The possibility to work from home has been the domain of Account Managers, Relationships Managers, or individuals running their own businesses. But today, more and more companies are adopting policies, which makes it possible for regular employees to work from home, at least on selected days or after consultation with their line managers.
Several studies suggest, that working from home increases productivity, as people tend to be less distracted, and they have the possibility to use their time more flexibly. On the other hand, working from home also invites many employees to work ineffectively. They might become distracted, do the household, or anything else that can be done while the employer is paying for it.
Working from home can be perceived from different perspectives. It if often this perspective, which employers use as a base for the decision, whether regular employees are given the freedom to work from home occasionally.
Increased productivity, increased work-life balance
One of the main advantages of working from home is an increased work-life balance. Especially people with children can be at home more often, combining work with their presence at home. Whereas someone at the office might work eight hours straight, people who do work from home have more flexibility to combine work and private obligations.
Their working hours might be longer, but they also have the flexibility to take more breaks, longer breaks, go out for lunch with a friend or client, or go to the gym for an hour. Another major benefit is that there is no long commuting; this is a valuable time that can be saved on work.
Furthermore, many people feel their productivity is increased when they have the freedom to organize their day as they wish. Whereas for some people the presence and control of a manager might actually provide them the motivation necessary to perform a good job, for others, it has the opposite effect. Also, working from home means having no colleagues around, and it might be easier to focus on one item for a longer period of time, without being disturbed by phone calls, or people walking in and out of the office.
Decreased control, challenging discipline
Work from home is not suitable for everyone. Many people need a busy office atmosphere in order to be productive. Being left ‘free’ can actually have the opposite effect; some people might not dedicate their time to the office and to work, but might spend too much time doing private things, spending time with their families, and sometimes even watching television or doing the household.
Clear targets and communication
The difference in personality types can make a big difference in whether someone is productive or not when working at home. Therefore, in order to ensure productivity, one of the mandatory tasks for any manager is, that clear targets are set, and that each and every employee knows exactly what is expected. As such, people working from home know what is expected from them, and it might reduce the ‘freedom’ of some to simply not work, or work unproductively.
Additionally, employees working from home should let their managers and colleagues know what they are doing: a simple e-mail in the morning that they are online, a short note during lunch break that they will be offline for one or two hours, and perhaps a closing e-mail by the end of the day.
Working from home can significantly increase the work-life balance, but it is intended for those who have the discipline to in the end deliver what is expected from them. Especially in the beginning, managers should keep an eye on the different personality types, and which employee feels more comfortable in a work from home environment.
Managers should respect, that some people prefer the home environment while others prefer the office environment. Employees should also be aware of the same, and make a clear decision whether they can truly be productive in a work from home setting.