Trading Suits for Slippers: The Work from Home Debate

Call it the twenty-first century dream: you wake up, grab a coffee, and step into your home office to start your workday. There’s no need to iron that dress shirt.

For many employees, this dream is becoming a reality. But is working from home the ideal solution it’s sometimes perceived to be? It’s a complex debate for employers and employees. Understanding the practice’s advantages and disadvantages is key to its successful implementation into a workplace or to deciding if it’s a good fit for both sides.

For employers, allowing employees to work from home can result in increased job satisfaction and lower turnover. Management shows workers that it trusts and respects their ability to manage their time and workloads. Employees working from home often work longer hours with less distractions than those who work in the office, achieving greater productivity. Finally, a smaller workforce in the office creates fewer overhead costs.

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Happier, hard-working employees. Less costs. Why wouldn’t every company embrace the practice?

Employees working off-site can pose serious challenges for employers. It can be difficult to identify human resource problems and to track issues with vendors or clients. Managers must make more effort to ensure employees are up to date with changes in strategy and practice. Finally, it can be difficult for employers to build and to maintain trust. If off-site employees are not communicating regularly and honestly, employers are at serious risk.

It is difficult for employees to see past working from home’s advantages. They enjoy the flexibility to work around other responsibilities, like children, and save commuting costs. However, the convenience of a home office is double-edged. It can be hard to determine when a workday begins and ends. It’s easy to fall out of the loop with managers and coworkers, and to be left feeling unconnected and underappreciated. Those water cooler conversations that begin with House of Cards sometimes lead to discussion of new ideas and best practices.

Employers and employees need to be realistic about the challenges and opportunities of working from home if it’s going to work.

Tips for Employers

  • Implement regular meetings to ensure employees follow best practices and work toward company goals.
  • Utilize inclusive technology; for example, file sharing programs like Google Drive, Dropbox, or a custom cloud solution allow multiple employees to work on a single project.
  • Propose video conferences to make employees feel more connected.

Tips for Employees

  • Make the effort to stay in touch, whether it’s a daily check-in or using an instant messenger to connect with coworkers throughout the day.
  • Turn off the computer after eight hours. Getting burned out can quickly take the glamour out of working from home.
  • Separate work life from home life. Make a space just for work, minimize distractions, and ditch that bathrobe and get dressed like you’re going to the office!

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