, plus number of boiled kettles.

Benefit Number 4. ‘Improving Work-Life Balance’.

Now this is an interesting benefit. Walking the thin line between the number of hours spent working, against the number of distractions that occur, thus creating feelings of guilt that may arise out of the number of hours spent in the ‘work’ scenario balanced against the number of hours spent in the ‘life’ scenario. But as Jack would say, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!”

Benefit Number 5. ‘Saving Employer’s Money’.

Not sure where a saving could be shown in the Excel spreadsheet of employer outlay, unless it’s the amount of coffee and tea saved during the 7.5 hours of daily employ.

So, having decided that you fancy the whole idea of WFH, the next step is to convince your boss to agree to the idea. It’s very important to work out the logistics ahead of time if you want to be taken seriously.

Let’s examine possible scenarios and conversations:

  • You: ‘Knock knock’
  • Boss: ‘Come in. Don’t bother sitting down, this won’t take long’
  • You: ‘About my request to work from home Sir…’
  • Boss: ‘Request denied, go away.’

That didn’t go very well did it. Let’s try again:

  • You: ‘Knock knock’
  • Boss: ‘Come in. Sit down’
  • You: ‘About my request to work from home Sir…’
  • Boss: ‘Ah yes, let’s see, do I really want to agree to you not turning up at all in the office so that you can lounge about at home all day in a semi-repose of inactivity, on the pretence of generating work in exchange for the generous salary that fills the coffers of your account each month?
  • You: ‘I thought possibly you might Sir…’
  • Boss: ‘Request denied, go away.’

That was a little better, but there are lessons to be learnt in the art of getting permission to becoming a Home Worker. Trust plays an important part. As an employer, if I ask my employee if he/she can be trusted to work to a level of acceptance during the time they are WFH, a reply of ‘Um, yes’, must invariably be taken at face value. Where are we if we cannot trust one another? History has taught us this most important lesson.

  • Oppenheimer: ‘So, if i help develop this bomb, you promise not to use it?’
  • America: ‘Um, yes……’
  • American Revolutionaries: ‘So you promise not to work for the British?’
  • Benedict Arnold: ‘Um, yes……’
  • Julius Caesar: ‘So I can rely on your total support?’
  • Brutus: ‘Um, yes……’

My advice is to plan for the day when Home Working becomes a reality. Start small with trial runs. Practise arriving later for work each day until you reach the point that your boss doesn’t notice that you aren’t there at all.

Having been granted the status as WFH, be sure to maintain contact with your boss:

  • You: ‘Knock knock’
  • Boss: ‘Come in. Who The F@ck are you?’

Remember, you are your own boss, but you are not your own boss. Be careful – here are some danger phrases to spot when you are becoming your own boss when you are not your own boss:

  1. ‘Take the rest of the afternoon off.’
  2. ‘That’s fantastic work, have a pay rise.’
  3. ‘£1,000 is a lot of money for a seminar, but of course you must go.’
  4. ‘A company car? Send for brochures straight away!’
  5. One question to consider is whether you need permission to work from home?

    We’ve already covered getting permission from your boss, but do you necessarily need planning permission to work from home? If you’re planning to utilise the dining table as a desk, then this does not change the overall character of the dwelling, and certainly in the case of vital equipment such as the sofa and television and remote control, you have these already.

    On the other hand, if you are an aeronautical engineer with a specialty for aerodynamics, then you may find installing a wind tunnel in the hallway attracts the interest of the local planning department, along with the health and safety officer with his noise level monitoring equipment.

    The particular nail we’ve just hit on the head therefore, is to judge carefully the professional activity that you may be embarking on as a home worker.

    Is remote working effective?

    We’ve established that it’s convenient for both the employer and the employee. A Gallup poll has shown that employees across various industries who spent 60 to 80 percent of their time working remotely had the highest rate of engagement. Let this be a warning to men and women intent on remaining single! This may have a bearing on whether remote workers are happier? I’ll leave you to decide that.

    So, one final word on the subject, here are 6 tips on staying productive while WFH:

    1. Act like you are still going to work. Rise early, shower, dress, break your fast, walk round the block, make coffee, switch laptop on, check out FaceBook.
    2. Compartmentalise your space. Put some screens round the dining table, add a calendar and some motivational posters, and a dart board.
    3. Turn on the radio. Catch up on the Archers, the afternoon play. Turn up the volume to drown out the intrusive ringing of the telephone. (And put the mobile on silent).
    4. Communication is essential. Call your boss at least once a day to let him know how hard you are working, and time it to coincide with his/her lunch break.
    5. Eat often. Snacks, crisps, chocolate to keep the energy levels up and to keep your hands busy, this will guard against wayward thoughts distracting you.
    6. Take breaks. When working from home it becomes increasingly harder to distinguish between when one break finishes and another begins. Sometimes this is helped by napping during the afternoon as the subconscious mind becomes fooled between what is real and what is not. You may find for instance, that having read this, you are no longer sure as to your conscious state of being. This would imply that this article has been successful as Gallop polls have also shown that working remotely and remotely working have fused into an unbearable lightness of being at home and at work simultaneously.

    Next Subject: Retirement for the Home Worker. Is there any difference?