Most of us have experienced it at one time or another: That sheepish sense of guilt you get when you tell a colleague or co-worker that you'll be "working from home" for the day. "Enjoy!" they're likely to say before hanging up—as if you'll be on vacation for the day.
Whether it's a cultural remnant from the 9 to 5 era, or a guilt complex heaped on by those in jobs with little (or no) flexibility in their work structure, the concept that one could actually be productive and (gasp!) more efficient when working from home still seems to be only associated with quirky companies with silly names like Zappos and Google.
That impression certainly wasn't debunked this year, when Yahoo! CEO Melissa Mayer changed the company's well-documented telecommuting policy to one of requiring employees to make the trek to the mothership office everyday. “To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side,” said Mayer in the memo. “Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home."
Really? Working from home hinders efficiency? Working side-by-side means just that—literally?
Exploring the Benefits of the Virtual Office
Not so, according to serial entrepreneur, successful businessman and author Todd Miller, who has literally written the book on working virtually (Miller's book is entitled "Going Virtual: How to Succeed in the 'New Normal' Economy of the 21st Century"). In his recent Huffington Post blog, Miller offers some support for the premise that working virtually can actually be more efficient.
"Studies have consistently found that offices are among the least productive places to get work done. Knowledge economy research and advisory firm Basex estimated that nearly 3 hours per day is lost to office-related interruptions and distractions, costing American businesses over $750 billion per year. If you ask an employee where they are most productive, chances are they will not tell you 'at the office.'"
And leave it to the gold standard of corporate traditionalism—IBM—to break the mold, and the rules, regarding a work from home policy. From the IBM website, on a page titled "Employee Well-Being":
"As IBM continues to transform and expand into global markets, we have evolved from a product and manufacturing-centric employee base to a more dynamic, customer-centric mobile workforce. Currently 40 percent of IBM employees work remotely, either from home or at a client site."
Since 2011, when IBM began making changes to its policies—and its stodgy "Big Blue" image—IBM's stock price has grown 34%. Granted, it's growth that's not totally due to a progressive telecommuting policy to be sure, but the correlation is at least noteworthy.
In his book, Miller references one of the components that has made working virtually much more realistic than 5 or 10 years ago—SaaS (Software As A Service) technologies (also sometimes referred to as cloud services) that help a worker cut the cord to the office, but still remain connected to vital components of the business. Examples would be services like Dropbox for file access, eFax for sending and receiving faxes without a fax machine, and eVoice to manage call routing and answering.
3 Work from Home Myths Busted
Amex OPEN Forum recently addressed the misperceptions work from home professionals encounter on a daily basis with its "3 Work from Home Myths Busted." Here they are, in the order presented in the article.
Myth 1: Offices are the most productive work environments.
"Thanks to technology, it's not as necessary as it once was to always be together physically in the same office."
Myth 2: Productivity depends on in-person supervision
"The onus for productivity isn't on physical environs and monitors to observe employees; it's on the people that lead their staff by inspiration."
Myth 3: Traditional offices are more economical.
"Taken together, real estate, utilities, equipment, absenteeism and lost productivity can cost a business as much as $40,000 per employee each year."
The bottom line? Working from home can not only lead to greater productivity, it can result in happier, healthier employees as well. While some may consider "work from home" an oxymoron, there's increasingly greater support—and evidence—that, in the right environments, a work from home lifestyle can be both productive and profitable.
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