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
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?