Monday, February 03, 2014

Can Your Staff Really Work Effectively from Home? Part 1 of 2

With the spate of bad weather we’ve had throughout the East and Midwest recently, the debate rages on about the pros and cons of working from home. As Inc. magazine’s Vicki Salemi wrote last week, “hallway conversations and impromptu team meetings can spur innovation. At the same time, open offices can be remarkably distracting.” Obviously, if clients want to see you in person, then you need to be there for them. But, can some of your operational, administrative and creative functions be accomplished via telecommuting in this 24/7/365 work environment?

A recent study by Stanford researchers Nicholas Bloom and James Liang indicates YES. Letting employees work from home at least one or two day per week can make them happier, less likely to quit, and more productive, researchers found.

But there are some big caveats, which we’ll get to in a minute.

Benefits. Researchers offered call-center workers the opportunity to work from home for nine months. While the company thought the money it would save in space and furniture--about $1,900 per employee--would be offset by a drop in productivity, it turns out that at-home worker output wasn't hampered a bit. As Professor Bloom reported in
Harvard Business Review, the at-home workers made 13.5 percent MORE calls, quit 50 percent less often than their in-office counterparts, and said they were happier on the job. “Offices are actually incredibly distracting places," Bloom reported. Study participants who worked from home also put in more hours and took fewer sick days.

Will that some model work in the professional office settings where most of you spend your days?

Caveats. Researchers didn’t say that home-based workers are uniformly more productive than office workers. Instead, they suggest certain kinds of workers might be better suited for home-based work, such as solitary, hourly folks whose output can be measured--call-center reps, proofreaders, developers, and the like. "The more robotic the work, the greater the benefits,” Bloom said. “Evidence suggests that with most jobs, a good rule of thumb is to let employees have one to two days a week at home. It's hugely beneficial to their well-being, helps you attract talent, and lowers attrition."


Here at HB, we think it’s more than just robotic work that can be done successfully outside of a traditional office environment. In this always-connected, 24/7/365 work environment, it pays to have your best people do their best work wherever and whenever they can be most efficient and least stressed. It’s no longer a matter of home vs. office; it’s a matter of home AND office and setting reasonable boundaries in both environments.

Next week, one of our designers,
Laura Gilbert of Guilford, Connecticut-based Boomerang Studio, will deconstruct then pros and cons of working from home as well as the growing use of co-working spaces.

It’s Monday. Shake off the Super Bowl cobwebs. Let’s get to work wherever you happen to be.

Have a great week. HB

Our blog has more, as does the FREE Resources page of our website.

Tags: working from home, co-working, Vicki Salemi, Nicholas Bloom, James Liang, Stamford University


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