IBM are perhaps the most recent Blue Chip to abandon the home office. In a recent policy change, employees are now required to work from regional offices, or seek alternative employment. Ironic, seeing as IBM are champions of remote tech software, but clearly a case of ‘do as we say not as we do’. Or something.

Arguments for and against home office working are nothing new. Company policy is often driven by CEO opinion, with trust being the deciding factor. Tricky as it is, one size does not fit all. For most of us, the office will remain central to our working lives and I believe that’s a good thing. However for many employees, flexibility still outweighs the lure of cool office design. But who says you can’t have your cake and eat it?

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Leading businesses understand they need to go the extra mile to have the edge. This means offering a wide range of formal and informal workspaces, having a positive management style, providing employee flexibility and great office design in order to attract and retain industry talent. Many bosses fear that home office is an opportunity to skive, but in actual fact for many remote workers, longer uninterrupted periods combined with the absence of daily commute, means higher productivity.

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In today’s competitive economy, ambitious employers should liken their facilities and employee management policies to top athletes’ incessant drive for improvement. For the likes of Usain Bolt, it isn’t just ability and training that keeps him at the top, it is also diet, biomechanics, physiotherapy, psychology and more. Each small refinement improves overall results. Equally, improvements to the workplace environment can directly improve productivity, performance and company profit. Here are 10 ways to reduce stress, improve performance and improve overall team results:

  1. Tools for the job: Don’t cut costs with IT hardware and software. Invest in the best tools for your team.
  2. Positive Management Style: Be approachable and proactive with problem solving. Keep an eye out for over-exertion amongst your team in a bid to avoid burnouts.
  3. Acoustics: Noisy offices mean stressed workers, higher absenteeism and lower productivity. Get advice from an acoustician or interior expert on how to reduce sound levels in your space.
  4. Ergonomics: A height adjustable desk, monitor arm, task light and good office chair needn’t cost the earth. Employee absence due to chronic back pain however, might.
  5. Collaboration, focus & relax: Ensure your team have a range of places to chat, collaborate, meet and eat together as well as places for quiet focus work (many see home office as quiet concentration space).
  6. Flexibility: A hot topic and high on employee wish-lists. If the working week is structured to accommodate both office-based and flexible working you will have a happier workforce. 
  7. Biophilia: Plants, natural light and nature make us feel good and work better. Integrate these into the design of your office space to improve wellbeing.
  8. Good health: Some big companies have in-house nutritionists, gyms and restaurants. Smaller companies can compete by arranging healthy lunches, fruit, private healthcare and encouraging team sport activities. 
  9. Teamwork: Fostering a positive team spirit is hugely beneficial. Where possible, team responsibilities and rewards should be shared.
  10. Scent: A topic gaining momentum in interior circles. Scents such as lemon oil stimulate the brain and when used in the office can provide a more pleasant working experience. But trial it first – it may not be to everyone’s taste.

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There is no one size fits all for today’s employees. An engaged leader should look to find the balance between employee wants and company needs. Some team members need more management than others, but trust, structure, support and positivity are hugely motivational factors and should not be underestimated.

Ultimately employees are both a company’s biggest asset and expenditure. By investing in their wellbeing, environment and company culture, businesses are re-investing in themselves. 

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What’s your opinion on home office working – is it all it’s cracked up to be? Hive of productivity or pyjama party?

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2 thoughts on “Homework Vs Teamwork

  1. An interesting article. For me, like you mentioned, it is not a case of either/or, it is about creating the variety of workspaces to enable the particular task at hand for different work styles. Each of us is different and consequently our work styles are often different. We need to accept that providing ‘Choice’ in work setting whether at home, remote or within a defined office facility is key to enable someone to be the most productive whether they are doing individual focused work, collaborative work, learning or social. The balance between each varies and at the end of the day it is the business results that matter. There are multiple routes to get there. Each company has their own particular culture and approach.

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    1. Completely agree John, well put. Companies should aim to provide a workplace so varied and high quality that it challenges the lure of the home office. Then let employees choose. They are adults after all….

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