I’m often asked what the difference is between ‘Agile Working’ and ‘Home Working’. They do overlap but also are distinctive in their own way. It’s a pertinent and current question as more and more employees are seeking flexible working arrangements. Many are asking if they can improve their lot by adopting new ways of working.
I describe myself as an Agile Worker who currently works from home frequently for short periods but in the past I’ve worked from home pretty much full time for periods up to three months long. I recently did this whilst working on an assignment to author an extensive training class and develop a case study. I needed uninterrupted, highly-focussed effort and I estimate that working from home allowed me to deliver a higher-quality product in half the time it would have taken if I had had to travel and work in a normal office environment.
An Agile Worker operates from any convenient location. They may use a desk in the office or a casual drop-in space designed for short micro-working spells. They are often found working in a public space with WiFi access or whilst travelling using mobile GPRS or 3G connected devices. Some are road warriors staying in hotels, moving from meeting to meeting and working throughout the day as and when they can gain access to networks. Agile Workers also work from home usually on an occasional (say one or two days in 10) basis.
Many organisations only provide a ‘light touch’ home ICT support for Agile Workers. Employees may use their own broadband connection, printer and filing system. Informal arrangements like these can seriously undermine the adoption of home working and increase security threats.
Poor ICT support combined with a management culture which encourages staff to think of home working as a pejorative term (nudge, nudge, wink, wink working from home, know what I mean) can all but stop it in its tracks. Other organisations like BT where more than 70,000 employees are location independent, provide professional support which actively encourages agile and home working where it makes sense and is beneficial to the business and to the employee.
A Home Worker works from home on a permanent or very frequent basis. It works best for jobs that can be done working physically alone and by self-motivated people that have the skills, knowledge and confidence to get the job done.
The good news is that for them their work/life balance is improved and for the company higher productivity is achieved. Permanent home working can produce feelings of corporate isolation and employees have to be assured that they are being treated equitably compared to office-base-employees. This requires management to view work allocation, prioritisation, employee development and performance management differently.
The most common barriers to agile working are poor or informal ICT support, management attitudes and inadequate provision of alternative working spaces. The most common barriers to home working are the same with the fear of isolation and the fear of being out-of-sight-out-of-mind added.
Have you had any social, management, policy or technical barriers to working in a way that improves your ability to deliver value?
Or, if you manage a team – what are the barriers that you see in allowing your people to work flexibly/from home?
I’d be really interested to hear your opinions – please leave your thoughts in the comments box below and I will reply to any questions.