Asking the experts

There is much to be learnt from home and hybrid workers that can improve the world of work in the future.

Woman in wheelchair working at laptop in kitchen

 

Many people have worked remotely or in a hybrid way before Covid – not as many as now, but still a significant number of people. I’m one of them. I’ve worked mainly from home for over a decade. I’ve also done hybrid working, alternating between being at home for the in-depth writing tasks and in the office for meetings. I’ve got fairly efficient over the years, cramming in meetings to the days I have in the office so as to make the most of that time. It’s about understanding what works best at home and what works best in the office. As Hannah Montana sang, I’ve had ‘the best of both worlds’.

But very rarely, if ever, have I been asked about how I’ve worked it and what would have helped to make it work better. Rather, it has generally been up to me to ensure it works well for all concerned. In a way, that lack of interest has been fairly liberating. I’ve experienced interrogation and negative assumptions about homeworking too in my time and that was worse. As a homeworker, there is a sense that it is a benefit and that you need to overdo work to prevent it being taken away from you, which can be exhausting over a long period.

At one job years ago I negotiated two days working from home, which was suddenly changed without consultation. When I questioned this, the manager said the previous arrangement hadn’t been working, despite appraisals not showing any problems. I questioned this and he said my work had been suffering. I felt this was untrue so I asked him to list how. His list included ‘you say you are tired’ [I had told him my other daughter was teething and I hadn’t slept] and people who ring the office cannot get hold of you. This is because I was not at the office. They could have been given my home phone number fairly easily. I may be fairly agile, but I cannot be in two places at once.

I am still angry about this even years later. I know many people who have had similar treatment. My friend had her manager call her regularly at 5.30pm when she worked at home on the odd day just to check she was still at her desk. Now, of course, there are surveillance mechanisms. Surely there are better ways to check someone is doing their work. In my case, there just wouldn’t be in anything in the newspaper, for example.

There is so much employers could learn if they started asking remote or hybrid workers what their experience has been – and by extension all flexible workers – and listened to the answers. Tech support would figure high on my list, but so too would regular communication about things like your boss leaving, feeling like a regular member of the team and not a lone wolf out in the wilderness, being asked about promotion prospects, training ambitions and so forth…

So workingmums.co.uk has launched a survey with The Changing Work company to find out just what people’s experience has been of long-term remote or hybrid working and what they would need to do it more effectively and to feel more included. It’s clearly a win win for both employers and employees to get it right. It should not just be down to employees to make it work.

*To take part in the survey, click here.



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