Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Thoughts on home working

I'm responding to a LinkedIn question concerning remote working - I wanted to collect up some thoughts on the subject (mostly previously published in a slightly different form on the IT Sanctuary).

I was contractually 'home based' when working for Logicalis; this experience has undoubtedly made setting up my own business very much easier.

You have to accept that not all home environments are conducive to home working - you have to be able to separate yourself from the rest of the household during working hours; I have personally always found this difficult.

The effectiveness of business systems, when used from home, varies widely. I can remember an application which took 15 minutes to load over a dial-up line. It's an obvious point that morale and productivity are totally dependent on both the business process and its supporting application systems being designed or tweaked to cope with distributed working and broadband connections.

We found we could support all our home working, including IP telephony and videoconferencing in usable if not brilliant quality, over ordinary broadband connections.

Do not underestimate the amount of specialised 'phone support home users will require with their distributed setup.

While I am 100% convinced of the benefits of unified communications technologies to business, and not just for home workers, I feel that these technologies need to be integrated, automated and simplified, and people's concerns about the security of their personal information allayed, if take-up is not to remain limited to the young and the technologically savvy. Even in Logicalis, a sizeable minority communicates only via email and mobile 'phone. Both of these technologies provide ease of use, and these individuals simply don't see any benefit in presence and instant messaging. When we first implemented Sametime, many years ago, its use spread like wildfire - but only to a certain point (probably about 30% of the workforce). Some people don't like the visibility; some people just don't see the point; some people can't cope with the technology; some people see it as allowing others to chat in work time; and some people (and this should not be discounted, I have heard it several times) are really bad at typing quickly and understandably don't want others to be aware of it.

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