I’m lucky I have the flexibility of working remotely from a quiet and well-lit home office occasionally. But many of my coworkers hate telecommuting—preferring the social interactions and daily routine of the traditional corporate environment.
I have two offices: One at my company headquarters, the other at the end of a cul-de-sac, flooded with natural light. The latter is part of the home my husband and I designed from scratch. Furnished with a bookcase lined with legal resources, plus a desk and chair carefully selected to provide maximum comfort, my office also boasts the obligatory printer and other office essentials.
It’s a place I occasionally retreat to with the hope of reaching a healthier work/life balance.
The traditional workweek is an outdated concept for many. A 2015 Gallup poll reported that 37% of American workers have worked from home at some point; in 1995, it was just 9%.1 Technological advances obviously have a lot to do with that, but working from home also helps employees combat the rising costs of commuting. Conversely, telecommuting may also save employers some of the costs associated with renting and maintaining office space. Employers can save in other ways, too; I’ve heard of employees negotiating a part-time telecommuting schedule in lieu of a raise.
This can be a win-win for a company not in a position to offer pay increases, and an employee looking to eliminate her commute. Working from home, even on a part-time basis, can also help reduce the need for expensive takeout lunches and dress-to-impress office clothes.
Does working from home make you more, or less, productive?
According to the Gallup work and education poll, employees who work remotely, at least some of the time, are slightly more engaged in their jobs than employees who don’t have that luxury. And a more engaged workforce leads to better productivity, profitability and customer engagement.1
However, working from home isn’t for everyone. A lot of my coworkers have tried it and found they couldn’t focus as well as they could in a corporate environment. They would procrastinate, eat too much, or get distracted by the TV. They were, in fact, less productive. In truth, getting work done without a boss around requires a certain amount of self-discipline. For me, the opposite is true, as I tend to work longer hours from my comfy home office, making me too productive, if anything. There is a need for a strict spatial divide between work and home, and striking the right balance is an important part of working from a home office.
My top tips for telecommuters:
Of course, there are many jobs that simply cannot be done remotely, especially in the medical and educational fields, but if you happen to work in a job that does give you the option, give it a try. It could transform you into a happier, more engaged worker—and save you some time and money as well.