MonkeyPuzzle Computers: Ilminster, Somerset

How Home-working snuck up on me

An article from Sarah Parish at the Microsoft Small Business Centre made me think a little bit more about home-working and the mobile workplace, two phrases we often hear bandied about (see Link 1 below).
It ties in nicely with another comment I read recently on Seth’s Blog (Link 2 below), that if we invented the office now, to fit in with the way we conduct business now, would it be the same. Would we have large offices with workers who have to travel in to work each day?
According to the most devoted proponents of home working, the time saved in commuting to work, the increase in satisfaction of employees who practice flexible working and the gains made in efficient use of time result in a much more productive company.
Employers fear that staff will end up bunking off if an eye can’t be kept on them.
The reality is probably somewhere in the middle. Here’s how I have ended up practising flexible working without setting out to achieve that goal – it’s just a form of working that suits my business and personal lifestyle.
MonkeyPuzzle Computers has an office, which is also a retail premises, so someone has to be there at all times. While at the office, the phone rings and customers come in and these have to be responded to. Customers and phone calls are an essential part of our business, yet if you have to break off while in the middle of a task, it can take a while to get back into that task. We don’t have a separate room to be able to work quietly away in.
At the same time as I was realising I had to spend more time developing and marketing the business, we were able to take on an apprentice via a government grant scheme.  This freed up a large proportion of my time. Yet it was extremely difficult to concentrate in the office. At home would have been the ideal place to work, but often essential files were back in the office.
We also signed up to use Brightpearl’s business software (see below). This excellent piece of software keeps all our client information in one place – contact management, accounts and sales pipeline. Best of all it’s online. Available anywhere you can access the internet.  At home, for example.
And we have GoneGoogle. All our company email is administered through GoogleApps, making it extremely flexible and easily allowing synchronisation across several devices. (Incidentally, it also integrates with Brightpearl marvellously.)
Now we’ve also gone over to VOIP telephony, making our phone calls over the internet. It’s slightly cheaper than our existing system, but more importantly, the gains in flexibility are colossal. One small example is that I can take my phone from the office, bring it home and plug it in the broadband here (yes, this is being written at home on a Monday morning) and be in the office to all intents and purposes. Calls can be transferred to me by colleagues exactly as if I was sat across from them.
With a mobile phone, a laptop and an internet connection I can do at home 95% of what I could in the office. Of course I still need to go into the office. Aside from work which can only be done there, I still like to see my work colleagues – we are social animals after all. The point being that I am more productive away from the office due to lack of interruption. I have that option.
The reality of this new swathe of mobile technology is that we will we find some happy medium. Not working in the office when it makes sense to do so and going in to work when we need to.
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