On working from home:

‘We all know that is basically sitting wondering whether to go down to the fridge to hack off that bit of cheese before checking your emails again.” London Mayor Boris Johnson.

“Remote working is easier and more effective than ever.” Virgin CEO Richard Branson.

It’s a tense moment when you ask the question.

You worry your boss or colleagues won’t take you seriously; that they will suspect you are looking for an excuse to slack off.

You wonder whether it’s too good to be true; if all those people who claim to be doing it are lying.

What is the big question?

Working from home. Remote working. Telecommuting. Telework.

For those who are seeking the opportunity, there are many reasons it appears to be a good idea: no commute, no interruptions, a chance to give solid attention to that project, that case, that email backlog without chatty colleagues and impromptu meetings.

For those who are not so keen, the problem is a simple one: how do they know you are really working? How can working alone, from home, compare with bouncing ideas around in the staffroom, by the water cooler, over lunch?

While working remotely all or part of the time is becoming more and more popular, in some more traditional workplaces it is still very much viewed with suspicion and associated – often wrongly – with people who want to spend their time watching TV while occasionally checking emails.

Jason Elias, legal recruiter and director of Elias Recruitment, said while in-house legal teams and some law firms are warming to telecommuting, many are resistant.

“Many of the more conservative law firms still struggle to get their heads around it,” he said.

“Often it is the lawyer, typically a female with young children, who makes the suggestion to firms to allow telecommuting.

“The decision in part relies on the bargaining power of the individual practitioner – if the firm is keen to retain her they tend to be more flexible.

“With smart phones and many legal software products in the cloud there is no real reason why a lawyer could not be just as productive at home and anecdotally, clients don’t seem to mind either. It is really up to the mindset of the individual.”

Jason mentions women – and it is women who have driven this revolution, in their desire to combine career and family life, and using technology such as skype, Facetime, email and social media to do so.

However, the number is growing: the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), estimated 244,700 people, or 8 per cent, of working people in NSW teleworked at some point.

However, the stereotype of the remote worker as a frazzled mum with child on the hip, phone at the ear and fingers tapping on the keyboard has moved on. More and more men are embracing working from home, and as time goes on, more employers are seeing the benefits. There is little doubt it will continue to increase in popularity with the rise of Gen Y.

Businesses of all sizes are appreciating more and more how teleworking can benefit them as an organisation and position them as an Employer of Choice.

By providing this type of flexible working you will attract more talent to your organisation. This will help you keep trained, skilled people whose changing circumstances may otherwise have led them to leave. When an Employer holds onto its most skilled and experienced people it is good news for all involved. Staff morale is higher and this increases bottom line, productivity and profits.

One more problem, though: if you aren’t physically there for all, or even half, of the time, how do you get ahead? How do you not become forgotten?

For those who work remotely, networking, creativity and productivity are paramount. Those who work from home need to break down the opinion that, in doing so, they are stating their career is not a priority.

A research project at London Business School recently found telecommuters were less likely to be promoted than their peers. That wouldn’t surprise those who work from home – but it doesn’t have to be a foregone conclusion.

Making the most of networking opportunities, meetings, and checking in daily is important; so too is brainstorming, ensuring you are included in emails doing the rounds, and that you offer more ideas, more creativity, more integrity, more commitment, more progress reports than ever.

Here are a few ways to remain front of mind even when not physically present:

  • Keep up with industry news and share. Emailing links to industry articles, LinkedIn discussions or news items related to the industry show that you are still as passionate as ever.
  • Accept every lunch invite, meeting invite, function invite. Show presence whenever you can, and put your hand up to take on projects. Give no-one the opportunity to accuse you of backing off.
  • Many bemoan the 24-7 connectivity of today’s working culture, but when you work from home, it’s important to respond to calls immediately, to emails quickly, and to queries as soon as possible.
  • Progress reports are essential. Do not bombard your employer with every task you are doing multiple times a day, but certainly at the end of each day, a run-down of your achievements for that day will show exactly where you are, avoid confusion, and be a tangible record of tasks.

Remote working is still in a state of flux: the CEO of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer, famously banned working remotely in 2013. Richard Branson, however, is a fan of the telecommuting culture.

Leah Gibbs, Business Owner of Lifestyle Careers and Work At Home Mums said the obstacle to overcome in Australia is attitude and trust.

“Australia needs a change of attitude from Employers to recognise that employees do not have to be at the office to get the job done,” she said.

“One of the biggest reasons managers give for resisting the implementation of telework policies is that they do not believe that their employees will really work when they are not in the office; managers must be able to trust that employees will continue to perform effectively outside the office.

Before you decide whether to look at the option of remote working, you need to ask yourself some questions.

Are you motivated by the need to complete work uninterrupted? Or by the bliss of having no commute?

Are you willing to put in the extra mile, perhaps even more hours, extra progress reports, to prove you are still the asset to the company you always were?

Will you commit to networking opportunities, maintain a presence, ensure you are in constant communication with clients, colleagues and bosses?

Will you miss the camaraderie of being around colleagues, the luxury of office life, the working lunches and coffee breaks?

If, after answering these questions, and reflecting honestly upon employee culture at your workplace, you can see a future for yourself as a telecommuter, its time to ask the question, prove yourself – and work as part of the telecommuting revolution.

“We have seen a massive growth in interest in new working practices under the umbrella of ‘Flexible Working’,” said Ms Gibbs.

“The topic has moved from being a curiosity to being a part of business strategy and from a human resources issue to being the concern of all managers.

“To be competitive, Australian organisations and governments must address the work life issue. It is no longer an issue that affects only women with children. The situation will worsen as the population ages and more employees enter the sandwich generation and assume eldercare responsibility.”


Telework Calculator: Simple sample cost-benefit analysis where you are able to assess the costs and benefits of home-based teleworking/telecommuting

Lifestyle Careers Facebook Page: Shares information on a daily basis the growing trends in the recruitment and HR industry and Lifestyle Careers are at the forefront of this employment revolution

Work At Home Mums Facebook Page: WAHM is a lifestyle brand dedicated to supporting home based professionals in their quest for success and work life balance. Work At Home Mums is re-defining the future of work

As Published as a Guest Post at The Law Society

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