As I negotiated the traffic between my bedroom and my study this morning, I wondered how many other actuaries have the luxury of working from home? Indeed, how many would consider it a benefit? asks Darryl Boulton
How many hours a week do you spend commuting? How much does it cost you? How much do you see of your children or significant others?
The benefits of a home base are colossal. If work-life balance is your thing, then avoiding the time, expense, stress (and carbon, of course) of the daily commute is liberating.
I am particularly lucky in that most tasks I get involved in do not involve immediate deadlines and therefore I can pick and choose my hours too. My brain seems to be at its sharpest at about six in the morning, so I am often up early and working then. Being a bit of a sports nut, this leaves me free time later in the day to watch tennis, cricket or golf if I so wish. I am also popular with the neighbours as a parcel reception point, but that is another point entirely.
Twenty or so years ago, there were bold claims that great numbers of the population would be working from home in the coming years. Advances in IT combined with ever-increasing commuter traffic suggested this was possible and desirable. If anything, the advance in IT has been greater than expected, yet there has been a trickle, at best, of people employed with this set-up. Why is this?
It's not for everyone. The nature of your job may simply mean it is not feasible. Your home circumstances may not be ideal - for example, a lack of suitable work space or small children thinking they have an extra play-mate during the day. Some people may simply not want to work from home, preferring to keep a separation between home and work life.
I suspect most people would choose to work from home at least some of the time though if they could. I suggest that the two main reasons so few people work from home come from the employer:
? concerns over IT and data security;
? a lack of trust in their employees.
While I am a happy user of IT (my iPad changed my life) I am far from being any sort of expert on IT security. But, although I am happy to be corrected, I would venture the opinion that there must be sensible and appropriate measures that could be taken to ensure data security.
So that leaves us with the trust issue. 'Working from home' still seems to be a euphemism for 'just doing a couple of hours today'.
How many hours do you work on average each day at the office? Not how long are you physically at the office, but how many hours you effectively work. If the honest answer is five or more, then you are way above the average office worker. Of course, actuaries are not average workers and, although I have no stats to hand, I am happy with the heroic assumption that for us the honest answer is probably five or six hours.
Some, of course, are more gregarious than others and so there will be considerable variation between individuals. And, with reference to my previous article (The Actuary, March, bit.ly/1CLg932) on bonuses, it is ultimately output that is important, not hours, or even effective hours, at the office.
As long as you are available on the phone, and your total output for the day is at least as good as average, then does it matter if you take time out to watch Deal or No Deal or pop out to pick your children up from school? I suggest not.
As an employer, I would want to gauge the level of output of a homeworker, but with a little ingenuity this is often not as difficult as it may first appear. For example, there may be certain defined tasks that can be saved for specific home working days during the week.
Although there are distractions at home, you may be able to produce more in five good hours at home than eight in the office. Factor in zero commuting time and it can almost feel like a day off.
We are all different, but most people (and companies) would benefit from homeworking for at least part of the week, and I can highly recommend it.