The Remote Work Conundrum
May 14, 2018
When your employees ask to work from home, this is likely what you imagine: Your most valuable worker, stretched out on the couch in their pajamas, occasionally responding to some work emails, but mostly just throwing popcorn at the TV.
And this is what they imagine: them sitting at their desk, typing furiously away and only stopping for water and bathroom breaks.
The reality is somewhere in-between.
Internet access has presented a choice to businesses that they never had before. Allowing employees to work from home is a fairly new idea as far as corporate traditions go.
Allowing employees to work from home is a fairly new idea as far as corporate traditions go
It’s especially popular with new startups that have big ideas and are more willing to adopt unconventional work habits to keep valuable employees happy.
Aside from this, these new businesses allow, even encourage, people to work from home to limit overhead costs. After all, saving money on rent can make a remarkable difference when you have a only a couple thousand dollars in funding.
Larger businesses have also embraced the remote work option, with companies like Dell, American Express and Microsoft publicly speaking out in support for this and using it as a trump card to attract new talent.
Just last year, Automaticc, the company behind WordPress, shuttered their San Francisco office for good after noticing that there weren’t enough staff working in the office to justify the rent costs.
In fact, remote work has become so popular that some companies are ditching the idea of a main office altogether. Just last year, Automaticc, the company behind WordPress, shuttered their San Francisco office for good after noticing that there weren’t enough staff working in the office to justify the rent costs.
Employees in similar jobs seem quite envious of their remote working colleagues, with surveys showing that people prefer to work remotely most of the time. The reasons for this differ wildly from wishing to avoid office politics to wanting to wear more comfortable clothes.
So, are you convinced now? Will you be closing your office doors forever?
You might want to hold off on that.
Some companies have made an about-turn on their remote work policies.
Yahoo lost a few hundred brownie points in 2013 when their CEO, Marissa Mayer, abolished the long-standing remote work policy and ordered staff to work from the office. And just last year, IBM lost their title as one of the longest proponents of remote work (they installed ‘remote terminals’ for staff in the ‘80s) when they ordered everyone back to the office and received a handful of resignation letters in response.
Salespeople have been shown to be more productive when they work in office, as have employees who work closely in a team.
It’s difficult when the employer and the employee want two different things. You may want your employees in the office where they can attend impromptu meetings and can constantly be under your watchful eye.
But they might want to work from home where they don’t have to attend impromptu meetings and be constantly under by their boss’ watchful eye.
People doing more passive work like on-call customer service or independent work like writers, graphic designers and software engineers tend to benefit more from working in their location of choice.
Researchers are encouraging a new approach to the remote work argument that should make both parties happy. Compromise. While it’s probably the first option considered during a disagreement, cold hard data implies that compromise around remote work really does help businesses in the long run.
Firstly, it’ll have to depend on your employees’ task. Salespeople have been shown to be more productive when they work in office, as have employees who work closely in a team.
But people doing more passive work like on-call customer service or independent work like writers, graphic designers and software engineers tend to benefit more from working in their location of choice.
However, staying out of the office all the time isn’t a good thing. Instead of remote work, researchers encourage businesses to embrace flexible work, where employees work remotely for some of the week, but are made to spend some time in the office as well.
Nicolas Bloom, a professor who co-authored a research paper on remote work spoke to news publication, Quartz about it. Commenting on the complexity of the topic he said, “If you’re part of a team or managing others, you need to be in work most days of the week.”
“But,” he added, “even so, it’s very helpful to have one or two days off a week.”
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