Just like other areas of knowledge that are currently being explored, the science behind the New Way of Working contains several confusing definitions. E-working is something you can do anywhere; it is not limited by time or restricted to a specific place. People can ‘E-work’ at the office or at home. It is not the same as ‘working from home’. Two other important distinctions should be made in this respect: For self-employed people, working from home usually means working at their ‘head office’. This is their home base. This way of working is radically different to the knowledge worker whose home base is their employer’s office.
The knowledge worker at home
This requires a different style of management to ‘I can’t see you so I don’t know whether you’re working’. For knowledge workers to be able to work from home, the employer has to understand the principles of ‘Me Ltd’ (see Trend 10) and act accordingly. For most office workers, working from home is a brilliant idea. Not only does time wasted commuting to and from work become productive work time, people are also free to set their own balance between their job and private life and still retain the status of an office worker. Working from home is also better for the environment. People no longer have to drive and traffic jams are shorter. Productivity increases of fifteen per cent have been measured and work satisfaction is rising. In short: why doesn’t everybody do it? One of the reasons why working from home is reviled is that people miss the office gossip. Although this can be partly resolved by the (anti-) social media and Skype and Facetime function adequately for normal work consultations, middle managers are frequently unable to steer people working from home effectively. For those organisations that have only made arrangements for half of the things their workers need to do, the availability of information is still a weakness, just like obstructive ICT departments.
Working more hours
This is another reason why people may not like working from home. In 2001, the unions already issued a warning about people working more and longer hours from home than stipulated in their employment contracts. But what is laid down in contracts? The number of hours, i.e. the input; not the output. And this is how people get stung. It causes stress because people invest the time they have left over in a new task because they are afraid of not achieving planned targets. And before you know it, you end up in a vicious circle that leads to burn-outs. This is genuine cause of concern for many HRM departments.
Cisco has performed a large-scale international study that showed that approximately fifteen per cent of workers would accept a pay cut in exchange for flexible working hours. This is an important fact. Apparently, employees clearly see the advantages. Now the remaining employers have to be convinced.