Today I had coffee with Steve Wilkin. He is contracting in London at the minute so we catch up every four to six weeks.
His current gig doesn't allow remote working. Which in this day and age is a bit rare in the contracting eco system. However every job is different and I am currently working in a place where you can work from home if you want/need to. Me and Steve got to talking about other companies that don't allow remote working for no other reason than the "being seen to work is work" mantra. Not bitching at the fact that they adopt that policy - just stating that it is rather old fashioned principle for the tech industry.
Working from home isn't something I really do. I enjoy the banter at the office and it is only a 30min car trip away. To me it is much more important to have a 'Fluid Working' culture. My employer doesn't really care (within reason) when and where I work as long as I get my work done and done well. A good example of this was put into action this week.
I was in London this week - on Wednesday I woke up at 4am and didn't get home until 11pm. On top of that there was a bomb scare in Gatwick and that screwed things up a bit, so it was a stressful few hours getting from the shuttle to the North Terminal. At 7am on Thursday I got a bus into Belfast and pair programmed from 8:30am - 5:30pm constantly save a 30min lunch break. I love pair programming as I learn so much but it really frazzles your head. Therefore on Friday I was fit for next to nothing. I got into work late (even for me) and wasn't really on the ball in work terms at all. I had planned to stay on a bit and work my time up but at 3:30pm I knew it was going nowhere. So instead of just staring at a screen until 7pm - I just gave up. There is nothing wrong with giving up, in the right circumstances. I put on youtube, listened to some technical talks, read some blog articles, waited until 5pm and then left. Instead of going home I went to the cinema and zoned out for two hours watching some awful film.
In most other companies I have worked for this would be frowned upon and I can see why, I guess - but it wasn't wasted time. Because I could go home early without any fallout I could go to the cinema and recharge… The upside of this was that this morning I worked for five hours, made my time up and more importantly did better work than I would have yesterday.
In order for a 'Fluid Working' culture to work both employer and employee have to trust each other. Of course it is never that simple and there has to be check and balances internally to facilitate this. I wish more companies would adopt this policy as it really does work…