A case for working from home
Science says working from home makes people healthier, more productive and more satisfied with their employer. Science also says that people who can work from home sleep better, tend to stay longer at the same job and get more done than colleagues who spend all their time in the office. Fact is, when we work for example in an open office space we tend to fool ourselves that we work more than we do. Not that we’re not trying, it’s just that we get disrupted and distracted way more. On the other hand, when we work from home, we focus on the output of what we’re working on. Work becomes about your delivery, what you actually create. Thereby we tend to be more productive and get more done when we work from home. It’s about the difference you make, not the time you spend.
It’s simply a win-win. And for your employer who’s paying for your time allowing people to work from home frequently should be a no-brainer.
But what about the short breaks we might take at home? To empty the dishwasher or fold some clean laundry or walk the dog or (like me) do a short yoga-session? Yeah, this is also a win-win. These short breaks help us focus and give us a pause so that we can think clearer and they keep our bodies healthier. If you happen to get rid off some stress over household duties as you go it is yet another win. As a society we get more and more stressed and people suffer from burnouts everywhere around me. I’m not surprised anymore, it’s so extremely common. Working from home at least now and then save time, give us a chance to take care of little things at home AND we do a better job. People who work from home have fewer days of sickleave For many people, commuting to work costs the similar level of energy as working due to the many impressions and the stressful environment. Meaning, the time you spend commuting is a waste of productive energy on something that most people would rather not do instead of using the energy for something we want to do. Thus, we come to work having already wasted 30 minutes or an hour or whatever of our productive time commuting. For our brains it’s just as tiring.
This is no surprise to me. What is a surprise to me is that I still have to work hard to convince most managers and employers about it.
I’m not saying that meeting your colleagues is not important, sitting together is on the contrary fundamental for team-work. At a new workplace it is important to spend time there to get to know people, social connections will leverage your job (or at least make it easier). And when you’ve been working somewhere for quite some time it is important to meet people in person to keep the team socially connected. But we don’t have to sit together 5 days a week to do that. We need to balance and prioritize how we do our work best. Some people need to spend more time at the office and some people less. But let that be up to us – up to them – not their manager or some old company norm that is no longer serving anybody. Given that trust people will also value to be at the office for meetings and social gatherings more, but put more effort into making it really worthwhile (unproductive and useless meetings are yet another phenomenon way to common).
A study done by Gallup (on the US) shows that employees working from home 3-4 days a week are more motivated and loyal (and I assume we all know how much difference that makes). They feel trusted and autonomous in doing their best. Motivation and engagement are probably the most valuable asset an organisation can have in it’s people, and it’s impossible to buy or take shortcuts to get too (not saying that there aren’t things you can buy that would contribute).
Personally, I prefer working from home 1-2 days a week. This takes away a lot of stress as I know that I will be in control of my time and get a lot of things done. It really is production time. And I also have the freedom to handle som little things at home and it saves the time I would spend on getting properly dressed, commute, pack stuff to prepare for activities after work and so on. An energy saver and a source of focus. Frankly, if you don’t allow your employees to work from home I take it you don’t trust them, and then you have bigger problems to handle than where they spend their days… But this is yet another topic.
Own observations and interviews at workplaces
EDIT: after writing this I found a video from Matt Mullenweg co-founder of the hugely succesful company Auttomatic (behind WordPress and more).