Tag Archives: work at home

There Is No Such Thing As Flexible Work

Technology was meant to herald a new way of working anytime, anywhere – but that’s not the case.

Original article by Georgina Kenyon

We didn’t get the flying cars or the self-lacing shoes. But we did get the work world of the future – you know, the one where the internet allows us to work anytime, anywhere, resulting in the death of the 9-to-5 life.

Our ability to trust each other has not advanced in parallel with the technology we have created

Oh, wait. As more and more companies promise flexibility, the reality, it turns out, is pretty far from the culture we dreamed of.

For almost all of us, flexible work really means working a few hours each side of the core workday of 09:00 and 17:00. And, if you think about it, that makes sense, because many businesses still run within those core hours when markets are open, banks process deposits and payments and daylight makes it easier for tradespeople to do their jobs, for example.

 

(Credit: iStock)

Flexible hours have made working from home possible for many – but how many people actually make the most of it? (Credit: iStock)

But while digital technology has enabled a very small degree of flexibility around the regular working day for some, there have been unseen and sometimes unsettling repercussions for employees and employers. For instance, experts say that always emailing your staff and colleagues, even though they sit a metre from you, has had a hidden, but very real impact on morale and trust.

That, in turn, has made truly flexible work nearly impossible for most of us.“There can be a dark side of innovation, and unintended consequences of some organisational innovations,” says Almudena Cañibano, lecturer in human resource management at ESCP Europe, a business school in Madrid, Spain.

No matter how much a work rock star you might be, your manager does not trust you

Our ability to trust each other has not advanced in parallel with the technology we have created. And therein lies one of the real reasons flexible work is little more than a catch phrase. No matter how much a work rock star you might be, your manager does not trust you. Your colleagues do not trust your manager. And, truth be told, you probably don’t trust most of your colleagues or your boss, either.

Trust and the digital age

For Rachel Botsman, a visiting economics lecturer at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School, it’s simple: “Institutional trust isn’t designed for the digital age.”

 

(Credit: Alamy)

Technology has let us work anywhere, anytime – but trust issues can get in the way (Credit: Alamy)

 

That’s also the case for the trust people have towards colleagues, within organisations. Perhaps not surprisingly, then, we’re also less able to understand or make room to consider each person as, well, a person.

"The digital age… has resulted in an ‘assault on empathy’, that makes us less able to appreciate the situation of another person,” writes Sherry Turkle, director of the Initiative on Technology and Self at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

A lack of trust brings about fear, which goes a long way to explaining why we put in face time, even when we probably don’t need to

In other words, the propensity for email, texting and quick-type apps has led us to forget some of our people skills, including distinguishing the nuances of language and meaning, fostering of a feeling of belonging among groups of people, and knowing our bosses and colleagues well enough to have confidence that others will pull their weight. That, in turn, has diminished implicit and earned trust among the people we work with.

 

(Credit: Alamy)

Technology has disrupted the workplace – and not always for the better (Credit: Alamy)

 

That lack of trust brings about fear, which goes a long way to explaining why we put in face time, even when we probably don’t need to in order to do our work well. It also can explains why we feel we’ve got to have our “butt in the seat” even if our work could truly be done from the corner café or the back garden.

Mother, may I?

Phyllis Moen, professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota in the US, calls this the ‘mother, may I’ problem. It’s when we feel fearful of asking our managers if we can work from home or work altered hours if, say, we need to help a relative or attend a series of medical appointments or simply want to work during hours we’re feeling more productive or efficient.

 

(Credit: Alamy)

While it is technically possible for many to work odd hours, the majority of us only need flexibility a couple of hours either side of the typical 9-to-5 day (Credit: Alamy)

 

Some workplace psychologists take it a step further, saying that modern technology is a way for employers to constantly keep surveillance over their staff. In turn, people are increasingly suffering from the impacts of feeling watched, even when they are allowed to work remotely. The Future Work Centre in London released findings earlier this year that showed the emotional reactions we have to constantly being connected to our work causes “a toxic source of stress.”

As a result, we often start thinking up more ‘creative’ ways of excusing ourselves to create flexibility.

What next

There’s also the worry that flexible work options may actually get more limited as automation and advances in information technology now threaten many traditional white-collar jobs, such as accounting and law.  And that’s led to a feeling of insecurity that keeps people in their seats, playing out face time for the boss, and avoiding flexible options when they are available.

As a result of job insecurity, even when flexible work options are offered in a workplace, employees do not always take them up

One report from the World Economic Forum examines how, just as technology made manufacturing largely automated, now white-collar jobs will be automated (for example, when selling a house, the seller will fill in all the required information for an 'online solicitor').

As a result of job insecurity, even when flexible work options are offered in a workplace, employees do not always take them up. Being present it seems in the workplace, seems the most secure option for most.

 

(Credit: Getty Images)

As automation threatens more jobs, it may seem more important to be present in the office (Credit: Getty Images)

 

But, that could be counterproductive for employers. The more control that we have over our time – of when and where we work – the more job satisfaction increases, says Moen. The University of Warwick in the UK found that being happy at work makes people, on average, 12% more productive. In the paper, the researchers found that happier workers use the time they have more effectively, increasing the pace at which people work without sacrificing quality.

In reality, for some of us, the flexibility of a few hours outside of core hours actually turns out to be enough to improve quality of life. 

In Spain, Iberdrola, one of the country’s largest utilities companies, decided a few years ago to allow its employees to choose working 08:00 to 15:00 with no lunch break – a major change in a country where most people work 09:00 to 19:00 with a two-hour lunch break. The company reported employee satisfaction levels increased as a result and lower turnover (90% of the workforce has been with the company for more than five years).

Changing habits

How do you change a workplace culture? Bring in blanket company rules, say some experts, making benefits universal to all staff if possible. Financial company Moody’s instituted a policy that women returning from maternity leave do not have to fulfil the usual 'billable hours' for several months. “Middle ranking managers can also help introduce flexible and healthy workplaces by getting rid of low value work – like meetings every Monday with no agenda,” says Moen.

“It’s said that to understand something you should try to change it. We are trying to redesign working conditions, giving employees greater flexibility and control over their time with more supportive supervisors,” says Moen.

But, maybe like flying cars in the film Back to the Future, truly flexible work wasn’t ever really going to happen.

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Stephen Hodgkiss
Chief Engineer at MarketHive

markethive.com


Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

How To Manage Time Off for the Holidays when you are Self-Employed

'Tis the season to be jolly…and busy! Here are six tips to help you enjoy the holidays. 

work at home

The holiday season is here – and hopefully, amid the big dinners, shopping, decorating and parties, is, somewhere in there, a break. But taking some time off is a bit different when you are self-employed. For one, there's often no one to pick up the slack when you take a vacation, and you probably have to plan ahead so there's no slack in the budget either.

Keep Family in the Loop

Before you plan your time off for the holidays, chat with your family. What days will your spouse have off from work? Does little Johnny's Christmas play fall during the hours you would normally be working? Will you go on any special family outings, perhaps to pick out the Christmas tree or visit Santa? Knowing all your families activities ahead of time will help you plan how much time you'll need off, and when.

Stay Organized

Organization is an essential quality for a work-at-home-mom, and it certainly comes in handy when you are preparing for time off. Create task lists that outline what you need to accomplish both before and after your break. Block out time on a calendar so you know what you need to be working on and when. Find a system that works best for you – just remember to stay organized.

Notify Consistent Clients

You probably don't need to notify clients when you are taking a national holiday off – but if you plan on taking the whole week off or a few extra days, be sure to let your consistent clients know ahead of time so you can make sure you'll both be prepared.

Set Up an Automated Email and Phone Message Response

Whenever you take a vacation, it's a good idea to set up an away message in your email so no one gets upset when you don't respond right away. And if you use a phone for business calls, change your voicemail as well if you don't plan on picking up for business calls during your time off.

Arrange Extra Work Time Before and After

Depending on the type of work you do, you may need to make up for the time you take off. Plan extra slots of time both before and after the holidays. Schedule when you'll take care of the extra work, so you're not stressing about when everything will be done. Ask for help with the kids and housework if you need.

Embrace Technology

Thanks to technology, there are a few ways to be present without actually being present. Schedule social media posts during your time off – try a social media management system such as Hootsuite if you haven't already. The scheduling feature makes it easy to ensure there isn't a big lapse in posts while you're away. If you use a blog to promote your business, most platforms will allow you to schedule entire posts as well.

Holidays should be spent enjoying time with family – not worrying about work. With some organization and planning ahead, you can take some time off without a drastic impact on your business. Chances are, you started working from home so you could spend more time with your family – don't let your work interfere with enjoying the season with your loved ones.

If you believe that my message is worth spreading, please use the share buttons if they are visible on this page.

Stephen Hodgkiss
Chief Engineer at MarketHive

markethive.com


Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

11 Ways To Stay Organized When You Work At Home

11 Ways To Stay Organized When You Work At Home

 
Staying productive while working at home requires creating a workspace, staying semi-formal, and creating a schedule that includes breaks.
 
 
staying organised at home
 
 
When you decided to become a work from home mom, you imagined how productive you would be. Not only would you be able to throw a load of dishes into the dishwasher, but you'd be able to fold clothes while on a telephone conference call, too.
 
Now that you're actually working from home, not only are the dishes piling up in the sink, but you haven't done laundry in two weeks, either. And the clean clothes? Forget it. They're in an ever-shrinking pile in the corner of your bedroom.
 
So what happened to being organized? Ironically, it's harder to be organized when you work at home than when you're in a traditional office job. But there are ways to stay organized and be productive when you work from home. Read on to see how-and to see when you should really be washing your delicates.
 
Create your workspace. If you don't already have an office space or an extra bedroom that you can convert into an office, you should take a walk around your house. Pick a spot that is not smack dab in the center of the action-like the kitchen counter-and where you won't be fighting with mops, brooms or other household items. Choose a location that can be yours indefinitely, and make that your dedicated space.
 
Set your hours. If you don't already have a schedule set by your boss, it's a good idea to come up with one. Having regular hours ensures that you can get your work done in a timely manner without working over your allotted hours. It also keeps you on track-and focused-by giving you a deadline by which to complete your work each day. If you work a little here, and a little there, you might end of stretching an 8 hour day into a 10 or 12-hour workday-and your mind will be scattered.
 
Make a list. In order to stay organized, a list (or four) is essential. When you make the list is up to you-you can carve 15 minutes at the end of your day to assess what needs to be done for the next workday, or you can write it all down the next morning while your computer is loading. A list is extremely helpful because it is a tangible reminder of what you need to get done during your day, before daily distractions interfere.
 
Be semi-formal. When you worked in a traditional office, you had to wear a suit every day…even during summer Fridays. By far, one of the major perks of a work at home job is that you can show up to work (i.e. your desk) wearing whatever you want. But that doesn't mean you should work in your jammies all day, either. Showering, changing out of your PJs and putting on something professional (yet comfortable) is a key step in helping you to mentally transition into work mode. After all, if you look and feel sloppy, it can cause you to be disorganized in your thoughts-and your work as well.
 
Find your peak hours. Everyone has a time of day when they feel their best. Perhaps you're a morning person, capable of getting most of your to-dos done by noon. But you might be a night owl, coming up with your best ideas-and increased productivity-while the rest of the world slumbers. Figure out when you have the most energy, and then adjust your schedule accordingly, giving yourself tougher tasks to perform when you're at your peak and feel the freshest.
 
Avoid doing housework. You innocently slip downstairs to put your bedspread into the washer when you notice that the kids have left their breakfast dishes in the family room. As you put the dirty dishes in the sink, you replace the paper towel roll and wipe down the counter. Without realizing it, 20 minutes have passed-and so has your deadline. While it makes sense to do some housework when you work at home, it can be one of the biggest distractions. It may not be the most exciting way to spend your lunch hour, but organize your household activities for your break times instead.
 
Clear your desk…daily. At the end of each workday, clear the clutter from your desk. File important papers in folders and shred the rest. Wipe down your desk (including your keyboard, mouse and screen) and remove any lingering coffee cups. The idea is to leave your desk as you would like to see it the next morning, clean, neat and organized. That way, you will feel energized-and not deflated-when you sit down at your desk tomorrow.
 
Screen your calls. Your family and friends all know that you work from home. So why does your Aunt Linda constantly call you at 10:30 AM, right when you're in a mid-morning work groove? People who don't work from home have a hard time understanding that while you are home, you are actually working. So it's a good idea to clarify to your callers that you can't be interrupted during certain hours. But if your bestie keeps ringing your number, it's best not to pick up the phone. That way, your clamoring callers will get the hint, and you won't have to worry about hurting anyone's feelings.
 
Take breaks. It may seem counterintuitive to take breaks when you're trying to stay organized and maximize productivity, but you'll be far more successful if you take mini breaks throughout the day. To help add order to your day, try to take your break at the same times throughout the day.
 
Focus on one task at a time. Sure, everyone wants to consider themselves master multitaskers, but the reality is that humans can really only do one thing at a time effectively. So shine some of that laser-like focus only on one project, and do it really well. After all, if you have 10 windows open on your two computer screens, are on a conference call while you write that press release that was due an hour ago, you're going to do a bad job at all of it. Like everything else, it's about quality, not quantity.
 
Be flexible. You may have done everything possible to ensure a distraction-free day. But then your child became ill and had to come home early from day camp. The thing is, when you are a work at home mom, things happen. And since you're most likely the manager of your home, it's up to you to handle it all. So don't beat yourself up if your day isn't as productive as you might have liked it to be. One of the beauties of having a flexible schedule is that you can-and must-be adaptable. When your sick camper hits the hay, you can always jump back on the computer to complete your work-and get it all done.
 
While working from home has so many benefits, it can be an ocean of distractions if you don't know how to navigate it properly. Stay focused to keep a clear, organized workflow, and watch your productivity soar.
 

If you believe that my message is worth spreading, please use the share buttons if they show at the top of the page.

Stephen Hodgkiss
Chief Engineer at MarketHive

markethive.com


Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member