Friday, December 16, 2011

Working from home

We've been discussing the pros and cons of working from home v working from the office and wanted to get people's thoughts on this.

Pros

  • It's a nice perk to sometimes be able to work from home in your PJs.
  • It can be more productive to occasionally work in an environment free from distractions.
  • If you have a long commute, working from home can save you the commute time.
  • If you feel yourself getting sick you might still be mentally able to work but physically not be up to traveling to the office and working in an office environment where you might make other people sick. Working from home might allow you to still get your work done in this instance - particularly important for a startup that may not have other people to cover your role while you're out. (Note: if you're sick, you should still take a sick day to recover!)

Cons

  • Communication - in a fast paced startup environment, with a team of ~17 communication is critical. While online text and video chat is great, it's harder to communicate with people working from home compared with being in an office environment. We see this in the communication challenges we have across our China and Sydney offices with things changing so rapidly. Lots of people working from home compounds this.
  • Office culture - we aim to create a fun, exciting office environment. Our office is open plan, we have regular drinks and we provide lunch to our team and eat together every day which has helped to build a strong sense of team. This is all harder to achieve if we work from home.
  • Some roles require software on our office desktop machines, being able to access our collection of shoes to take photos for customers or involve other tasks that require items only available physically in our office.

Overall we figure it's better to be in the office but some work from home flexibility is a good thing. We'd love to hear your thoughts on this. How have you approached working from home in your startup or in other work environments?

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7 comments:

  1. I've worked from home in two of my previous roles and found it immensely helpful for all the reasons you pointed out, Michael!

    I've also interviewed a few people about flexible work arrangements such as working from home and having flexible work hours, both of which are particularly helpful for working parents.

    One thing I've heard is it's really important you make a list of goals for your employees when they work from home, so you actually know that they're actually effectively working away from the office.

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  2. 4 days In, 1.5 days at home, 1.5 days of non-work works well for me. I like to spend a weekday at home when I have a lot of urgent work to get done.

    Works better if you have a home office rather than working from your laptop on your couch or in your bedroom. Also depends if you're a maker or a manager. If you're a maker, e.g. a developer, probably makes sense to work from home more.

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  3. I'm slightly unusual in that I work on a freelance/self-employed basis.

    I tend to find that a mixture of office time and home working is the best solution, with the exact ratio depending on the client and what systems they have in place etc. It really does depend on the company, and also the amount of trust that an employer has regarding productivity at home.

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  4. Agree with the comments above, definitely feel that a mix is healthy, with a majority of the time spent in the office interacting and communicating with your peers. Although technology enables us to video chat, email, etc ... nothing I've found can replace actually being in the same room as the people you are communicating / working with.

    With that said, I feel very strongly about having time to concentrate and focus on specific tasks. I counted last week that I had 14 interruptions in one day.. so I work 1-2 days out of a month at home.

    I have huge noise-canceling earphones that I use to pump myself up for the task at hand and rid myself of distractions (residual noise can be at time more distracting than interruptions) In this way, I can concentrate but also, people will know I am trying to focus and prioritize. A tap on the shoulder for an important message is of course always welcomed (;

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  5. Jo-Anne - good advice on the list of goals when working from home and glad to hear you and others have found it very beneficial.

    Fan - sounds like you've got a good structure worked out. Agreed that it can make more sense for people like developers who need to focus on one thing for long periods to work from home more often than other roles.

    Dan and Alex - agreed that a mix of working from the office and home can be good. Alex, sounds like your noise cancelling headphones work well. Some do similar in our office and we've developed a bit of a culture where if the headphones are on we tend not to interrupt each other unless it's really urgent/important - email is preferred if someone has their headphones on.

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  6. Employers also need to (unfortunately) keep in mind that there are health and safety concerns when it comes to allowing their employees to work from home.

    I think there was a recent court case involving Telstra that highlights this where a worker slipped over at home and was able to sue their employer.

    It's not anything to overly worry about but definitely something to be aware of.

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  7. I prefer the social aspect of working in the office most of the time, but it's nice to have a day at home every so often.

    Unfortunately, there are currently major renovations happening in my apartment, and jack hammers aren't very conducive to productivity!

    On top of the options discussed, there's also the "coffice" option where you set up in a local cafe for a couple of hours - I find this is quite useful for a change of scenery. It'd be great if there was more free wi-fi available, but tethering through the phone is normally sufficient.

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