Working from home means taking work into your home. Shutterstock
What if you never had to return to work? Never had to return to work at the office, that is.
You’d be able to juggle kids on school holidays. You wouldn’t need to navigate traffic jams. Your employer might gain increased productivity, lower turnover and lower lease costs. But there are less obvious downsides.
In 2010, as part of building a case for the national broadband network, the Gillard government set a target for teleworking, suggesting the Australian economy could save between A$1.4 billion and A$1.9 billion a year if 10% of the workforce teleworked half the time.
Her successors have cooled on the idea. The web address www.telework.gov.au no longer works and reliable statistics for telework don’t exist.
Yet it’s attractive.
It seems like a grand idea…
Studies find working from home cuts commuting times and associated fatigue, transport congestion, and environmental impacts. Worldwide, an increasing number of employers are allowing it in order to attract and retain staff.
Employees value it as a way to maintain a work-life balance, in particular millennials.
And the office has become a nightmare for some. A tide of research finds many employees working in modern open-plan offices are so distracted by noise and interruptions they can’t concentrate.
In my research on the workplace, employees frequently tell me they have to work from home to get work done.
Other research supports these findings. A two-year study using randomly assigned groups found a 13% productivity increase. It also found turnover decreased by 50% among those working at home and that they took shorter breaks and fewer sick days. And the company saved around US$2,000 (A$2,784) per employee on lease costs.
It’s enough to make employers allow working from home for everyone who can. But a key finding from the same study sounds a cautionary note.
More than half the volunteers that worked from home felt so isolated they changed their minds about wanting to do it all the time.
…until you try it
It’s not just isolation and loneliness.
Research shows working from home is far worse for team cohesion and innovation than working in the office.
In 2013 Yahoo chief executive Marissa Meyer banned working from home, saying that in order “to become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices.”
Since then, other large corporates including Bank of America and IBM have followed suit.
Contrary to what we might think, research shows that as the availability of laptops and other remote work devices increases, proximity has becoming more important.
One study showed that engineers who shared a physical office were 20% more likely to stay in touch digitally than those who worked remotely. Employees who were in the same office emailed four times as often to collaborate on shared projects than staff who weren’t in the office. The result, for these sorts of projects, was 32% faster project completion times.
Other research finds face to face interaction is essential for identifying opportunities for collaboration, innovation and developing relationships and networks.
Another study of home workers from 15 countries found 42% of remote workers had trouble sleeping, waking up repeatedly in the night, compared to only 29% who always worked in the office.
Some 41% of highly mobile workers felt stress “always or most of the time” compared to only 25% who always worked at the office.
Part of the stress is due to being tethered to mobile devices, often kept by beds, as well as the challenges of working from home. Locating colleagues to keep projects moving and trying to do conference calls surrounded by children, barking dogs or delivery people at the door is not as easy as it sounds.
Perhaps not surprisingly then, another study finds that, rather than being helpful, working from home is likely to interfere with family life.
And other studies suggest not being in the office regularly can hinder your career, resulting in being overlooked for projects or promotions. Out of sight can mean out of mind.
For some, what’s best will be some of both
There are strong, evidence-based reasons to both work from home and the office. So, what’s best?
One thing that can be said with certainty is that workers shouldn’t be forced to work from home because the office is too noisy for them to concentrate.
Employers need to ensure the workplace is designed effectively for the type of work that needs to be done, and also for the type of people who work there.
Access to flexible work, including working from home is important, but it needs to be balanced with the benefits of face to face interaction.
A halfway house is for employees working from home to have access to shared coworking spaces (working with workers from other firms and other industries) where they can get some of the benefits of being in the office without having to travel there.
Coworking spaces have been shown to reduce isolation, while providing employees with the benefits of access to a more diverse network and exposure to innovative ideas.
About The Author
Libby Sander, Assistant Professor of Organisational Behaviour, Bond Business School, Bond University
The Work at Home Training Program: The ultimate guide to working at home, making extra money, and avoiding scams
Binding: Kindle Edition
Format: Kindle eBook
There is nothing worse than sitting down with your checkbook at the end of the month and realizing that you don’t have enough to meet your basic needs.
It’s happening a lot right now: unemployment is running rampant, people are getting laid off in massive numbers, savings and investments are drying up quickly, and many people are relying on their credit cards or loans from family to cover basic necessities.
Having an extra job, or other random sources of income, could mean the difference between
constant worry and financial stability. But what do you do when you can’t distinguish between legitimate work and a clever ploy?
Bethany Mooradian, (www.WorkatHomeFAQ.com) offers over 700 ideas, resources, and legitimate companies that can help you bridge the income gap. Using her experience and knowledge in Internet marketing, she reveals the most common tricks of scammers. She empowers you with the resources to research companies and job offers so you’re completely prepared to enter the “work at home” world and will never have to ask, “Is this job for real?"
The Work at Home Training Program covers everything you need to know to get started:
Techniques of Scammers and Common Scams: A behind-the-scenes look at Internet marketing essential for identifying the methods and tricks of scammers.
Making Money: Divided into sections based on skills and interests, learn how to earn extra income whether you’re an artist, educator, techie, multi-lingual, or even if you just want some flexible income in your spare time.
Get a Flexible Job: For those looking for a more traditional job, but with flexible hours or working from home. You’ll learn how to get started and the companies that hire.
Creating a Business: We can no longer trust our employers to take care of us! Now non-entrepreneurs can develop a new mindset and open their hearts to the joy of small business ownership.
Binding: Kindle Edition
Format: Kindle eBook
The Industrial Revolution's "under one roof" model of conducting work is steadily declining as technology creates virtual workspaces that allow employees to provide their vital contribution without physically clustering together. Today, the new paradigm is "move work to the workers, rather than workers to the workplace."
Remote work increases the talent pool, reduces turnover, lessens the real estate footprint, and improves the ability to conduct business across multiple time zones, to name just a few advantages. As Fried and Hansson explain the challenges and unexpected benefits of this phenomenon, they show why--with a few controversial exceptions such as Yahoo--more businesses will want to promote this model of getting things done.
The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People's Lives Better, Too)
Binding: Kindle Edition
Format: Kindle eBook
During her multibook investigation into understanding human nature, Gretchen Rubin realized that by asking the seemingly dry question "How do I respond to expectations?" we gain explosive self-knowledge. She discovered that based on their answer, people fit into Four Tendencies: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels. Our Tendency shapes every aspect of our behavior, so using this framework allows us to make better decisions, meet deadlines, suffer less stress, and engage more effectively.
More than 600,000 people have taken her online quiz, and managers, doctors, teachers, spouses, and parents already use the framework to help people make significant, lasting change.
The Four Tendencies hold practical answers if you've ever thought...
· People can rely on me, but I can't rely on myself.
· How can I help someone to follow good advice?
· People say I ask too many questions.
· How do I work with someone who refuses to do what I ask—or who keeps telling me what to do?
With sharp insight, compelling research, and hilarious examples, The Four Tendencies will help you get happier, healthier, more productive, and more creative. It's far easier to succeed when you know what works for you.