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What Does It Take to Work from Home Besides High-Speed Broadband?


Once upon a time, working from home was normal.  Farmers often work from home, after all.  Shopkeepers, bakers, doctors and publicans often lived above their premises.  Craftsmen didn’t rent out studios in town; they made things at home.  The technological innovation of the industrial revolution sent people out to work in big factories.  Could today’s technological innovation send us all back home to work?

Obviously, it only applies to some sectors.  Builders, dental hygienists and waiters are out of luck.  But some of us have no real need to be in the same space as our co-workers.   With high-speed broadband and cloud applications, are we ready to stay home when we go to work?  Will Facebook for Work mean we don’t have to actually go anywhere to go to work?  We do need a few things technology can’t give us.  Some large employers that allow staff to work from home require that employees have a home office, an actual room dedicated to work, not a corner of the kitchen table.  Some specify that this room must have a door, and staff must close it.  That’s because one of the biggest pitfalls for working at home is distraction.

It takes serious discipline and focus to work at home.  Most homes are full of tasks begging to be done, hungry, bored children and pets and all of our entertainment gear as well.  Working at home requires the ability to ignore the neighbour knocking at the door because quite often, other people only understand you are at home.  The ‘working’ part eludes them.

Or course, at an office job you are allowed to leave your desk.  It’s physically unhealthy to stay seated in front of a computer screen without getting up to move and stretch.  For those with good self-discipline and motivation, working at home does allow a small measure of domestic multi-tasking.  Hanging up a load of laundry is far more productive than loitering in the copy room swapping office gossip.  A quick walk around the block can clear your head and help you focus whether you’re in the city centre or in your estate with the dog.  But it is a slippery slope for some.  Employers can give everyone the technology and opportunity, but the motivation can’t be boxed up and delivered to employees.

What If Everyone in Ireland Was Decentralized?

Remember decentralization, the government plan to move some offices out of Dublin?  The idea was to spread the jobs out around the country so the entire nation did not need to commute to Dublin.  What if that idea caught on in the private sector?  Aside from the delight of pyjama-loving office workers and the plunge in sales of suits, what would it mean for the country?

It could mean less demand for housing in Dublin if people could work for large employers without travelling to the capital city.  It could mean better air quality if fewer people were driving daily.  And that also means less crowded commuter trains and buses.  It could mean more disposable income in smaller towns and villages, which would translate into more local spending, which would translate into more jobs in those areas.  Of course, it isn’t all clean air and economic stability.  Once the number of people working from home reached a critical mass, it might become awkward to go to the grocery store wearing regular clothes.  The pyjamas as day wear trend might spread beyond uber cool teens and harried moms at the school gates.  Is Ireland ready for that?

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