My LinkedIn news feed has been littered the past few months with articles espousing the benefits and drawbacks of working from home. Some of the articles I’ve clicked on feature people who love it and swear it makes them more productive. Some of the articles focus on companies that feel the practice has hurt their culture and hampered the productivity of their teams.
While it appears that many companies have become slightly more relaxed about WFH, the practice isn’t an option for many employees. Senior management at many companies seem to share the unspoken opinion that little work gets done by employees working from home, and they don’t offer the option or employees don’t ask for it. That opinion, however, isn’t backed by data. The number of employees working from home has tripled over the past 30 years, but it still only makes up 2.4% of the workforce. And a two year study at Stanford concluded that employees working from home were more productive, but felt isolation that can be avoided when working in an office instead of at home.
I was fortunate to be able to work from home one day a week when I had full-time sales job. I had a two-hour-round trip commute to my office and to only do that four days a week instead of five was a HUGE boost to my mood. Being able to eat breakfast with my children on that one day made working 50+ hours a week on top of traveling much easier. However, working from home wasn’t widely accepted where I worked. I was blessed to have a very understanding boss, but others weren’t as fortunate. When I worked from home, I made sure I never strayed far from my computer for fear that the privilege would be taken away if I was caught lollygagging. Despite the fact that when I was in the office, I might take a Starbucks run with a co-worker or chat about weekend plans in the hallway that would take away from my productivity. I didn’t dare do anything like that in case my phone rang or I got a very important email that needed my full attention.
As tools to promote work-life balance continue to play a huge role in the war for talent, I hope companies look closely at the actual productivity from in-office employees vs. WFH employees. I think they’ll see that the small benefits that employees gain in their personal lives—less time commuting, more time with their kids, and reduced stress—make them more productive overall and actually improve the bottom line by reducing turnover.
I hope that when my young children eventually enter the workforce, programs that promote work-life balance will be in place everywhere and they will not have to feel bad about asking for it. Companies should hire employees they can trust and trusting them to be productive while working from home is part of that.
Love the idea of working from home but have some reservations? Here are some resources on how to get into it and stay productive: