By Justin Babet, Founder and CEO @ JobAdvisor.com.au
When I first started running my own business, I was really excited about working from home. It’s one of those things you dream about when you have to schlep it into the office every day! I was saving at least an hour of travel, didn’t have to get dressed, could make my own breakfast and lunch and, let’s be honest, it made me feel like I was living a pretty cruisey existence. At least, that’s how it started…
Over time, I began to notice a few things about working from home, which prompted me to fork out the cash for an office that I had to travel to. This might be a bit controversial seeing as telecommuting and flexibility are all the rage at the moment, but here’s what I learned from my own experience.
Blending work life sucks
Let me say first up that I’m a big believer in doing what you love to do so work doesn’t feel like work. But the fact remains, if you only do that one thing every minute of the day for the rest of your life you’re going to get over it pretty quickly. You need balance.
The problem with working from home is there’s no separation between work and life, which can make it really hard to switch off. While it might not feel like this for the first few weeks of working from home, pretty soon what started out as your sanctuary from the world will start to feel like your office. Offices can be stressful environments and suddenly that association is right there when you wake up, and when you’re trying to wind down in the evening.
For the past few years now I’ve been back in an office and I love the separation. I can leave work at work and switch my mental focus onto where it needs to be. Sure it takes me extra travel time but I use that time to catch up on phone calls or just to have some quiet time so I arrive home present rather than distracted. If I’m on the ferry I’ll read. The forced break to travel is good for me.
I also find when I work from home I rarely leave the house and that’s just plain unhealthy, particularly if you do it for weeks and months at a time.
Offices are more productive
This isn’t completely true, I still work the odd day from home and I’m extremely productive when I do. But when I’m working from home day in, day out, I’ve noticed that while I might start a little earlier and finish a lot later, it’s not necessarily productive time. Because I don’t have a daily deadline to work to (leaving to go home) I can tend to start to cruise through the day.
What I’ve also found is that some jobs, like sales, are much easier to do when you’re around others doing the same thing. It creates an energy that you can feed off. Take that with a grain of salt because even in sales roles you need some quiet space to do your thinking and get organised, and home may be the only place you can get that. But don’t mistake the need for some quiet time as being a sign you need that all the time.
Of course, it’s also much easier to get things done when you’re sitting next to the people you need to collaborate with. Sure, collaboration tools are improving all the time but nothing will ever beat being face to face. As they say, 55% of communication is non-verbal (facial expressions, gestures, posture, etc), so working from home often means you’ll be half as effective when collaborating. In fact, I’ve found when working with web developers and designers that being in the same room as them when they’re working will make them at least twice as fast because the feedback loop is instant – they don’t have to message or email me and wait for a response, I can give them an answer on the spot while they’re still focused on the issue at hand, and I can be a lot more precise about what I want.
Shared successes are double the success
And shared failures are double the failure. What I mean is that offices are great for building a sense of being a team. It’s great for the culture of the business. It’s not impossible to create this without an office, but it’s definitely much easier when you’re all in the same room. One of the interesting bits of feedback we get on JobAdvisor is that telecommuting is often blamed for companies losing “their soul” (particularly the large ones). It’s nice to feel connected to other people and like you’re in it together, and offices are great for this.
If people thinking about running their own business ask for my advice I always tell them, “get an office”. If business managers ask me if they should move to telecommuting I always say, “keep the office”. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ever work from home – on the contrary, sometimes this can be the most productive environment. But just be mindful to keep some healthy separation in your life, for your own sake. And pick the environment that helps you do the best job, in the most efficient way – this will mean you can spend less time chained to the desk and more time living your life.
About the Author: Justin runs JobAdvisor.com.au, Australia's #1 Employer Branding website and 2014 StartupSmart Award finalist. He's been in the recruitment game for more than a decade, having been a founding member and more recently the Managing Director of one of Australia’s most highly awarded recruitment agencies, Xpand Group. You can follow him on LinkedIn
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