Computer coders, digital marketers, accountants, leaders of tech startups, management consultants, market researchers, analysts—just some of the roles that long term home workers hold. These are the roles of just some of the community of people I work with on a daily basis.
My name is Ian Tomlin and I’ve been a home worker since the early 2000’s. At one time, that meant I was seen as someone who wasn’t committed to their job. So I tended not to disclose this shameful fact whenever I was in a meeting. Like many others, I paid annually for an office address I never went to, and a landline number that probably never worked.
Living as I do in the United Kingdom, famed for its late-hours work culture—where even today some old guard thinkers believe your career is tarnished if you leave the office before your boss does—a decade ago, home working was seen as a perk and an existential threat to your career if anyone found out.
Home working has afforded me more work opportunities, a higher salary, the ability to blend my work and home life in a way that I prefer, means I get to avoid a nasty commute while unintentionally contributing to the death of the planet, and it let’s me plan my day around the stupid way my brain works.
These days, I’m not alone in my work pattern. I work with customers and colleagues around the world, the majority of whom never go to work. We form part of a sizeable, hidden and growing community that’s coming out of the shadows now that home working has become cooler. The 2020 pandemic meant our cohort moved out of the ‘weird’ box and transitioned to being ‘intriguing.’
When home working isn’t a choice
My first experience of home working happened in 2002 when I started my management consulting business. I didn’t need an office from which to run my company, as I always met customers onsite. All I needed to get my work done was a computer and a phone. Like many startups, for the sake of appearances, I paid annually for an office address I never visited, and a landline that scarcely ever received a call. At the time, home working wasn’t a choice, but my option option. This shift to home working isn’t uncommon for ‘Micropreneurs’—people who move out of high-paid full-time roles to use their skills to profit as self-employed consultants. Armed with a phone, internet connection and a computer, the home office has become the go-to office for most self employed and contract workers.
The Micropreneur community has blossomed over the past two decades, as more baby boomers have realised the corporate long-hours lifestyle isn’t for them later in life, and that they have opportunity to lever value from their skills in the flexible workforce.
Roles for home working that work well
The reason I know so many long term home workers is because I work in a role that marries three of the best roles for people who want to work from home. These are Computer Science, Marketing, and Management Consulting.
To explain—I work in the B2B tech industry, so my work community is largely made up of startup business leaders and enterprise technologists (most of whom now work from home and run virtual organizations. And my job skills push me into the categories of management consulting and marketing, for which a home office is both practical and convenient.
The only down-sides to working from home in the past have been the inevitable isolation and the stigma it carries in work cultures. Both of these life-style challenges however have become less of a problem thanks to improvements in social office technologies and the cultural change impact resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic that forced EVERYONE to work from home.
Home working productivity is generally higher
Like many people, I would say my productivity is higher at home. For one thing, I avoid a stressful commute and can ‘fall into my office’ every morning. Additionally, I know my brain works better at certain times of the day, and I need regular thinking breaks. When I’m at home I can work around ‘how my brain works’ to schedule the best time for exercise breaks in the forms of long walks and a few gym sessions scattered into my daily routine.
A focus on the Home Working topic in 2020 has led to a great deal of new research exploring the productivity impacts of home working on the workforce. Many business leaders and industry watchers anticipated a sizeable drop in productivity. But those fears haven’t materialized.
Research published by Global Workplace Analytics suggests that businesses lose $600 billion a year to workplace distractions, and that remote workers are 35% to 40% more productive than their in-office counterparts.
Home working ‘can’ make you happier
Not everyone is wired the same, I get that. It’s not easy for folk to get used to the isolation of working from home for long periods of time. But, for those of us who are reasonably content in our own company, working from home can actually make you happier in your life. There is more time flexibility—if you force yourself to ignore the internal nagging voice that says you should work a nine-to-five without a break.
The latest CNBC|SurveyMonkey Workforce Survey, published in May 2020, shows that remote workers report a Workforce Happiness Index of 75 out of 100, compared to 71 for in-office employees. Remote employees are more likely to report being satisfied than office-based workers (57% vs. 50%). On almost every question related to job satisfaction, those working from home are more positive about their working life-style.
Home working is here to stay
When we began 2020, it felt like just another year. That soon changed when governments around the world started invoking lock-down measures. In March 2020, the world of work went home. And there’s no telling if it will ever go back.
A Gartner survey of company leaders found that 80% plan to allow employees to work remotely at least part of the time after the pandemic, and 47% will allow employees to work from home full-time.
Personally, I think it’s a good thing that the stigma of home working appears to be coming to an end. Modern employers should be prepared to move beyond those age old beliefs that workers should commute to an office every day because of some age old macho office working culture. Sure, home working isn’t for everyone, or every business. Some teams definitely benefit from the close contact of working together in the same physical location. And as a preference, I don’t criticise any worker or business leader that feels that way. Let’s just not suggest anymore that it’s the ONLY way to progress a career—because it’s not.