While I was out sick with my wisdom teeth surgery, I discovered that I really, really enjoy working from home. Sure, I’ve done it before when I know we’re going to have a half day, if the weather is bad, or if I’m someplace else and can’t make it to the office. But this was my first, and to date only, experience with working from home for an extended period of time. What I found was I was more efficient and productive, less stressed and generally a happier employee. I saved money by not driving my car (gas, maintenance, insurance costs) and wasn’t harming the environment. When I went back to the office this past Monday, it really hit me just how poor of a working environment most office buildings can be. Artificial light, poor air quality, stress from driving in traffic, etc. So why don’t more companies allow their employees to work remotely?
The Desire Is Strong
After looking at some statistics, it’s easy to say “duh. Of course people want to work from home!” According to this study from Global Workplace Analytics, two-thirds of people would like to work from home, with just over a third willing to take less money to do so. This desire is particularly acute with Gen Y, or Millenial, workers (such as myself); by 2020, this group will make up the majority of the workforce. And what perk do they greatly desire? The ability to work from home.
It’s not too difficult to figure out why these numbers exist. Working from home allows flexibility in a work schedule. Want to start your day early in the morning in order to go to an appointment later? Sure. Need to wait for a repair guy? Done. Want to go to your kid’s soccer game? Sure, just finish your work later. It allows for a better, more personal work environment. Gone are the dirty, dusty desks and chairs and poor air quality. Forbes notes that a less stressful environment was noted by 38% of survey respondents as a key benefit of working from home. In fact, just read that list to see why people want to work remotely.
The Benefits For The Employer
Lest you think that the benefits are all on the side of the worker, there are tangible benefits for the company as well. They have happier, less-stressed employees who are more productive. It lessens the risk of an employee leaving, especially to a firm that does not allow telecommuting. This leads to lower hiring and training costs, which can be up to five times the salary of the employee. The company saves cost by potentially downsizing facilities, using less energy and resources. It can even increase collaboration by encouraging the use of communication tools (instant messaging, Skype, etc.). The bottom line is, the company certainly benefits when their employees work from home. There’s a reason why major companies, such as Aetna, American Express and Apple, offer it as a benefit: it attracts top talent (not limited to their geographical footprint) and keeps them there. Check out this list to see other companies that offer it as a benefit. Cross-reference that list with their list of top companies to work for. There’s a reason there is a great deal of overlap.
So Why Don’t More Companies Allow It?
It’s important to note that there are some drawbacks to working from home. First, you lose out on face time, which in some companies can be critical to getting things done and advancing one’s career. Second, there can be a sense of loneliness among the employees without the daily interactions in the office. Additionally, the “out of sight, out of mind” mentally could lead to an employee basically being forgotten. I’m not thinking on the level of Milton from Office Space, but still.
Finally, many companies are very traditional and set in their ways. They believe that if an employee is not in the office, where they can be seen and their work monitored, they must not be working. This mistrust of employees is a very large factor, a remnant of the days where the manager was the overseer of everything. It’s all bunk, of course. Many studies have shown that working from home leads to more productive employees, not less productive. Yet it is hard to break the old guard’s feeling that working from home means slacking off.
I believe that in the very near future, the rise of telecommuting will only increase. Millenials are asking for it more and more, and the list of companies offering it is growing every year. I know I want to have a conversation with my manager about it. It makes sense for both parties, it helps the environment, it saves money. What’s not to like?