In the western world we really like to work from home, more than 60% of companies in the EU have employees that work from home. And why not? It gives employees flexibility, saves the office money, and makes it possible to work in pleasant surroundings. At least if one’s home is nice. This development has been made possible because the nature of most office work is now knowledge focused and digital, and there are cheap technologies available that facilitate working from home.
But a few days ago, I attended a session organized by The Community Office, and one of the trends they identified was that working from home has reached its peak. So if it is so nice to work from home, why claim that working from home has reached its peak? I think it is because we have reached the point that it is starting to create more negative than positive effects. In my job, I regularly struggle to get all stakeholders to attend a meeting, because there is always someone working from home. And a while ago I heard a friend complain about loneliness, because his company made him work from home for at least two days a week. And when there finally is a day that everybody is at the office, there is no place to work. Because the office got rid of one third of the desks, as working from home is seen as a good way to cut costs.
The counter-reaction to teleworking is also partly because frameworks like Agile and Lean Startup are gaining traction. These frameworks encourage teams to work closely together, attend the same meetings and preferably work in the same room. Simply because this speeds things up. We have the same experience in organizations where we implement Agile or use Lean Startup for innovation. It just works better if you have a dedicated team sitting in the same room, working on the same problem. And honestly, it also is a lot more fun to work side by side with your team mates, than constantly having to e-mail or video conference.
So its not that from now on we will stop teleworking, because it can be effective and pleasant and in some situations necessary, but where intense collaboration is needed you just can’t beat a team working together from one location.