Should Technical Authors be allowed to work from home?

With the recent media attention on Yahoo’s announcement that it is banning its staff from “remote” working, we thought it might be useful to look at the case for and against Technical Authors working from home.

The case for allowing remote working

  1. They can do their jobs more productively without interruption from others. When Technical Authors are writing (which is approximately 50% of their time), it can often help their concentration if they can work in a distraction-free environment.
  2. There’s less need for office space and related costs (telephones, desktop computers etc).
  3. Staff may be less stressed. Brad Harrington, executive director of the Boston College Center for Work & Family, claims people who work from home tend to have less stress and are more productive, partly because they don’t invest time and money in commuting, and they can have a better work/life balance.
  4. You may get more flexibility over staff availability. Without the need to commute, staff may be more willing to work out-of-hours.
  5. You have a wider pool of people interested in your vacancies if you can offer some flexibility in working hours and location.

The case against allowing remote working

  1. You’re more likely to build up a company culture if everyone is working in the same space together. This is particularly important for start-up businesses.
  2. It’s easier to network with others. These contacts could boost your careers in the future.
  3. It’s easier to monitor the work staff are carrying out.
  4. It’s can be faster to make decisions (as you can carry out impromptu meetings).
  5. According to Marissa Meyer, face-to-face meetings boost the quality of decisions and business ideas:

“Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings.”

Our opinion

Being a Technical Author is one of those roles where remote working can work well. However, it’s best to be able to have both options available – to have people who can come into the office within a short space of time, should there be an emergency. There’s a great deal of value in meeting people face-to-face, and to be part of a company culture (especially within startups), but it can help enormously if you can write in a distraction-free environment.

If you do work from home, you need to have a productive working environment, and be able to be self-disciplined.

What’s your opinion?

You can use the comment box below.

See also: Cherryleaf recruiting services

6 Comments

Mark Tamblyn

Interesting post. On balance I prefer office rather than home-based working. In the office environment I pick up on the company buzz and interaction with colleagues, directly or indirectly related to my own activities.
Remote working has a valuable place – where I have a challenging task that needs 100% attention without the distraction of day-to-day requests and interruptions.
My own impression is that companies are looking to keep people like Technical Authors close to them and preferably in-house so they can react to requests at short notice.

Veronique Vial

As a technical writer, I work from home one day a week and also when there are transport problems (which tends to happen a lot in Paris). I find it useful and productive to be able to have some work time away from the hustle and bustle of the office, however I would not want to work from home all the time. I need interaction with my colleagues and I can only get some answers when I am talking to them face-to-face. So for me, the best solution is to be able to do both. Fortunately my company understands that it is more efficient to let me work from home from time to time rather than to be forced to take a day off because I can’t come into the office.

ellis

Not quite – It’s a photo of a girl selling shells from an “office” she’d set up on the beach at Mudeford Sands.

Mark Allen

I would like to have the option of working away from the office a few times a month. Some weeks may require that I be in the office all week, but working from home, or in a cafe, or wherever, can really break the routine and help people see issues from different angles.

Perhaps due to the sector they work in (working with geeky gadgets, often sitting with the R and D team), we are not viewed as such, but, amongst other things, Technical Communicators are creative workers.

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, on the Harvard Business Review blog

“Creativity is usually enhanced by giving people more freedom and flexibility at work.”
However, I’m not sure most of us would like his point 5 (“Pay them poorly”).

Carrie Cousins has some ideas about managing creative people on the Design Shack website.

In Section 3, about the workspace, she makes this recommendation:
“Be flexible with work schedules if possible. Maybe some of your workers would benefit from a schedule that does not fit in the 9-to-5 mold. Try to accommodate shift variances for people to optimize their skills.”

Of course not every company can offer Google-esque trendy working conditions, but a little bit of flexibility and control over your working schedule can be an enormous help in terms of productivity, work-life balance and continued enjoyment of work.

Raj

It can be a split. A few days of work from home coupled with a few days at office. The biggest disadvantage of a writer is the constant chatter in the office. Writing requires a peaceful atmosphere.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.