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Careers Flexible Working Future of work

Working From Home: Are Employers Biased About It?

The term Working From Home or WFH, has been used a lot in post-lockdown times. Maybe too much? What I mean is; when a phrase or title is used so often, we can forget it’s literal core meaning.

Because of that, Working From Home has been a talking point as of late. And it is always referred to as a form of flexible working, which it is. But how flexible is it really?

Honestly, there are variables which mean that this question has a number of different answers and there inlies the problem. There is no solid answer to that question and yet there seems to be bias about the flexibility and freedom Working From Home offers.

What is the bias against people who Work From Home?

This all started when I saw a post on LinkedIn. A woman was calling out her husband’s employer for questioning why he needed a shift change to perform parenting duties. When his wife Works From Home…

This alone shocked me. But what shocked me more was the number of people commenting who related to this story. Which led me to question if there was a bias from employers about employees who Work From Home. I set a poll asking this question on LinkedIn and Facebook and 80 people responded.

Only 2.5% said they believed there was no bias against people Working From Home and that businesses understood the limitations. 42.5% said they felt some businesses understand and others don’t. While 55% said that they felt employers have the bias that Working From Home offers far more freedom and flexibility than it really does.

To add to this I saw even more shocking stories in the comment section of what this stereotype has done to people, their living situation and their families, some of them are extreme.

But what surprised me the most is how brazen employers are when questioning the working arrangement of other people who live in their employee’s household.

I fail to see how anyone cannot appreciate how inappropriate and unprofessional that is. If an employee is asking for any kind of leave or change in shift, it is no business of the employer to question why a person outside of their employ cannot perform the task needed.

What flexibility does Working From Home actually offer?

As I said before, it depends on the individual employer how flexible their form of Working From Home is. And the range of that is as long as it is short.

However, if we take it for it’s core definition, this way of working only refers to one thing; the location of where someone does their work.

So in theory, Working From Home in terms of flexibility only really impacts one aspect of someone’s working day. And that is the need to commute into work. This is the only solid difference between an employee who works in an office and one who Works From Home. Every other aspect is completely subjective.

Yet some businesses seem to think that employees who Work From Home have all the free time in the world. I have seen first hand this is not the case.

I know of people who WFH, whose shift patterns including; start time, break times and shift end are just as strictly regimented and monitored as if they were in an office.

Then, I know of people who used to commute to the office and are now casually expected to use the time they used commuting as extra time to spend working.

WFH, Parenting Roles and Unconscious Bias

A point was made by one of the commenters on the poll, questioning whether (when it comes to parents) employers’ attitudes differ depending on which parent is the one Working From Home.

This comment got a fair few likes. Then when I looked further, I realised the majority of people who voted were women and everyone who shared a personal story on the subject was female.

This does beg the question of whether this is a bias on WFH or more unconscious (or perhaps even conscious) bias against women in the workplace who WFH?

This could be yet another insight into the ongoing existence of gender bias and inequality in the workplace. With a bias against mothers Working From Home adding yet another layer to this.

Do I think that this is in actual fact the case? I don’t see the two as mutually exclusive. I believe there are employers who still have gender equality issues and I believe there are employers who have an unfair bias about people who Work From Home. Some of these will overlap and become mixed with one another, but both need addressing.

FTDAWWFH (Free To Do Anything While Working From Home)

Clearly in extremes, this is what some believe Working From Home actually means. There needs to be a serious crash course on what WFH actually is.

Lesson 1 for businesses is reminding them what the ‘W’ stands for. Just because the location of where it is being conducted happens to be home, that doesn’t give the employees the magical ability to be able to take care of all domestic responsibilities while they are at work.

That insinuates that the work they do is less important or easier because they happen to be doing it at home, which clearly isn’t the case. Lesson 2 should be on further flexibility.

It’s clear from our data that some businesses believe WFH is all the flexibility anyone needs. First and foremost, if someone has 8-10 hours worth of work to do in a day, where are they supposed to find time to:

  • Clean the house
  • Do the laundry
  • Pick kids up from school
  • Look after children at home
  • Drop kids off at football, dance, karate etc.
  • Cook meals
  • Look after a sick relative
  • Deal with an unforeseen emergency
  • Go to a doctors, dentist or vet appointment

This list could go on and on, for some people their daily lives consist of this and more. So between all that which they apparently have full availability for, where are they finding the time to complete the 8-10 hours of work that has been set for that day?

Are they expected to work into the early hours of the morning? Because that sounds flexible. So why should they or their wife, husband, partner, mother, father etc. be denied any kind of flexibility to help with any of these responsibilities?

The Solution

Honestly, I think if there are any businesses suffering from any of the aforementioned bias I think they need some serious HR consulting. Working From Home is purely about location, what flexibility comes with that is a totally separate conversation for individual employers to have with their employees.

Although, no employee whether they WFH or not should feel unable to ask for certain needs to be met. And this certainly should not be the case for people who happen to have a member of their household who Works From Home.

There is no other way to put it: that it is not an employer’s business. It is quite literally someone else’s and that business just happens to have their employee Working From Home. And their work is every bit as important, time-consuming and attention requiring as any employee who does not conduct their Work From Home.

Either way, there is definitely a misconception about Working From Home and how flexible it is. The same could be said for the 4-day week which is another hot topic right now. See what John Adams has to to say on the subject and how flexible it really is.

Categories
Flexible Working Lifestyle

Will Lockdown Change How and Where We Live?

Home Sweet Home. It is our shelter, our sanctuary, our escape from the world and is reputedly where the heart is. But the Covid-19 crisis has caused us to reassess how we interact with that space in so many ways including in a professional context. The rise and prevalence of remote working has shown what can be achieved without crossing the threshold of our front door. What does this mean for how and where we live?

Redefining Home Working

Few would wish to re-create the emergency lockdown makeshift of balancing computers on the kitchen table or precariously on knees whilst perching on the sofa. There have been noises and disruptions, with drying laundry scattered around, and the paraphernalia of personal life in the background. We have all suffered at times from cabin fever and sensory overload. Clearly this ad-hoc approach is not the best long-term strategy for effective homeworking and many increasingly do want to work remotely on a more sustained basis.

A designated room in the house to be used solely as an office is one solution. It presents soundproofed peace and, if carefully devised and arranged, a business-like environment. One which is separated from its domestic counterpart. There is also the chance, physically and mentally, to shut the door on work at the end of the day. And we all do need to switch off at some point. But how to magic up this space?

Space – The First Frontier

One option is for people to upgrade in their existing location which means negotiating a bigger mortgage and taking a harder hit on monthly repayments. This is not always financially viable. With the economy stuttering and redundancies afoot, it may also be a risky step.

Another route is to improve-not-move. This is done by building an extension onto an existing property or converting an attic to be used as an office hub. Basement renovations are also popular when you have no choice but to dig deep. Alternatively, open plan could be ditched with a large footprint split into two smaller rooms to create a work bubble. Once Covid is over (yes, this too will pass), builders may face a welcome upturn in demand for their services as people redesign their homes to meet changing needs.

But some are contemplating more radical solutions. The Office for National Statistics, which is tracking the impact of Covid-19, indicates that office-based employees are now willing to exchange crowded cities for pastures new. Among those planning to work from home, 12% have considered moving to a rural or costal area. Estate agents have seen more buyer registrations for properties in commuter villages and around small market towns. The temporary stamp duty holiday offered by the Chancellor, to kickstart the housing market out of its virus paralysis, has provided a further incentive to up sticks and turn daydreams into reality.

New Home, New Lifestyle

It is not merely the extra legroom that is the draw. As per Rightmove, the online property website, there is a “lure of a new lifestyle, one that is quieter and has an abundance of beautiful countryside and more outdoor space.” If people can work from home more, they may decide to live further out. Thus accepting a longer commute on certain days in return for a mode of living that is calmer, greener and less polluted. In turn this leads to a healthier and less stressful existence. It is an appealing vista.

This approach pans out on more than a personal level with a possible wider economic impact. There is a chance to rebalance house prices in different regions, to reinvigorate local economies and to promote a rural renaissance. Perhaps it is time to update the old saying to Home and Office, Sweet Home and Office.

Categories
Flexible Working

Home Working And How Do It

10 Ways To Work From Home During The Coronavirus Pandemic

Coronavirus is making the country take drastic measures. The aim is to preserve the safety of the vulnerable and attempt to prevent our NHS from being overwhelmed. Guess what? Home working has been fully advised where possible. 

Our team has been home working since our beginnings back in 2017, so we thought we’d share a few tips to help you on your way through this challenging time, but even for us we face the challenge of possibly having to juggle work and entertaining / teaching our kids at home too.

So here goes…

  • Plan – Spend some time just planning your work. It may feel like precious time wasted but it is totally worth it. By planning you can prioritise your work and aim to keep to a schedule. Personally I find the best time to do this is on a Friday afternoon (in an attempt to keep weekends free for family time). Make use of tools like Trello and Asana or if you prefer just use a good old diary! 
  • If you are going to be home working with your partner and have kids at home then work in shifts. We may have to accept that one takes an early shift working with an early start and then the other takes a late shift to work with a later finish, swapping over the childcare.
  • Where possible try to find your home working space. Your office, the dining table, a summer house, the bedroom just somewhere you can hopefully get some quiet time to work. Make sure that area is clear before you sit down to work.
  • Try to move any equipment you need into your house. This can be a tight squeeze, especially if you have larger pieces of equipment, but it’s better to live with your equipment available to you than get caught by the police for trying to go into your workplace. This might be tricky for those of you in creative jobs like greeting card or leaflet design where you need a lot of equipment, but somewhere like Duplo International can provide suitable creasing equipment including the amazing Duplo DC-446 Cutter Creaser that is small and compact enough to be able to keep creating your products even from your bedroom.
  • If you’re flying solo with kids at home then there is no doubt it’s going to be a tough few months. Although schools aren’t yet closed, coronavirus may force them to close soon. So, accept that you are not going to be firing on all cylinders. Prioritise your work. Don’t book calls in consecutively, space them out. Avoid cabin fever by getting out for a walk at some point in the day. Don’t get hung up by mess or chores. They will get done just maybe not as quickly as you are used too.
  • Avoid social media whilst you are home working (unless you are a social media manager, then you just have to be super disciplined!). Social media can be very distracting and before you know it, you’ve wasted a significant amount of time. Turn OFF your notifications.
  • Check in with your team. Communication is key to efficient and productive home working. Preferably 3 times a week or more if you are full time. Use tools such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, the good old telephone and Slack to keep lines of communication open. Perhaps establish reasonable hours of the day to communicate with each other so that nobody is expected to answer a call in the evening if that is deemed unreasonable.
  • Take a break. It’s ok to take a break. Especially if you are wrestling with kids at home too. Do work in bitesize chunks where possible, try to incorporate that into your planning.
  • If you are trying to homeschool as well as home working then be realistic. You cannot possibly achieve the same output as a full time school whilst working. Break up the day into school time and work time. However it works for you, but don’t (unless you have older kids who can study with little supervision) try to do both at the same time. Stick to shorter lessons and only one or two a day. Utilise resources such as Twinkl or check out this fabulous lady and read her advice: Erin Loechner OtherGoose.com. I also saw this useful list from a facebook group that may be worth checking out.
  • BACK UP YOUR WORK REGULARLY! 
  • Make sure you are adhering to data protection and security laws. Make sure you have the latest security software installed on your device. Ensure access to your device is password protected and encrypted to prevent unauthorised access if the device is stolen, misplaced or hacked. If you’re accessing your work network whilst home working, make sure access is secure. Check with your employer that they have covered this with your team.

Coronavirus may be disrupting our day to day life but we will get through this. It’s a challenge yes, but hopefully our communities will come together and work to support one another. Look after your elderly or vulnerable neighbours. We are strong and capable and work best when we work together.

Keep up to date with the NHS latest information and guidance on Coronavirus here. NHS

If you are responsible for a team or are a business trying to make remote working work for you, then our trusted friends Ursula Tavender and Liese Lord have put together this fab resource: Get it here.

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