Kullaberg swivel chair: £49; Fjällbo laptop table: £50, IKEA
Kullaberg swivel chair: £49; Fjällbo laptop table: £50, IKEA
Kullaberg swivel chair: £49; Fjällbo laptop table: £50, IKEA

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The rise of the bedroom office

Working from home has its naysayers, says Lucy Dunn. But nothing beats the odd day in your pyjamas getting stuff done

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By Lucy Dunn on

I overhear a lot on my train into London every day. In the evenings, the carriages are full of office workers on their phones, begging lifts off partners or ordering takeaways ahead of their stops. In the mornings, the conversation turns more work-y: mothers comparing flexible working arrangements, people moaning about bosses (conclusion: there are some awful ones out there, along with shockingly-bad HR departments). And there are far too many young city peacocks in suits, talking over each other about how much money they’re making.

Distill all these conversations and you’ll get a microcosm of daily work life, a real litmus test of what a city is thinking and talking about. And the topic of the moment on the 8.03am shuttle from St Albans to Kings Cross? Working from home.

Suddenly everyone’s talking about it. It’s turned from a hashtag “Lunchtime, and still in my PJ’s. Smug, much?! #WFH”, to a bonafide perk on a Linkedin job description. And it’s happened so quickly – in fact many employers now encourage it as a cost-saving exercise, along with ‘hot desking” and communications platforms like Slack.

And it’s a win-win situation all round isn’t it? There’s proof that work-from-homers are happier than their office counterparts. If you’re a parent, it’s a godsend as you can juggle drop-offs and pick-ups. For me, it means I  don't have to suffer the city peacocks.

No sooner working from home has become mainstream than the clouds have started to roll in. Recently there have been whispers of  “falls in productivity” – a euphemism for office workers using it to “bunk off”. This is despite conflicting studies that prove remote workers feel they are more productive and often “overcompensate” and work longer than their contracted hours.

Then, another nail in the coffin: this summer IBM decided to scrap its work-from-home policy (an irony not lost on the business press who pointed out that the tech giant makes its money from selling remote-working software). IBM spokesperson Michelle Peluso reasoned: “There is something about a team being more powerful, more impactful, more creative, and frankly hopefully having more fun when they are shoulder to shoulder. Bringing people together creates its own X Factor."

The business world has been hurriedly trying to make up its mind whether working from home is good or bad

Translate the business waffle and there’s some truth in what she’s saying. If you are a self-employed freelancer and choose to work from home, great. But if you are one of those people who have opted for the security of a job over the freedom of freelancing, but are made to work remotely full-time against your will, it can be isolating.

We human beings are sociable creatures. Many of us like to gather around the kettle and pick at the homemade cake the office feeder has brought in. We like to vent about stuff with our co-workers outside the back door where the smokers go. We like interaction, stimulation, inspiration, competition and face-to-face feedback from managers, or we won't – can't – progress in our roles. And some people can find it incredibly lonely, studies have shown a link between remote working and depression.

There’s also the lack of job security, of being “out-of-sight, out-of-mind”. IBM’s move elicited concern that it might also be an underhand way of laying off workers who couldn’t afford to relocate to a big city.

Since then, the business world has been hurriedly trying to make up its mind whether working from home is good or bad. It's led to a flurry of studies and finally to this conclusion: the success of remote working depends on the type of job you have, ie, it often doesn’t work if you need to work in team and work to tight deadlines for example

For most employees however who just want to work from home part-time or on an ad hoc basis, it will always be a win-win. If your office doesn’t have a scheme, ask – under the government’s Right To Request scheme everyone (not just parents) can make a case for flexible work. Of course, your employer can say no, but you are well within your rights to ask. And if more of us do, chances are we will get heard. Research by Digital Mums last week found that not enough people are asking for flexible work and they are calling out for more to be done to encourage employees to speak out.

I’m lucky The Pool has a work from home policy. When work builds up, I can request the odd day at home to get stuff done. In fact, I can pile through double in a day at home of what I can do in the office, and with no commute, I can roll out of bed and I am there at my desk. In fact, I don’t even have to get out of bed at all – I can set up a “bed office” (b-office?!) instead.

Apparently, one in ten workers admit to working from their beds and, judging by the talk on the 8.03 to Kings Cross, it’s a desire that’s not going away anytime soon. In a 24/7 digital age where it is increasingly all “take” from employers, it’s high time more of us demanded a bit more “give”. Now, pass me my pyjamas.

Sign the Digital Mums petition here.

the bedroom office edit

@luce29

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