I like to think that we’re seeing a shift in how organisations operate, with a central chunk of that change being a move towards worrying about output rather than input. This would see managers concerned primarily with the work people are doing and less so about how many hours it takes them to do it, or whether they do it in the office or at home.
Of course the shift to flexible working is moving at a glacial pace, with many managers still reluctant to let employees out of their sight, and indeed employees often reluctant to be out of sight, for fear that they are also out of mind when it comes to promotions and pay-rises.
Some new American research should add further weight to those wishing to work remotely. It found that those working from home, work on average five to seven hours longer each week than their office based colleagues.
Those who work remotely also are significantly less likely to work a standard 40-hour schedule and more likely to work overtime. In fact, most telecommuting hours occur after an employee has already put in 40 hours of work at the office.
“Careful monitoring of this blurred boundary between work and home time and the erosion of ‘normal working hours’ in many professions can help us understand the expansion of work hours overall among salaried workers,” says Jennifer Glass, professor in the department of sociology and the Population Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin.
Of course this is not the only study that makes this point, and it is worth remembering that encouraging people to put in ever longer hours at work is not always to be commended. In many instances, even when flexible working is offered, it does little to reduce work/family conflicts as it encourages those utilising it to remain plugged in for longer.
Broadly speaking I think using technology to work flexibly is a good thing, but managers and employees need to get used to the new way of working and ensure that the new flexibility isn’t abused.