Some consider working from home to be a lazy pursuit. Others see it as the future of innovative work, and they even imagine that in 50 years’ time office space may not exist.
As it is with everything in life, you have to find the right balance to make working from home effective. The fact is that it is becoming increasingly important for employees to have the freedom to work from anywhere when choosing their future employer. If companies offer their employees the opportunity to work in a home office, this can be a decisive competitive advantage in the struggle to find skilled workers. Employees can save travel time and use it more productively instead. Many home office workers also state that they have much more peace of mind, are not distracted by colleagues and can therefore think more creatively.
In companies with more than 500 employees, only 23 percent are allowed to work in their home office.
According to a study by the German Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, there is an upward trend towards home office usage due to digital transformation and new collaboration possibilities. Nevertheless, it turned out that in companies with more than 500 employees, only 23 percent are allowed to work in their home office. In companies with less than 500 employees, the figure is only 18 percent.
One reason for this reluctance could be the perception that workers in a home office are loafing. Not everyone has the same discipline at home as in the office, and they may be quickly distracted by upcoming household tasks. In addition, companies fear that employees who work in the home office on a long-term or permanent basis could lose their team spirit. This is a serious argument because the best ideas usually come from a team, and group brainstorming sessions generate the greatest creativity. Also, for particularly sensitive or delicate topics, a one-to-one in-person discussion is best suited. A further argument of many companies against the home office is that the security precautions cannot be adhered to because control over the IT equipment dwindles.
So how can the right balance be found?
If there are numerous communication possibilities, they should also be well-thought-out.
Home office – but not always
If local conditions allow it, an employee does not have to work permanently from the home office. Instead, he can arrange with his supervisor to have 1-2 days on which no meetings that require a personal presence are scheduled. These days can then be spent working from the home office.
The right communication is key
Otherwise, it is important to maintain the right communication. Modern digital collaboration tools help employees to work together virtually in teams and to stay up-to-date at all times.
If there are numerous communication possibilities, they should also be well-thought-out. The biggest risk that managers actually see in virtual teams is that communication is not carefully attended to. For instance, if something is very urgent, delicate or sensitive in nature, employees should always chose to pick up the phone. Email simply cannot transport the tone of the communication and can quickly cause misunderstandings. Beat Bühlmann, General Manager at Evernote, states this in a nutshell: “You don’t send emails to the fire brigade.”
In addition, having a flood of emails can also be quickly confusing: According to a recent study by the OTRS Group of 500 employees from Germany, the USA and Brazil, 32 percent need an average of one hour a day to sort their e-mails. 28 percent state that with the abundance of e-mails, other tasks are repeatedly pushed back or forgotten. So, it’s important to consider ways for tracking communication other than email.
A ticket system can support communication
Buhlmann also warns that you no longer have control over your email once it has been sent. You don’t know to whom it is forwarded or who is in CC field. Here the implementation of a ticketing system can help: This adds structure and traceability to the communication. This ensures that no details are lost during the communication while reducing the number of emails and providing an overview for all parties involved.
IT security should have priority
As far as IT security is concerned, it is more important than ever for home office workers to use proper equipment that is supported by the company. In order to make sure that all employees stay up-to-date with their hardware and software while conforming to company standards, a CMDB (Configuration Management Database) is recommended. This captures and documents all operating resources that are administered by the IT department.
Preventive security measures, such as changing passwords and backup systems, should be ingrained in at-home workers. At the same time, IT departments should consider the use of software such as STORM to be able to quickly and accurately communicate during cyber security attacks, even if they are working from a home office.
Let’s wait and see what offices will look like in 50 years’ time, if they still exist. But by offering flexible schedules, planning how communication will work and incorporating modern security practices, working from home offices should already be seen as a viable possibility.
At OTRS, employees are usually free to choose their place of work. That gives us the freedom to be successful when and where we want. What’s it like in your office?