In the 21st century, working remotely is easy. We can access documents we need through laptops, send emails from our phones or chat with colleagues via an iPad. Technology has transformed the nature of business in virtually every way, and yet for many, the traditional 9-5 office hours are still the norm. So why are our attitudes not keeping up with times?
Every day, millions of people in the UK are rudely awakened by an alarm clock, sit in congested lanes of traffic and finally arrive at their office for 9am – invariably, to answer emails from the colleague sitting next to them. What would happen if you allowed your body to wake up more naturally? If you decided to skip the morning commute and work from home once a week. Or if you decided to prepare a report in the evening to compensate for a hair appointment you had in the afternoon. Would we all turn into irresponsible, work-shy sloths?
Chances are having the ability to manage your time in a way that suited you would result in business as usual, but with much happier individuals.
In fact, research into the notion of “flexi-time” has found plenty of evidence to support the idea that not only are individuals happier with having more control over their lives, but they are actually more productive. Vince Cable, the Business Secretary of State, believes that employing a more flexible approach to working hours would lead to “employees taking less time off and being more committed to companies, as well as allowing employers to tap into a wider talent base in society”. This issue is currently a hot topic in government – with ministers putting together proposals that would give all employees the right to request flexible hours.
Currently, there are some allowances for parents and carers to ask for more adaptable hours in recognition of the need to balance the family and home life. However, often people, and particularly fathers, are failing to take advantage of these measures due to the stigma that doing so could harm their career prospects.
The new government initiative wants to get rid of the negative connotations, but also extend this idea for all workers – whether they have children or a gym appointment that it’s often when we are doing something mundane that we suddenly realise the solution to a problem that has had us stumped. If you take a peek inside Google HQ – a firm that has some of the best brains in the world, you’ll see plenty of “chill out” zones, slides and even an allotment space for employees to unwind. They understand that to get the best out of employees it’s important to allow them to take advantage of the moments when they’re feeling inspired, but have the freedom to recharge when necessary.
On the other side of the coin, people who do work from home have another set of problems: boilers breaking, dogs barking over important phone conversations, plus a whole array of “little jobs” that interrupt your work. Freelancing from home can also be a very lonely existence, often there will be no human contact for days, which can make you a little stir-crazy after a while. Then there’s the eternal question of how important it really is to change out of your pyjamas…
The point is: it’s not a question of either-or, but about flexibility. Years ago, going into the office was a necessity. Nowadays, why can’t it be a choice?
Working 9-5: is this the way to make a living? 1 2