Gone are the days of the traditional office setting. Cubicles are being disassembled and email, smartphones, and cloud-based software solutions such as IWMS afford us the ability to work from virtually anywhere. While there is still much debate amongst workspace managers regarding the subject of telecommuting, many organizations are realizing the added value gained from offering their employees the opportunity to work from home. But what exactly is it that’s causing some managers to have reservations and are their concerns justified? What exactly are your teleworkers doing throughout their workday?
It Takes The Right Kind of Person to Work Remotely
Like many, you probably see yourself in your pajamas all day when envisioning working from home. The laundry is done before the weekend hits and you can spend your lunch break catching up on your favorite TV show. Your friends call for a quick chat or drop by unexpectedly, just to say “hi.” The reality is, many of these things can and DO happen. In fact, a recent survey taken of the IT consulting company Citrix revealed that “43 percent of workers say they’ve watched TV or a movie while ‘working’ remotely, while 35 percent have done household chores, and 28 percent have cooked dinner.” Further studies, however, support remote workers and their non-work related activities. A study performed by Stanford University revealed some interesting facts. Not only were those involved in the study more productive, they worked longer hours (no commute and fewer sick days) and, because of the opportunity to get household chores done while focusing on their work, many telecommuters indicated they were less likely to quit their jobs, leading to less turnover and higher profits for the company.
Stanford University’s experiment also supported the idea that telecommuting is not for everyone. “Not everyone in the experiment chose to continue telecommuting; they valued the daily interactions with their workmates more than they disliked their commutes or other downsides of going into the office every day.” Many thrive off the energy they get from coming in to the office, collaborating with their co-workers. If you are part of the workforce that embraces working remotely, it is up to you to remain disciplined enough to tell your friends it is not ok to stop by during working hours, not answer personal calls (just as you would if you were at the office) and limit your lunch break activities.
Working Remotely Means You Have to Work Harder to Stay Connected
Working in an office setting means you stay connected with the outside world. You hand-deliver that big project you’ve been working on, you converse with a co-worker by the coffee maker, and take part in important meetings. You are both seen AND heard. When working from home, you are no longer seen and you must work harder to ensure you are heard. In a sense, this means you and your work will be more carefully scrutinized. Assure both your colleagues and management that you are part of the team by making a point to send regular emails, set an impromptu lunch date with a co-worker, and seek out feedback on your work. Regardless of where you work, it is critical you maintain your status as an integral part of the team.
So, back to the subject of laundry and other household chores. There is nothing wrong with taking a break to fold laundry, go for a run, or spend your lunch hour soaking up some Vitamin D walking the dog. In fact, studies show that workers who take frequent mini-breaks are more productive. Recent statistics gathered by Dr. Donald E. Wetmore reveal that “the average person gets 1 interruption every 8 minutes, or approximately 7 an hour, or 50-60 per day. The average interruption takes 5 minutes, totaling about 4 hours or 50% of the average workday. 80% of those interruptions are typically rated as ‘little value’ or ‘no value’ creating approximately 3 hours of wasted time per day.”
As a rule, those working from home tend to be more focused, forgetting to take the time to even eat or take a restroom break. So, by taking frequent, meaningful breaks throughout the day, you’re left refreshed and focused, ensuring you don’t get burned out. Although we commute to an office each day, the iOffice staff brings our dogs to work. This gives us an opportunity to break throughout the day and we have found that spending time with our furry friends makes us happier, creating a more productive and creative outlook.
Striking a balance between your personal and professional lives often proves to be quite challenging when working from home. Lines become blurred and one carries over into the other. In a traditional office setting, you would keep your office and desk space clean, so why not take a few minutes to tidy up your home office? If your desk is situated in a space you inhabit regularly, such as the master bedroom, leaving a messy desk muddles the brain and makes it difficult to relax come quitting time. Keeping a clean space helps clear the mind, keeping those creative juices flowing.
The truth is, those that work from home typically work longer hours and are more productive. So take that lunch break to share a meal with friends or that much-needed dentist appointment. Just be sure your friends know it is not ok to drop by unexpectedly throughout the day, or call 3 times about your weekend plans. Set limits and boundaries and respect them. Remember, your employer has placed trust in you to deliver results; show them they made the correct decision.
The reality is that workforce dynamics are evolving at a rapid rate and it is up to employers to embrace these changes with new and innovative ideas. A recent TowersWatson report indicated that "more than 60% of employees are unsupported, detached or disengaged.” Productivity suffers and workers seek out new employment. By implementing new procedures such as telecommuting, organizations show trust in their workforce and face increased productivity and happier, healthier employees, saving billions of dollars in the process. So, by all means, take the time to go to the dentist in the middle of your workday. But remember the trust your employer is putting in you and reward that trust with dedication and hard work.