Working from home: a thing of the past or trend for the future?



After many years of predictions that most of us would end up working from home, it’s interesting to speculate on why home working still isn’t the norm.

When Yahoo recently sent a memo banning staff from working from home, many of its members of staff were reportedly very angry. “Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings…Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home,” the memo said.

The move by Yahoo to get more staff back into the office is thought to have been prompted by Marissa Mayer, Yahoo’s new chief executive who has recently returned to work after maternity leave.

Richard Branson, Virgin entrepreneur who spends much of his working time on Necker Island in the Caribbean responded to Yahoo’s decision by calling it a “backwards step in an age when remote working is easier and more effective than ever.”

“Remote working is easier and more effective than ever”

In the West we seem to be constantly bombarded by news on the latest developments in technology, all designed to make it easier to stay in touch with the office. Many devices now offer fast broadband speeds and webcams; doubtless you’ll have been at meetings where you feel surrounded by smartphones, tablets and laptops.

Surely all this technology has been designed to fee us up from the daily commute although those working in retail or manufacturing will always have to be present, why aren’t more of us working from home?

In the United States, 24% of the workforce (not including unpaid volunteers or the self employed) report that they work at home for at least a few hours a week, however this figure is contradicted by research that shows that only 2.5% consider the home their main workplace.

The bottom line could be that we enjoy working together! Google’s chief financial officer gave his thoughts: “There is something magical about sharing meals. There is something magical about spending the time together, about noodling on ideas, about asking at the computer ‘What do you think of this?’”

There are many reasons why working from home has not become as popular as predicted. Ingrained cultural reluctance is likely to play a large part: not being ‘seen’ in the office can be seen as affecting chances of promotion and worries about being perceived as ‘skiving.’

So it looks as though it’s still ‘long live the office’ – at least for the time being anyway!

Posted May 14, 2013

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