Today is National Work From Home Day, which, hopefully, means that you’re reading this from the comfort of your kitchen table or desk at home, rather than from your office.
But, aside from the opportunity to swap your drudge of a commute for an extra hour in bed and your suit for tracksuit bottoms and a T-shirt of dubious cleanliness, what else do you give up when working from home?
Times have certainly changed from the days where you basically gave up being able to accomplish much at all. Remember dial-up connections to an office VPN? Remember printing out everything you might need for the next day ‘just in case’? Remember telling people in the office which of the company mobile phones you were taking home with you?
The chances are, that you’re saying ‘no’. Well, unless you’re a certain age and have gone through the therapy to stop you repressing how awful it all was. Most of us have pushed the bad-old-days of working from home out of our minds because, today, it’s never been easier to replicate the office working experience from home (sans the annoying colleague who likes to eat mackerel at their desk).
Broadband, cloud services, conferencing solutions, mobile communications – and, most importantly, attitudes – have changed the home-working experience beyond recognition. For many white-collar workers, it’s now an accepted norm to work from home when occasion suits. And, critically, that comes without the accusations that you might be shirking responsibilities immediately that you’re out from under the eager eye of the boss.
But have we reached the glorious Utopia of home working yet? Maybe we’re still only part of the way there. After all, we’re still tied to some of our working tools; albeit that they have become a lot more portable.
Most people working from home today will have carried a company laptop home with them in order to access their files. They’ll have set the phone on their desk to forward to their mobile and they’ll probably still have an incident during the day where they have to find a file on a USB stick or ask a colleague to email them something they need to complete a task.
Haven’t we just swapped printing out documents and saving them to floppy disks for copying them to thumb drives and emailing them to ourselves? Haven’t we swapped carrying home reams of paper for carrying equally cumbersome computing devices? I’m not sure our briefcases were any lighter last night than they were the evening before we worked from home ten years ago.
Working from home in the future should be simpler still. Already, services from companies like Mozy allow people to access all of their files (whether they’ve remembered to drop them in a special folder for that purpose or not) from any web-connected computer – or from phones and tablets. Which is one step closer to really being able to work from anywhere.
(It’s also one step closer to sanity when you’re not checking for the umpteenth time that the document you were working on yesterday really isn’t where you thought you’d saved it on that memory stick – but I digress).
With virtualisation technology from companies like VMware, you’re also able to access your processes and systems, exactly as if you were sitting at your work computer, but from a device that you haven’t had to lug back on the 7:13 from Paddington.
As these technologies become more broadly adopted, centrally by IT departments, it heralds a bright future for those who prefer not to venture beyond their own front doors in order to get their jobs done.
And, who knows, perhaps by 2022, we’ll need a National Work From The Office Day.