Should companies allow their employees to work from home? This week that question has been asked and answered hundreds of times. The decision by Yahoo to bring all employees back to the office and eliminate working from home has made this the week’s hot topic.
As an employee who does work from home, I felt like I have a right to weigh in on the issue. As a teacher working from home and teaching online courses to middle and high school students, I’m in a somewhat unique position. Working from home is not a situation that is appropriate for most teachers, and in fact, some districts even require their virtual school teachers to report to a physical office on a daily basis. Honestly, I don’t see how they are able to function under those conditions. Our students work at a variety of locations and at many different times. I can’t imagine how they possibly meet their students’ needs working such a rigid schedule.
I do believe it’s the employer’s right to set the work conditions for their employees; however, I feel there are many benefits to both employee and employer when employees work from home. The top reasons working from home is good for employees and employers:
1. Flexibility. Employees can schedule appointments during traditional work hours. They can meet the plumber or electrician without taking time off. This is also beneficial to the employer. Not all work needs to be or can be done between 9:00-5:00 or the company’s office hours. Allowing employees to start the day early, take a break to take care of personal business, and then work again in the late afternoon or evening makes sense for employers as well as employees. I start working at 7:00am (or earlier) and rarely finish before 8:00pm, but I don’t claim to work 13 hour days (at least not on a regular basis). Instead, I have the flexibility to work 3-5 hours in the morning and then to work another 3-5 hours later in the day. Every day’s schedule is different and my work schedule matches the needs of my students on any particular day. Of course, on other days I work straight through. If the work is accomplished it shouldn’t matter if it’s done during traditional office hours or on a more flexible schedule.
2. Time saving. Eliminating the drive to work, checking the office mailbox, starting up the computer and other equipment needed for the day and then powering down, checking the mailbox in the afternoon, and the drive home provides approximately an extra hour of work time each day. No commute – 30-40 minutes saved; no wasted time chit chatting in the mailroom – 10-15minuts; computer and equipment start up during breakfast – 10 minutes. This is free time for my employer. It’s extra time I work instead of just preparing to work. And I work without distractions so I’m more productive during the day.
3. Better health. It’s easier to eat healthy food at both breakfast (not as much rushing in the morning) and lunch when at home. In addition, I can workout while I work. Using a treadmill desk has made it possible for me to walk while talking on the phone or even while grading student work. There’s also little need to miss work due to illness. First, I’m not exposed to as many germs in my own house so I’m not as likely to get sick, but even if I wake up feeling under the weather, I can still work. I know I won’t be exposing co-workers or students to my illness, and I can take a break to make a bowl of chicken soup in the middle of the day while I get a second wind so I can finish the day.
4. Money Saving. No commute means a significant reduction in the cost of gas and I haven’t bought work clothes for two years, but my employer is the one who really saves money by allowing me to work at home. They don’t pay for an office space for me and I use my own computer and printer, my own Internet connection, and my own telephone. (I’ve bought a new computer, new telephone, and the treadmill desk…on second thought maybe it would be cheaper for me to work on site.)
5. Improves moral. It feels great to know that I’m trusted to make my schedule and meet my responsibilities without someone constantly looking over my shoulder telling me what to do. When employees are less stressed and feel valued, they’re happier and happier employees are good for the employer.
If the telecommuting employees at Yahoo are not meeting expectations then they should be reassigned to the office, but it’s hard to believe that none of those working from home are working satisfactorily. This looks like a big loss not only for the employees but for the company as well. Disgruntled workers are not as productive. I hope this doesn’t start a trend.