Now that you have been given the go-ahead for working at home, perhaps flexible working, part or full time what happens next? Initially all seems straight forward – jump out of bed and I’m there, right? Of course it is for some, however my research and work with clients suggests otherwise.
Well the technology is probably the easiest part of the equation. You may well have been given or bought a shiny new laptop, smart phone and had a new internet connection fitted………..but where is the best place to work from a home base? A seemingly straight forward question that will need some careful thought. If you are lucky and have the resources then a purpose built office (plumbed in and fully powered) at the bottom of the garden is probably the ideal situation. However, for most people converting a garage, bedroom, or a corner of the living room will have to do. The corner of the living room alternative may be fine if working alone but what happens if there are children in the work/home space?
Needless to say, if you have a family the complex negotiations around do’s and don’ts would have hopefully been discussed. For example, what happens when the children get home from school and you are in the middle of an important call, how are these situations to be managed? Do you have a “do not disturb” sign up on the door, or perhaps rent a co-working space for certain times of the day. These and many other family & personal issues are fundamental questions that will need to be explored prior to the big day of being at home at work. These aspects come into sharp focus when using space in the home where distractions are difficult to manage successfully.
From my research & work with clients, it seems as though many home workers adopt very similar patterns to actually going to a external place of work in an office or factory. Possibly explained by a cognitive schema of what it means to go to work. For example schemas suggest they act as a cognitive shortcut to help us navigate the world around us without using up too much cognitive processing power. Therefore the initial schema for paid employment may well not encompass working in your home, as home is a place for other things. To compensate, many participants (male) put on a shirt and tie to both project an impression to themselves and members of family that they were off to work. Albeit in the same place they had breakfast moments before. Women adopt similar behavioural strategies as men, though traditional roles in the home alter perceptions of the preparation for going to work.
Many people actively “commuted” to their work by perhaps leaving the house to take a partner to the railway station of go to the gym before starting work at home. Now the business of temporal and spacial separation seems to apply to the home workers, as there is a need to leave one space (home, family etc) and re-enter the home as a workplace. The commute certainly helps people to re-focus their minds on the day ahead and the tasks that need to be completed.
So although the business of working in or at home may seem straightforward the few issues noted above are the tip of the iceberg of making transitions toward from a home base. Organisations need support to help manage employees transitions just as the employee will need ongoing support and insight to negotiate the psychological dimensions of home based working. So utilising psychology to help your transition will hopefully ensure there are no surprises when you take the plunge to work from a home base.