Working from home: Hell or Heaven?

Working from home to quote the queen Beyoncé “can be a sweet dream or a beautiful nightmare”. For some reason I now want to grab the imaginary mic and sing the full song. Tempting but I am not sure you would survive my rendition. This question has been on my mind all week due to “the Beast from the East” storm that rolled into the UK last week. I was snowed in at home for over 4 days and what is usually a dream became a beautiful nightmare!

Now don’t get me wrong I was glad that unlike other employment I have had throughout the years, my employer is very flexible and encourages working from home, so I didn’t need to take holiday or unpaid leave as I was able to and fully equipped to work from home. To understand my predicament you need to understand that given the choice, I would never choose to work from home unless I had personal appointments which meant I needed to be closer to home than work or I was having work done at home which required me to be present.

I applaud and encourage employers who offer this flexibility but for me personally I like going into an office and interacting with others. I like walking into a train station and getting my morning coffee. I like putting my headphones on and tuning out everyone on the train while browsing emails and the news. I like walking out to get lunch and debating what I should eat that day. I love being stopped by colleagues in the corridors and having impromptu conversations. But what I also love, is being able to sign off for the day, whatever time that is and putting on my coat and catching that train home. Work is done for the day unless there is emergency and that ability to stop and go home is essential to me, in enabling me to manage and have a good work life balance.

Working from home while great when it is convenient for you, I found this week was almost unbearable as there were no other options. I literally wanted to climb my walls! maybe it was the endless white of the snow outside or the cold or the feeling I had of being trapped inside! to be fair I wasn’t literally trapped I could have chosen to go for walks outside in the snow, but why? I mean its wet and cold! I grew up in a tropical country, unless I have no other choice and I always have a choice, I do not choose to be cold or wet! What this brought home to me is that employers should offer a variety of options for employees to choose from in their flexible working offer.

One size definitely does not fit all, consider asking your employees to be involved in suggesting what is on offer. Do not put limits rigidly on what is considered suitable or desirable. Be open to different ways of working and understand that what one employee will consider a good option for them will not fit someone else.

What this week also drove home to me, is how we engage with employees whose normal location is home.  Are they in danger of becoming the forgotten workforce?

The Concept of Mind over Matter

I recently read an article titled “Mind Over Matter” in the special report section of HRD May 2018 issue. The article was an extract from “Mindfulness for Busy People: Turning Frantic and Frazzled into Calm and Composed (2nd edition) by Dr Michael Sinclair, Josie Seydel and Dr Emily Shaw. Phew now that the credit is done, let’s move on to what caught my interest in this article! I have to admit, it was filled with a lot of take away gems and my journal dedicated several pages to writing these gems down and the highlighter had a great work out whilst I read on the train.

Some of the bits that particularly spoke to me that I wanted to share were “mindfulness is about training ourselves in awareness…” “Mindfulness researchers have shown that people who practice mindfulness experience a reduction in stress related symptoms and an improvement in the way they respond to stress and manage it” I gave the air a little punch when I read this because I recognised this as something that is real! often you will read about research says this or that and you think who did they actually do the research with, because what is being purported as fact is not recognisable. This statement however I understood and could identify with. Mindfulness does not guarantee that you never experience stress, but what is does is enable you to look at it and deal with it in a very different way to how you might have done if you were not aware and able to reframe situations.

“These days, it is as if our attention is being fractured into tinier and tinier pieces and mindfulness may provide us with the much-needed help to remain focused and to get stuff done, in a more effective and efficient way.” Can I get an amen!!! as a working mother, I am used to my attention being fractured on a daily basis. On any given day I have to remember to check homework, support with reading, assist with project, drop off at extra curricular activities, RSVP to the birthday parties, pick up ingredients for the bake sale at school, mend uniforms, iron uniforms, make the packed lunches, remember what each child eats and isn’t eaten that particular week; get the correct coloured clothes for tag day or sports day; book dental appointments, book doctor appointments, go to parent evening; update contact information with school….. you get the idea and this is only daily mommy duties.

Add in work, running a home, events etc and you really get the idea that our attention is always being fractured into tinier and tinier pieces constantly! such fractures can leave anyone stressed and unable to cope but there are ways to prevent this and this is where mindfulness comes in. It allows you to focus, make plans, journal, to do list and helps to allow you to prioritize and not just feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of what is in your personal and professional inbox daily.

“Just like the sky, your awareness is never overwhelmed by the strongest emotions or the most troublesome thoughts; it has space for them all. It also be helpful to remember that, sooner or later, the weather always changes.”  What a beautiful sentiment. This reminded me of what I say to myself daily, Focus on what you can control and pick one task, complete it and then move on to the next.

Are you practising mindfulness? as always have a brilliant week.

Are we asking too much of HR?

Human Resources has morphed from its earlier personnel management days and basic transactional services to strategic HR management and various guises of the business partner model including centres of excellence and shared transactional services. On the one hand HR is expected to be all about people development, talent identification, attraction and management; reward and employment law specialists; employee relation gurus, savvy workforce planners who are experts at forecasting and mitigating risks and issues; superb policy writers and implementors; agents of change, project managers, people managers; culture warriors; the organisations conscience….. and the list goes on.

In effect we are valued for all the aforementioned skills and disdained sometimes in equal measures. As I sit outside on what can only be described as a lovely summer evening in spring, enjoying a well deserved cup of tea after watering my plants, my mind wandered to this question about the role of HR in organisations today and whether organisations are asking too much of their HR function. Can we be all things to all people? maybe this is why the value add of HR is still being debated today, despite the function proving its intrinsic value add time and time again. Could we be suffering from trying to be too many things? I never hear of or read about debates around the value add of the finance function or the legal function to specify a few but the debate rages around HR. So it begs the question, as a function are we perpetuating our own demise by trying to be too many things to all people?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic and as always have a brilliant week.