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It is the goal of many people to work from home (aka telecommuting), while others revel in the opportunity to interact face-to-face. Both ways of working have their benefits, and both have their drawbacks.

In the blog post, There's no such thing as a 'remote' employeeMike Elgan discusses this trend in relation to the increasing demand from employees to have flexibility to work outside of an office, especially the Millenials. Mike suggest that "Millennial job-hopping is misunderstood as being a function of company disloyalty, impatience or a fickle attitude toward career. But that misses the mark. The attitude is an inevitable outcome of the mobile revolution" (Elgan, 2017, source). He goes on to say that:

Mobility blurs the line between work time and personal time.
  • People work during their "time off" and do personal tasks and communication while "at work." Work hours and non-work hours blend together into a totality of one's whole life.
  • Mobile devices and the world of social apps (social networks and messaging, mostly) means that the people you're with in the room aren't the only people you're "with." Family friends and non-present co-workers are always "right there," accessible through any communications medium.
  • Smartphone cameras and the "selfie industrial complex" have diminished the worth of material possessions while boosting the value of life experiences. As people pursue better experiences in life, bad experiences and environments at work become increasingly unacceptable.
With each passing year, employees increase their boldness in saying: "Give me a better work environment or I'll find an employer who will."
(Elgan, 2017, source)

The implications for employees are many, and raises questions around how to grow a company culture, develop teams, and collaborate - as well as around aspects such as security.

However, as Mike states, most organisations are global on some level. As such, the "concept of 'remote' makes no sense. When the whole world is connected, only astronauts are 'remote workers'." (Elgan, 2017, source). Also, to "assume the primacy of face-to-face interaction between colleagues is to fail to provide collaborative tools to connect employees in offices down the hall, on a different floor, at another office or on the other side of the world" (Elgan, 2017, source). I would add that these tools are social, protocol, and process focussed, not only technical.

In the light of Mike's points, the face-to-face / working from home dichotomy is at best unhelpful. Rather it's "best to ...create the work spaces and infrastructure that allow both deep, solitary, focused work, and collaboration" (Elgan, 2017, source). As a result the telecommuter becomes 'an employee' who is not defined by their place of work, By providing real choice organisations are more likely to retain their employees, many of whom feel that it "is less about salary and more about the lifestyle they have while at work and at home" (Elgan, 2017, source). 

What are your thoughts? What are your experiences of working from home? Please share :)

Image: Working lunch 2, Darwin 2009. CC ( BY NC ND ) licensed Flickr image by hazelowendmc:

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Comment by Rachel Whalley on November 22, 2017 at 16:30

Yes convergence of the distant and face to face isn't just a theory for online learning, it is also a theory of life and work in general. Improved technology and a global community allows us to work in ways that were never imagined in the past.

It was my goal when i graduated from teachers college that i would be an online teacher, and could work where and when i liked. So I guess i achieved that goal :) Being able to work anywhere is relatively easy. But when i work maybe not so much. I am still tied by workload commitments, meaning that even on the most gorgeous of days with the beach a few steps away, i can still be tied to my desk for more hours than I would like.

However the flexibility that it enables is a game changer for me. I don't see how i could go back into a school and be face to face every day of the week, for 40 weeks a year. I think i would go into culture shock. Working in the way that I do has allowed me to work around many family commitments like caring for elderly parents. It is handy to be able to weave the household tasks throughout the work day. Never having to sit at work wondering if the washing is going to get wet, remember to get something out for tea etc - all those everyday things. 

I do miss the opportunities to have face to face time with my distant colleagues and envy Rick as he often disappears to numerous hui throughout the year. So in that respect my role is very isolating even though I do see and talk to colleagues every day, it's not quite the same as getting out. 

In the earlier part of my career I was expected to come into the office at school all the time even though there was no reason for me to be there. It took me a while to train them out of that and i would come in when i wanted the company and still not because i needed to be there. I think that they felt that you had to be seen to be workingSo it shows that working away from the office is a high trust model that is based on an understanding that you do what you need to do, when you need to do, and it is not something that you punch on and off for on the time clock. Your results should speak for themselves. When people are working collaboratively, you know what everyone is doing and if they are pulling their weight. 


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