A Day in the Life

At a Writers' Digest Conference Barbara and I attended, a writer (translate: someone who receives royalty checks on a regular, steady basis from writing) was asked what his day was like.  It went something like this: breakfast, take the kids to school, back to the home office to write for the morning, lunch, gym in the afternoon (a by-product of that, it increases endorphins) then into the office for a while.  Another writer talked about watching movies on TV.  She has to convince her husband she's working when she does it—she’s studying characters!  When she's blocked, she does laundry.  It clears her mind, gives her a chance to reboot, and makes her feel that she is being productive. 

Not too many years ago, managers in organizations would have been shocked, outraged to learn that their workers who telecommute didn’t spend their days “chained” to their computers and “working” just as industrial workers were tied to the factory for the workday. Doing laundry, exercising, watching TV (it can be a distraction when you work alone) were considered shameful, disgraceful and outrageous. 

Anyone who's ever worked in a traditional office environment can attest to how much time workers are capable of wasting.  Gossip around the water cooler or break room, folks dropping by to chat, smoke breaks, coffee breaks, and oh yes, surfing the Internet in the office.  Having experienced both corporate life and independent consultant's life, I can attest that I'm much more productive working from a home office.

Beyond productivity, the way we work today is more fluid. Work and productivity no longer need to take place in a fixed place or at a fixed time. When we were an agrarian society, the lines around home and work were nonexistent. People worked and lived on their farms, and there were no schedules. Nature often dictated when tasks were done. During the Industrial Revolution, workers moved from the farm to the factory. Laws and rules evolved to regulate work and work schedules. Now the Information Age is once again transforming the way we work as workers are moving from the office back home, and the lines between work and home are getting blurred. We’ve come full circle.

As technology has made it easier to work remotely, workplace flexibility is becoming a reality for organizations. In today’s competitive environment, flexibility and a culture that encourages balance between personal and business obligations is an advantage in attracting and retaining the best employees. Smart organizations recognize that allowing their employees flexibility when possible increases their loyalty to the company and is a good retention strategy. Technology also has provided tools to determine if work – meaning results – is occurring. Managers should be taking advantage of these tools. 

Workers have lives and during their daily 8 to 5 routines, they need to have the time to take care of their business and not be "chained" to their desks or workstations. That’s why we devoted an entire chapter in The Big Book of HR to Workplace Flexibility and examined the latest trends.

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