Is This Future Shock?

general wibble from a retired technologist

Homeworking builds teamwork – and communities

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crowded escalator

Homeworking. Good for everyone?

While looking for some reference material the other day, I came upon a 7 year old report on teleworking in BT [PDF from SUSTEL].

I commented in a tweet

I still think teleworking is positive for co. and people

It is quite important to me to share this view, as in parts of the company there is an increasing focus on co-location. For certain roles, for certain teams, for some of the time there is a really good case to be made for co-location.

A colleague, who is a fellow editor of an internal blog, who – coincidentally – I have never met, made the following valid observation.

agree but need to understand intangibles-impact of never meeting your colleagues f2f-need to be able to travel

Is homeworking isolating?

I thought about this a bit, and realised

  • it is well over a year since I’ve seen a member of my team
  • it is over 9 months since I have seen a colleague I am working with

So, why am I not feeling the impact of isolation?

BT equips its homeworkers with good technological support. We use teleconferencing extensively throughout the company, and use a variety of tools in the Unified Communication area to improve working.

Glancing at Office Communicator, for example, I can see if a colleague is in, taking part in a call, or can drop them an instant message. That can be seamlessly converted in to a call using my VOIP client which gives me an internal extension in the company.

Doing that makes it easy to just have a quick chat – and lets someone politely say they’re busy, too.

Don’t I miss the face to face? No, because for years my “watercooler/coffee machine” chat has been on the company’s internal newsgroups, where people can share banter, tips, or even ask for recipes. So, you can glance at that while you’re waiting for a call host to join or some code to compile.

Now, the company’s internal social networking is improving, we have an internal blogging platform where all sorts of individual groups share experience and activities, and even MyBT, which gives an internally and externally visible individual portal into our online world.

So, who are your colleagues?

I can “talk” to far more colleagues than I ever could when I worked in an office nine years ago.

Many of my BT colleagues are visible externally, blogging and tweeting away – BT even publicised the online life of some of our graduate entrants for a while – one of whom now edits another internal blog with me.

This publicly visible face of many of my colleagues means I can build relationships, which foster teamwork, with people I wouldn’t normally meet; I know more about many of them than I would about a colleague at the other end of a building.

I also learn from people in other businesses; some businesses I have worked with, like IBM; some I haven’t like SouthWest Air. This has improved me as an employee of my own company.

What does it cost for homeworkers?

Like all businesses in this downturn, BT is being careful of its expenditure. Business travel costs real money; having your people homeworking *saves* real money, too. The Work Foundation‘s report said

  • The annual cost to support an office-based worker in central London is
    around £18,000. It costs less than £3,000 a year to support a
    homeworker. On average each homeworker saves BT £6000 a year
  • Improved retention saves c£5m a year on recruitment and induction

Do you want to meet your team? Or someone else’s?

Where would I like to travel to? To work with “my” team? No, most of us spend a huge proportion of the day on the phone; I’d like to work somewhere I’ll learn something new.

Next time I do travel to London, and have a morning or afternoon spare, I’ll try and blag some desk space at Osmosoft‘s office space in Westminster Telephone Exchange.

There’s a community I’d like to belong to.

What’s your view of homeworking
?

Image Credit:Jasoon

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Written by SteveEllwood

June 28th, 2009 at 4:56 pm

7 Responses to 'Homeworking builds teamwork – and communities'

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  1. As you say, it depends on the type of work you're doing. I have a bad habit of forgetting that there are parts of the company (like, say, 99.9% of it or so) that aren't involved in writing software, but for those that are (or who have another team-based creative role), I think co-location is hugely beneficial.

    If your job doesn't involve working as part of a team (an actual team doing something together, not just a bunch of people under the same manager), then I expect home working is at least as effective as working in an office (and cheaper), as long as you don't end up isolated.

    kjbuckley

    28 Jun 09 at 13:51

  2. So thank you for the retweet, Steve; this is a good topic and one which is worth exploring. I like technology and some of the ways BT uses it, for all that we moan, has been innovative and world-leading. If we all work at home then we can apply for any job and those of us far from the centre are less disadvantaged. But for all the communications channels I think that human beings, even introverted ones, are essentially social animals and that a relationship is sealed far better face to face even if you only meet once. I thought I hated travelling to London yet our travel ban finds me missing the opportunity to run into people as I once did, the opportunity to drop by and say hello to those I want to influence (or befriend). I used to like when about of a third of my life was working at home, a third travelling and a third in the office (and in town). I miss social contact (even though I still block out Friday lunchtime for the pub er networking) and think I did prefer when we all sat together throwing things at one another and you could focus somewhere other than the laptop screen…

    Frank Bowles

    1 Jul 09 at 15:54

  3. the unsaid bit, of course, my face to face interaction – at the moment – is in the community in which I live. Which, incidentally, is thriving with a wide range of homeworkers.

    Because I work from home, my lack of commute means a) my employer gets more time and b) my community gets more time and involvement from me.

    As you guess, Frank, I look forward to mingling with colleagues when I get a chance – even if it is Osmosoft!

    steveellwood

    1 Jul 09 at 18:34

  4. So thank you for the retweet, Steve; this is a good topic and one which is worth exploring. I like technology and some of the ways BT uses it, for all that we moan, has been innovative and world-leading. If we all work at home then we can apply for any job and those of us far from the centre are less disadvantaged. But for all the communications channels I think that human beings, even introverted ones, are essentially social animals and that a relationship is sealed far better face to face even if you only meet once. I thought I hated travelling to London yet our travel ban finds me missing the opportunity to run into people as I once did, the opportunity to drop by and say hello to those I want to influence (or befriend). I used to like when about of a third of my life was working at home, a third travelling and a third in the office (and in town). I miss social contact (even though I still block out Friday lunchtime for the pub er networking) and think I did prefer when we all sat together throwing things at one another and you could focus somewhere other than the laptop screen…

    Frank Bowles

    1 Jul 09 at 20:54

  5. the unsaid bit, of course, my face to face interaction – at the moment – is in the community in which I live. Which, incidentally, is thriving with a wide range of homeworkers.

    Because I work from home, my lack of commute means a) my employer gets more time and b) my community gets more time and involvement from me.

    As you guess, Frank, I look forward to mingling with colleagues when I get a chance – even if it is Osmosoft!

    steveellwood

    1 Jul 09 at 23:34

  6. I think we have some more scope for taking homeworking forward, both as part of our Corporate Social Responsibility and as increasing flexibility for our people.

    Steve

    13 Jul 09 at 10:45

  7. […] I’m surprised I have to repeat myself about this, but as I said in 2009(!) Homeworking builds team work  – and communities […]

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