I tried commuting and didn’t like it. I have tried working from home and I like that even less! At least when I got to work there were friendly faces to greet me. With pressure on work space like never before most employers are looking to home working as a solution but generally I find it frustrating and unproductive.
For a start there are far too many pleasant distractions and when I finally do manage to convince myself to get down to some serious work there is always something or someone to interrupt me. Apart from my wife who likes to come in and say hello once in a while – that’s OK; there’s the postman, the door to door salesmen (including annoying children in the afternoon trying to raise money for their school play or other such activity).
Then there’s the telesales people that I never knew existed. How can a stocks and shares advisor in Hongkong ever know that suddenly I am working from home? I suppose they used to call our abandoned landline before, but now, if my wife is not around then they’ve got me to make up their statistics by answering their damned calls.
Even the parcel delivery people seem to know I am working from home. Recently I find myself taking in all kinds of stuff, not just for us but for our neighbors too (I am beginning to think they are secretly writing “call at number 16 if there is no one at home” on all their internet orders, or perhaps even worse my name and address is on a ‘dump it somewhere nearby database’).
Luckily, my children left home years ago but to be honest I simply cannot imagine how young parents could ever successfully work from home. I remember when I was very young my father had an office on the ground floor of our London town house. It was a nightmare. When we got home from school we always had to be quiet, even in the garden. This kept up until one day my Mother finally kicked him out and he found his own office space thirty minutes drive away.
Apart from the loss of productivity, working from home is not cheap too. In the winter months, which is most of the year, here in Belgium, I need to leave my central heating system on all day just to keep my office room warm. Sitting on your own in a cold kitchen at lunchtime, instead of the hustle and bustle of the works canteen is pretty miserable. And the resulting crumbs from eating at one’s desk instead are simply unacceptable.
No, the solution to the squeeze on corporate office space is not working from home but from a micro office in a nearby town. It can be a single room above a shop, even a quiet corner of a public building. It really doesn’t matter. As long as you are working out of the house then you are as good as working on the moon, no one will disturb you. All you need is a high speed internet link for vpn access to the company server and Microsoft Lync or Skype to connect to everyone else, then who cares? If you can, try and ensure your office hideaway has no parking spaces nearby then you won’t get disturbed by unwanted visitors or delivery people asking for directions to the place they cannot be bothered to look up on their GPS systems.
So my prediction this week is that home working will not replace office working but micro-office clustering probably will. Buildings will be converted or purpose built for the sole use of home workers, no longer welcome in their corporate head offices and desperate for a place where they can get the job done without the mind numbing solitude of being alone all day in the same place where they spend all night. It’s simply a question of economics. A new form of society will emerge, one where people work together every day but none of them from the same company, unless purely by coincidence.
So for me, for now, either renting a desk in my book-keeper’s office or the upstairs room of the local lingerie shop, is the solution to a problem that’s been frustrating me for far too long.
Have a good week