Is the journey from part-time homeworking for the privileged few to full-time home-based working for everyone finally complete? Steve Mosser, CEO of Sensee tells us why he thinks it is.
It’s time to look at the latest ‘upgrade’ which is helping a greater number of people to work from their homes. Step forward a new great working ecosystem which virtualises almost every operational function of a typical business: ‘Homeworking 2.0.’
If we want to talk about a ‘Homeworking 2.0,’ clearly we need to differentiate that against ‘version 1.0’ – what went before. The concept was originally called telecommuting, and has been talked about since the 1970s – Wikipedia says the term first came into being in 1973. It was driven then by what drives it still – the desire by workers to avoid expensive and time -consuming commuting and achieve a better work/life balance, and the desire by employers to reduce the cost of office space, employ staff flexibly and very importantly, bring on-board the talent they require – irrespective of where it is located.
In its early stages, homeworking was really all about the top of corporate ladder, or the top-end self-employed technical specialist – usually a programmer or consultant level post. This started to change in the 1990s, when a combination of better technology (improved Internet connectivity and mobility) and a rise of interest by HR leaders in supporting better ‘work-life balance’ came together. This led to a second wave of home-based working that spreads the sorts of jobs that started to be offered as possibly remotely-based or nomadic workers. This was especially true in parts of the public sector, for example, as well as big corporates.
In today’s economy, where it’s estimated 34% of the US workforce is some form of self-employed worker, more and more of us work like this. Freelancers in all sorts of knowledge-based fields now happily work at home, or places like Cafe Nero, or the library, while the vast majority of mainstream professionals now expect to be answering email or participating virtually in meetings while on the move or off-site.
The nagging problem managers have with all this is that although it is increasingly common, they find it hard to manage what they can’t see. A lot of managers still get very twitchy with the idea of people never coming into the office, so a lot of work still needs to be done to prove to supervisors that actual meaningful activity is getting done, as opposed to watching Jeremy Kyle.
This is especially true in the area of the contact centre. Perversely enough, a job that asks you to be on the phone and computer all day is stereotypically only really seen as viable in a big cubicle farm. That’s because brands, which live or die by great customer service and the ability to rapidly and fully respond to customer issues, can’t see anything but risk in letting the people that deliver this vital service get ‘out of sight.’ Lots and lots of other parts of the business can be (and is done) on the road or remotely, but this aspect of the company just can’t be seen as being left down to the unsupervised responsibility of the individual agent.
Which is a big problem. As that means that many brands aren’t getting any of the many benefits of homeworking – better quality people, reduced cost, improved productivity, and better Corporate Social Responsibility. Meanwhile, the very people that would benefit most from not having to spend time and money on commuting, can’t – in the traditional bricks and mortar environment – access the flexibility they desperately need to more easily raise a family or perform vital care functions for loved ones.
The good news is that there is a way forward – for both parties. It’s based on the latest, best process and technology which overcome the visibility, control and security barriers that the managers have been worried about.
Hence Homeworking 2.0 – combining the best of both worlds and finally making rewarding home-based jobs available to contact centre staff, and at last giving brands peace of mind that they are empowering workers to do their shifts securely in what are effectively massive, but totally virtual, ‘offices’ that they don’t actually have to pay for.
Put all this together, and it’s hard to deny that home working is finally democratised for all. For some time, technology has allowed staff to work remotely, but now, it can enable, monitor and evidence employee time, attendance, tasks, behaviour, customer interactions, and events. This makes 100% working from home a reality – to the benefit of all.
At last HR managers in all sorts of organisations can finally be sure that homeworking is a viable option that offers much more flexibility for staff, reduced operational expenditure for brands, and a solid service to the customer… pretty much a win-win-win!