Friday, 13 July 2012

Remote working: what is the employers' problem?

Sorry, can't stop to chat, too busy even for virtual watercooler

Here I'm again, banging on about remote working. I have been posting about it on this blog, tweeted sarcastic comments (i.e. Join the digital revolution chained to a desk in Central London), ranted about it in various professional forums, but I'm going nowhere fast. After working on three huge marketing campaigns for a global brand, my copywriting career is stalling again. Yes, I do have a bread and butter editorial job that I can do remotely but where are my challenges?

Why nobody cares that I write award-winning copy, one of my newsletters won a regional award, I have heaps of experience.... I know why, I live out of Oz, in the sticks (not that far, though, I can still take a train), i.e. not in London. When I left London I kind of knew that it could have been career suicide but I thought, surely this digital lark will help me out? Surely I can raise my daughter somewhere with a higher quality of life? My partner too, he hoped that it would happen, that we would find local jobs or at least use remote technology to work from home. The reality is that he had to commute to London on 99% of cases and I could only do local jobs inhouse (there aren't that many and lots of competition for anything, think flexible admin jobs with 60 applications, some from people with PhDs).

So I decided to try to sell SEO services as I'm told content is king (and I got the content crown back from Mouse Converter just in case) and it's building up but I'm still dissatisfied by employers' attitudes to remote working. Yes, I know there are jobs that can be done only in an office, but many don't. I was particularly annoyed by a social media job at Mumsnet, a site that should be flexible due to its ethos of supporting parents, but no, they wouldn't even consider a part inhouse and part remote arrangement.

I tell you, my wheel was spinning faster and faster when I got that reply via email. So if you are raising a child with partial (or none) childcare, what do you do? Pay for full-time childcare, never see your child and work on the grindstone doing a job you can do wholly or partly from home? Yes, that's it. And it's not only women who are not happy about it, men aren't. I hear it from many men here in Cambridge (including my partner), but sadly there aren't that many flexible jobs.

So with face-to-face conference calls (or Hangouts for free), email, remote access to company networks, the humble phone... Isn't this enough to breath on an employee's neck? Because that's what I suspect it is, it's about control not productivity or being one of the team. Yes, did I tell you that I'm paid to read excerpts of international business research? Well, I can tell you that misery management techniques don't increase profits, there is research that proves it. Job satisfaction makes for higher profits, so flexible working should be a winner... And if you are a doubting Thomas, this research is based on case studies, it's not pure theory.

Come on, employers, enter the brave new 21st century and let your employees work remote, it will save you desk costs, less energy spend (less carbon overall) and you will get motivated employees. And despite employers' perceptions, homeworkers are more productive because there are less distractions. See how much work you get done in an office and compare with homeworking where you have zero commuting time loss and no distractions from colleagues or external callers (yes, the postman might right the bell to deliver a parcel, but that's it).

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree - the technology is there but the will/culture/mindset or whatever it may be is not. (Even so, I'm really disappointed by that the Mumsnet job - they really should know better). And since the recession hit and jobs are harder to find, there isn't the incentive to make employee's lives easier. Thanks for banging on about remote working, lets hope that one day soon it becomes a reality for many more working parents (yes, mums and dads too).