“Flexible Working” is not "Working from Home"

While eating at my favourite London Thai restaurant yesterday with a friend from school, my hands clenched into fists a few times. He was telling me how difficult it is for him to work from home. It doesn’t help that he’s completely uninspired by his current work, of course.

“I find it really hard to get up in the mornings. I know the days will feel better if I do, but I find it really hard. I just don’t like working from home. They got rid of our building and I really miss just having other people around me, that would be enough to get me going.”

“Why don’t you work from a co-working space?"

“I asked my boss if it could be arranged. He said, ‘Forget it.’”

Don’t Make Them Work From Home (please)

This kind of stuff (for lack of a better word, I’m not very eloquent when I’m all fired up) makes me really angry. My friend is not working for a small company – they’re saving plenty of money by not having real estate to house their people’s collective intellect. Co-working spaces are relatively cheap and they offer great flexibility. So, if someone is being made to work outside the office, why can’t they be supported to find a place where they will be happy and work at their best?

Not everyone likes working from home – the same way as not everyone likes working from an office. And guess what: most of us would be happy with a third option (a café, a co-working space, an airport lounge) and, depending on the nature of our work, or even the current task, some combination of locations often helps.

"Flexible" Should Offer Options

In an article on WorkingMums.co.uk this week, Gail Kinman (professor of Occupational Health Psychology at the University of Bedfordshire) is quoted as saying,

“The recession has meant fewer resources are being put into the management of flexible working beyond compliance with the extension of the right to request flexible working to all workers.”

Management of flexible working should include helping the employee to discover in which ways they work best and supporting them when possible. Allowing them to make decisions about where they work, when and whether they want to have a work-life separation, work-life integration or whether they just want to see how it goes. “Flexible” does not mean “working from home”.

Coda

Our environment influences who we are and how we behave. That’s why great care is now taken in the design of workspaces and office layouts. Not everyone can work from home and if, for whatever reason, you have to shut down or reduce your office space, please, be flexible.