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My Millennial Life: Putting a Pin in the Work-From-Home Debate

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Honestly you guys, I don’t even know why we’re still debating whether or not the whole work-from-home perk should be something companies allow. Of course, this is the opinion of someone who entered the workforce as a remote freelancer and spent three years in her pajamas, but there’s hard supporting evidence too.

How do I Love WFH? Let Me Count the Ways

We’ll start with productivity. The average commute is 45 minutes each way. That’s a whole 1.5 hours that could be spent doing work.

When I work from home, I roll out of bed, hit the button on my coffee maker and start banging on my keyboard at 7:00 am. Sure, I do chores alongside my projects, but the work gets done. When I go into the office, I spend an hour getting ready in the morning, an hour commuting and another hour getting settled (grabbing a quick breakfast, saying hello to my colleagues, checking in with the boss, responding to e-mails, reviewing my schedule for the day, making coffee, etc.). Work starts at 10:00 am–if I’m lucky.

Need stats? A British company called O2 asked 2,500 employees at its headquarters to work from home for one day, saving an estimated 2000 hours of commuting time. Here’s what they did with that extra time:

  • 120 hours: used to travel elsewhere

  • 240 hours: used for relaxation

  • 280 hours: used for family time

  • 320 hours: used for extra sleep

  • 1,040 hours: used for extra work

Over half of those commute hours were spent working. If you’re a manager, what’s not to love about that? Another study found that 76% of telecommuters are more willing to put in extra time at work and a whopping 86% of telecommuters say they’re more productive in their home office.

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Need more stats? Here’s a great article by Scott Edinger, founder of Edinger Consulting Group, on why remote workers are more engaged.

Next, quality of life. In addition to the stress you save yourself when you don’t have to commute and the resulting increase in work-life balance, 73% of workers say they eat healthier when they work from home. And the environment benefits too, since even just one day of telecommuting could potentially save 423,000 tons of greenhouse gas. To put that into perspective, that’s the equivalent of taking 77,000 cars off the road for an entire year.

Ask the Right Questions

All that goodness rolled into one simple work perk and still management fights it. Why? This infographic says the problem is mostly that it takes away from face-to-face time, diminishing the feeling of effective conversation. And therein lies the whole root of this battle: clarity and communication.

Instead of worrying about what remote employees are doing with their time–or worse, banishing telecommuting altogether–managers should be asking two very simple questions:

  • Does everyone know what they should be working on?

  • Have the expectations regarding these projects been clearly communicated?

These are questions that should be asked when considering all employees, not just the ones at home in their pajamas. If an employee doesn’t know what they should be working on or the expectations around their projects, it doesn’t matter where they are, the work is unlikely to be completed.

Use the Right Tools

Good news! There’s an excess of tools that support these questions–tools that track progress, manage projects and support clear communication through social task management functions. And if you want to see someone’s face? Try one of the many videoconferencing solutions–some of which have been around for even longer than most popular productivity platforms.

If your next argument is that employees don’t use these tools correctly, feel free to make them a requirement of working from home. If 64% of workers would be willing to trade their lunch break, alcohol or coffee for one work-from-home day per week, I bet they’d be willing to learn how to use some software, too. (Plus, come on. It’s 2013. We’re using these tools no matter where we are.)

Another stat: 87% of employees consider collaboration software to be mission critical for virtual teams.

But…But…But What About Yahoo?

Yahoo’s had it rough for some time now, and Marissa Mayer knows she needs to turn the business around quickly. Sometimes bringing everyone together is the fastest way to accomplish that, but that doesn’t mean every other company should follow suit. It just means Yahoo needed a serious intervention to get its culture back on track. If yours isn’t derailed, there’s no reason to call everyone back into their cubes. They probably wouldn’t stay in them anyway.

None of this is to say managers should call off the 9-5 rule and let employees work from home every day of the week. But allowing a day or two away from the office could make a world of a difference in happiness and productivity, and if issues arise, it would probably be better to first investigate how work is getting done rather than where it’s getting done.

Comments on this Article: 1

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  1. Fabulous article. You did hit the nail on the head. Check out my easy read booklet on Amazon. Hope it helps others with best practice tips when WFH! “Working from a Home Office Successfully” http://www.outskirtspress.com/homeofficeguru

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