Working from home can benefit employers as much as employees
There are two camps when it comes to working from home. One group usually thinks people will get nothing done, and the other believes workers will be happier and more productive.
There are two camps when it comes to working from home. One group usually thinks that people will get nothing done, and the other group believes workers will be happier and more productive. Chances are, your answer greatly depends on how you personally fare when working from home. While some people swear by 40 hours a week in the office, there is growing support for the second camp of workers who find they are more productive working from home.
Recent studies have supported the idea that working from home—for the right people—can increase productivity and decrease stress. Research also suggests companies that encourage and support a work-from-home protocol actually save money in the long run—an added bonus on the employer side.
The tech industry is well known for its flexible schedules and telecommuting opportunities, which makes sense, considering most tech companies are web-based and technology is the greatest resource when working from home. With video chats, conference calls, VPN networks, and wireless Internet, we can constantly stay connected as though we were sitting in our office, rather than at home.
Tech is also experiencing a shortage of talent for a number of jobs, and hiring remote workers opens the talent pool for companies seeking STEM workers. Boris Kontsevoi, founder and president of Intetics Co says, “In the tech sphere, the majority of the work happens on the computer and online. As a result, the location of the person is no longer as important, as long as they have a reliable Internet connection.”
Nature of tech
While remote workers can be found in a number of different industries, it’s more prevalent in the tech-sphere. It could be due to the nature of most tech jobs—especially jobs for developers and programmers—that require a strong attention to detail and long hours of focus. Working from home can reduce the amount of distractions these workers face, allowing them to get more done during work hours.
“As a programmer, I need large chunks of time to really make progress on a project,” states Ann Gaffigan, CTO of Land Pros Systems, Inc., “In an office, there are so many potential distractions, with people knocking on the door or customers stopping in. This way I can control when I answer calls and emails and when I 'go silent' to get some work done.”
For employees who can’t afford to be distracted a number of times a day, having a controlled environment can be key to their productivity. Working from home can allow workers to minimize distractions and increase the time they spend focused on a project. It stands to reason that, in the end, companies benefit from these remote employees by getting projects completed faster with fewer mistakes.
One size doesn’t fit all
When it comes to a company’s work from home policy, everyone is different. Your productivity and overall success as a remote employee depends entirely on your preferred work style. That’s also the reason it’s hard to find any solid data on whether or not people are more productive at home. Anecdotally, it seems to boil down to personality type and the job you do. We’re all different, and some of us can’t fathom getting work done with a TV nearby and all our comforts of home surrounding us, while others find it a struggle to stay focused among office chatter and other distractions.
Your success in working from home might depend on the type of work you do, as discovered in a study by University of Illinois. The study found that telecommuters performed as well as their in-office co-workers. Phil Cicioria, Business & Law Editor at University of Illinois says, “According to the study, telecommuters want to be seen as “good citizens” of the company in order to justify their flexible work arrangements.”
Employees aren’t the only ones who benefit from working from home; a company can benefit just as greatly from a remote employee. “For employers telecommuting can limit absences, increase productivity, and save money. This is most common in the tech sphere because tech companies have the infrastructure to maintain remote workers. With telecommuting the idea of the office space is changing but many are saying that it is for the better," says Ari Zoldan CEO, Quantum Networks, LLC.
Simon Slade, CEO and co-founder of Affilorama has experienced first hand the benefits of having remote workers at his company, “By allowing employees to work remotely," he says, "you can hire the best of the best while not limiting yourself by geographical restrictions. At Doubledot Media, 19 of our 28 employees work remotely, and I have seen no difference in job satisfaction or work performance. If anything, my remote employees' production rate is higher because they are better equipped to avoid distractions.” The benefits also extend to his bottom line, “telecommuting saves me money because they pay for their own computer, electricity and other utilities.”
In fact, opening the talent pool seems to be one of the biggest employer benefits when it comes to a work from home policy. Jessica Greenwalt, Founder of Pixelkeet and Co-Founder of CrowdMed says, “Pixelkeet has been able to attract very talented designers and developers who want to live the freelance lifestyle without having to fish for work on their own. It's also been easy for us to work with clients from around the globe because we have a team member in a timezone convenient for communicating with most clients.”
For some companies, working from home can be a matter of more hours in the day. This is especially true for small businesses and new companies where they can’t afford to waste even one minute of the workday. “Being a small startup, every hour of the day is important,” says Tim Segraves, co-founder and CTO of Revaluate, “If we all spent an hour of day commuting, that would be almost 20 hours a week that would go to commuting instead of building out our product and business.”
Companies might also retain more employees if they enact a work from home benefit. Stanford professor, Nick Bloom, conducted a study to evaluate the benefits of working from home. He found workers were more productive, got more done, worked longer hours, took less breaks, and used less sick time than their in-office counterparts. These employees were also happier and quit less than those who went into the office on a regular basis. He estimated that, on average, the company saved about $2,000 per every employee who worked from home.
People who work from home have an easier time eating healthy and striking a manageable work-life balance. Eating healthier and having more time to spend with your family can help you feel less stressed, which will make for a happier more productive workday. A 2011 study from Staples found that employees who worked from home experienced 25 percent less stress. Employees also reported that they were able to maintain a better work-life balance, as well as eat healthier.
Cofounder of SimpleTexting, Felix Dubinksy, notes the health benefits of being at home, “It’s much easier to keep a healthy diet while eating at home. You save a lot of stressful hours that would have been spent commuting. You can construct a comfortable work environment for yourself. Spend more time with family.”
It’s a common answer when you ask people why they like to work from home. Most will respond that their flexible work environment relieves the amount of stress in their lives and gives them a healthier work-life balance. Today, our offices are constantly on, it isn't the same as it was decades ago, when you left the office and work actually ended. Today, most of us can work at any hour wherever we are located, so it makes sense that the line is starting to blur between work and life. But it stands to reason that working from home can help redefine—or at the very least, rebalance—that line.
Alessandra Ceresa, Marketing Director of Greenrope, finds he can balance his work and life much easier when he works remote, “Because much of what we do is not constrained within the hours of 9-5, I am able to go to the gym in the middle of the day, take a walk, do errands. When I take these sorts of breaks, the moment I sit back down to work, I am focused. My life is balanced because I get all of my work done and have time to actually live my life.”
Maybe you have a commute that makes you frustrated before you even hit your desk, and all you can do while you drink your morning coffee is fantasize about what you could buy with all that gas money. For employees who work far from the office, cutting out the commute can make a world of difference for their stress and overall health. For Charlie Harary, CEO of H3 & Company and professor at the Syms School of Business at Yeshiva University, cutting down on how many days a week one of his employees needed to commute allowed one employee to get more done in her working hours. “I have an employee that has a two-hour commute to the office each way. Once day, she mentioned to me that she had to leave early to get home in time to make a family obligation. I asked her why and she detailed out her daily commute. I was shocked by the sheer difficulty it was for her to get to the office each day.”
He immediately proposed a work-from-home option. At first, the employee wasn’t sure how well working remote would work for her or her boss, but after coming up with a suitable arrangement, both Harary and his employee were happy to see how well it worked. So happy, in fact, that she now works from home twice a week.
The future of work from home
Companies are certainly catching onto the trend, and most have the flexibility to work from home, if not at all the time, at least when needed. It’s changing the way we work, especially in the tech sphere. And while it may not be for everybody, employers may find they can save money and increase productivity for some workers. And for some employees, work-from-home benefits may be the difference between an enjoyable and stressful work life.
Clayburn Griffin, a digital marketer who finds remote work suits him best, hopes more companies see the benefits that can be gleamed from remote workers, “I really hope employers start to realize this and offer more time to their employees to work from home. I think they don't because they're afraid of abuse and because it feels like there is no oversight. You can't see what an employee is doing, and that feels like giving up some control. All that should matter, though, is that they're getting the work done.”
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