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Behind the Business: Homework

Homework. It’s generally a term people associate with school but in my case, it has carried over into my working life. In fact, I’ve spent quite a lot of my career based at a home based office (6 years). Funnily enough, it’s the study at my parents’ house (which was converted into an office) and is the same space I did most of my homework in high school.

The same can’t be said for ‘the boss’ Kim who spent over 30 years battling traffic into a city office which was the catalyst for setting up a home office. It was one of the best decisions he ever made and I’ve been lucky to go along for the ride.

Interestingly, more and more people appear to be spending time working at home. A 2013 ACMA (Australian Communications and Media Authority) report revealed that 4.6 million Australians did at least some work at home each week.

It’s a working arrangement which is accepted by many employers who are open to a flexible working environment. It is also more feasible now due to digital technology but I feel as though my situation is somewhat unique. I haven’t come across anyone who has spent a significant proportion of their career working from a home based office in a family business. This is something I get asked about quite a bit so here is my perspective on it…

Flexibility is an obvious advantage and probably the most appealing aspect of working from home although sometimes it’s easy to become complacent and enjoy this benefit a bit too much. This can be detrimental for myself and the business so it’s imperative to ‘get out and about’ regularly. With today’s technology, it’s easy to remain in the cocoon of our office and still feel as though we are ‘connected’ to the world but in my opinion, face to face interaction is essential for learning. Whether it be meeting clients (current and potential) to learn more about their business or just a catch-up with colleagues who work in the industry, I find this stimulating and energising which enhances my work.

So I enjoy working from a home based office and it definitely has its advantages but I’ve learnt if you don’t balance it with social interaction you become stale which isn’t ideal for your education (kind of like doing too much homework).

Paul Di Marzio, Di Marzio Research

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7 Comments on Behind the Business: Homework

  1. Thoroughly agree Paul. I had stint of ‘home work’ about 4 years ago for a few months and back into it now for the past month. I find working a couple of times a week for 2-3 hours in a cafe stimulating esp. in a busy/buzzy City area. I try to fit that around client meetings. Meeting with clients, suppliers and other researchers is of course a given. The biggest problem I find at home is the proximity of the fridge!

  2. Very true, also I find that working from home means that when I do go to meetings– 2-3 times a week – to interact with the real world they are meaningful meetings with productive outcomes. This contrasts with the ‘meetings for meetings sake’ meetings I endured (and was likely guilty of creating at times) in the larger company environment. Another interesting slant on a similar issue appeared in the SMH earlier this week – The Office Has Had Its Day – worth a read.

  3. This strikes a chord as I’ve enjoyed working at home for the last 7 years now. However I wonder if its part of the human condition where if you ask many people who do work in offices that you hear some of the same issues raised – not interacting, hiding behind email, working in isolation. We all need to get out and about just to learn. Would I work in an office again though? No.

  4. So true, Paul. Focus is the most important thing. I found that I needed to dress as though I were going out to work and actually go out, walk around town, have a coffee and then come back to my home office. That’s what gives me the focus I need. Biggest problem is the friends and relatives who know you work from home and call in or just call up and have no concept of what’s involved with having to complete a proposal, report or presentation under tight time constraints. There are pluses and minuses with home offices and it certainly helps to have the IRG network of colleagues at hand online.

  5. I couldn’t agree _more_ with Paul about the need to get out and about. And, of course, the time when this is most vital is when you are most busy! I’ve also experienced Jeannette’s issue of people ringing the doorbell because they know you are “at home”. When I was on our Owners Corp committee, this happened quite a bit from other committee members, most of whom were retired and were thus unconstrained. I solved that one by simply not answering the door. Plus I told people that if they needed to speak with me, then to use the telephone or email, because I would usually respond to those. Maybe that’s a bit of a severe action on my part, but I rationalise it on the basis that those same people wouldn’t dream of knocking on the door if I worked in a ‘normal’ office, so they shouldn’t be doing it because I work from home.

  6. Hi Paul,
    I work in a small 1 person office separately from my home because I found my presence in the home had an inhibiting effect on the others in the family, as they felt they had to tip-toe around to avoid disturbing me. When they were teenagers, that was a little difficult! Hence the move to a small away-from-home office, but with just me mostly in it, the same issues you raise apply, so think it can be a broader issue. And Jeanette’s point about dressing in work attire applies just as much and helps make me fit into an “at work” feeling, even though it’s mainly me and the mirror who sees me!

  7. Hi everyone
    Great to hear your opinions and experiences on this topic. Some really good points raised all of which impact our work situation. Lets keep the discussion flowing because this is really helpful and insightful.

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