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The Challenges of Workshifting

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Working in an office from 9 to 5 (in the words of Dolly Parton) has been a regular and regimented tradition in working life for what seems like forever. Maybe the reason why it has been such a mainstay is the extra element of trust staff get by sitting together. Or maybe it’s that traditionally, before social media and cloud accessibility came along, being in an office was necessary because that was where all your work resources were.

In recent years, though, as workshifting has grown, most people who are offered the opportunity have firmly grasped it. For parents, it offers flexibility around childcare. For travelling businesspeople, it means that working time is never lost. For small and medium-sized businesses, it saves the money they would spend on office space. And for valuable employees suffering the dreaded commute, it allows more freedom while avoiding the extra cost, stress and time drain of sitting in traffic.

But, in this modern age of flexible working, the challenges of workshifting are not discussed anywhere near as much as the benefits, so we’d like to explore some of the difficulties to help you make up your mind on whether workshifting is for you.

Out of sight, out of mind

When you are working in a different location than the rest of your team, you can often miss out on valuable developments and ideas. We all love holding impromptu brainstorms, meeting at the last minute and bouncing thoughts off our desk neighbour, but this is all harder to do at home. The solution is to communicate through instant chat and regular video calls so that everyone can stay in the loop and give input before a project is finalised.

Keeping up with co-workers

Another difficulty when you aren’t in an office is knowing how the rest of your team is doing and what their workloads are like. As a workshifter, you still need to nurture work relationships in order to get things done efficiently and effectively, so take time to email and phone your colleagues for a catch-up, whether it’s about work or just a quick chat. And, if you rely on email as a main form of communication, re-read your messages before you send them to make sure they couldn’t be construed in any other way than how you meant them.

Sick of solitude

Working remotely can make you feel disconnected from your company and leave you missing the social aspect of a job. To avoid this, it is a great idea for managers to organise team-building days with both a social side and a strategic planning element. This way, the team members can bond but also re-evaluate and remind themselves of the company’s value and their place within it.

Staying focused and motivated

If you are working from home, there are all sorts of distractions. The dog, the kids, the laundry, the cleaning – the list is endless. To combat this, clearly separate your living and working area. When you have a planned break, tend to your home to-do list, and when you are in your working space, get on with work. You have to be strict with your working patterns to motivate yourself.

What are your working hours?

Because of technology’s accessibility, people start and end their day by checking emails. Mobile phones allow us to be contacted at any time of the day, not just by calls but via social media, apps and email, too. If you are workshifting, it’s important that you know when to stop working so you can balance your professional and personal lives. As long as you set boundaries and fully sign off from work, you shouldn’t have a problem.

Knowing your workspace

If and when you need to host meetings or work from the office, it’s like starting a new job – trying to locate everyday office objects and set up equipment. This is an often disconcerting and uncomfortable situation to be in, so turn up in good time and familiarise yourself with everything before you start to work.

Staying professional

It’s hard to get in “work mode” when you’re not sitting behind an office desk at 9 AM. Some situations, such as taking a business call in a coffee shop or having a video conference in your front room, can make you look unprofessional. It can seem as though you don’t really care about your personal integrity or that of your company. How do you keep it professional? Not everyone expects you to wear a suit, but make sure you look presentable. It’s also a good idea to keep your working area tidy and neutral with enough natural lighting for video conferences when needed. If you have to take a call in a public place, plan ahead and make sure you are in an undisturbed place with good phone reception. If you think professionally, it will help you feel like you are at work, too.

Workshifting is a new way of working, and it’s getting easier each day as more and more becomes possible online. But as we have discovered, there are more downfalls to flexible working than you’d initially think. However, with the right equipment, the right discipline and the right relationship with the rest of the business, you can overcome these issues.

Will you workshift? What other reservations do you have with the working style?



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Anna Duggal
Anna Duggal is a content manager at Search Office Space and meetingrooms.com in London, England. Having always worked from an office, Anna’s working days consist of forcing chocolate biscuits on her colleagues, forgetting to water the plants and nagging her boss for an office cat. Anna is always on social media and likes to read and write blogs about business, workplace matters and different types of working styles. You can connect with Anna on Twitter: @AnnaDuggal.
  • GIll Cook

    I’m glad someone has come up with the word “Workshifting” – “working from home” just feels like I am saying I can’t be bothered to get off my backside and go into work! Having workshifted successfully on and off for some years I have found that there are many benefits – flexibility, less time travelling etc. but there are also pitfalls and the biggest one for me is the communication side of it. Being away from the core environment is often a difficulty. The advice to ensure you call your colleagues (or “chat”) is invaluable as in my experience, often it takes several emails to get answers to questions as the recipient often only addresses the first bit of the email and not all of it – this endless barrage of emails to get sometimes a yes/no answer is time consuming. I could go on all day! My advice – read the advice above and learn! Thanks for the post Anna – very useful.

  • John

    Workshift is definitely a reality and the pro’s far out weigh the cons.

    Check out this app to keep in touch with the office.