I have been working from home for more than fifteen years. In the mid-nineties I worked for a large US IT consultancy. I had a mobile phone, a laptop and a modem. I picked up email by dialling into our network using a VPN, I visited clients throughout Europe and did much of my work on their sites or in airport lounges or the tiny room in our house that we converted into a study. If I did go into the company office for anything other than a scheduled meeting, the people there were very unlikely to be the colleagues I worked with on a day to day basis - they were spread around the globe.
I am very well adjusted (I like to think) to the consequences of remote/home working. I’ve been doing it for a long time. Most people are not, simply because they have never been in an environment where it is seen as the norm or offered as a privilege. The company I describe above is unusual in two respects, first they have a "don’t waste your time commuting to the office unless it’s necessary" philosophy; and second, because they judge their staff purely on the quality of the work they do! They were only interested in my outputs and outcomes, how I got it done was my problem (although they did have a lot of ideas on ‘best practice’).
In consultancies, the model I describe above is very common. It’s prevalent in sales organisations as well, especially American ones. American sales and consultancy organisations know that their staff travel a lot - they want them to spend as much time as possible with clients and customers. However, they have long recognised that not making their staff travel into the office when they’re not out at a client brings a number of benefits. Three in particular stand out: they need less office space; they can hire the best staff even if they live a long way away from their offices; and they lose less staff (excessive travel is high among the reasons that staff leave these companies as they eventually get fed up with it).
Technologically, home working has been possible nearly two decades. Of course there are many jobs that don’t lend themselves to it (e.g. customer service in a shop). But a rapidly increasing number do. The reasons why people aren’t given the privilege revolve around culture and performance measurement. If your organisation doesn’t have a flexible culture, it is most likely that how hard staff work is still judged, consciously or unconsciously, on ‘face time’- how much do you see of a person’s face in the office. Sit at your desk from 8am to 7pm and you are still judged a hard worker. Arrive at 9am, leave at 5pm, and take an hour for lunch and you are labelled ‘lazy’ however, much you get done. Work from home and you’re practically on holiday!
But what really matters are the outcomes of our work. Where do we make a difference? How much do we actually get done of the important things that need to be done? Being able to identify this in the work our staff do is the key to trusting them with flexible, home, working. If we can, then we have the opportunity to offer our staff a better quality of life and a de facto increase in their standard of living (not having to pay so much to travel to work). My experience is that if you can develop a culture of flexible working, most people work harder and deliver more, so everyone wins.