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Guest Post from Allison Rice
Are employees more productive in an office setting, where they are interacting with their co-workers, directly supervised by their boss, and counting the hours, minutes and seconds until they can join thousands of other commuters slogging through traffic jams to get home for the evening?
Or do employees get more done when they work from within the friendly walls of their own homes (and possibly trying to ignore distractions from noisy children, overly talkative spouses or attention-starved pets, and fighting the urge to take a long walk in the sun, watch a few innings of a baseball game or squeeze in a half-hour nap on the couch)?
The number of telecommuters in the world has soared in the past decade, but the trend toward having fewer people in the office might be turning around. In February, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer announced that her employees no longer would be able to work remotely, and, less than a month later, Best Buy decided to follow suit. Will other companies large and small adopt the same attitude?
If you’re currently working at home, let’s consider the reasons an employer might decide to call you back in:
- Teamwork – Having all employees at the office encourages camaraderie.
- Exchanging ideas – Employees who are in the office will interact with one another, talk about challenges and issues and discuss ways to accomplish the company’s goals. They are less likely to communicate with each other if they aren’t even in the same building.
- Eliminating distractions – There are distractions at home that don’t arise at the office. An employee’s children or spouse might be at home, pets might be demanding attention or repairmen might be dropping by to do some much-needed work on the house.
- Eliminating temptation – No matter how dedicated employees are, they might be tempted to take some time off during the work day. Maybe the weather is so beautiful that they can’t resist spending the day outdoors, or possibly the kids have a soccer game in the middle of the afternoon. Who’s going to know if they’re gone for an hour or two?
On the other hand, there are some excellent reasons to allow employees to telecommute:
- Saving money – Fewer employees in the office means lower overhead costs – office space, furniture, equipment and supplies – for the employer.
- Better employees – Employers can choose from a larger pool of applicants if they don’t restrict themselves to hiring locally. Employees who never have to come into the office can live 50 miles away or 1,000 miles away; it doesn’t matter.
- No more sick leave – Office employees who have the flu or some other communicable condition might stay home just to keep from spreading germs to their fellow workers. People who work from home aren’t faced with that decision.
- Fringe benefits – The chance to work remotely, now a significant perk, helps companies attract and retain top-notch employees.
If you are already working at home and want to continue, the recent decisions by Yahoo and Best Buy might be cause for concern. Be proactive and emphasize the reasons that telecommuting is best for yours and your company’s situation.
Here are some habits you should develop to make sure your boss considers you to be a valuable employee, even if he or she doesn’t interact with you in person every workday.
- Set a regular schedule for yourself. Make sure you are at your desk working during the same time period every day, from 9 a. m. to 5 p.m., for example. Since you don’t have to commute, you might want to make that from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Your boss might come in early and leave late.
- If you have to be away from your desk for a long period of time during the day – for a doctor’s appointment or something similar – let your supervisor know that you’ll be gone.
- Do your online shopping and other personal business with your own computer on your own time. If you are connected to the Internet on a company owned computer through the company’s server, your supervisor has the right to see which websites you’ve been visiting.
- Check in with someone in the office at least once a day and maybe more often. You want your boss to know that you’re working and not spending the day at the beach. It’s a good idea to use conferencing software such as Skype to talk with your co-workers and your boss about the details of projects you are working on.
Having the opportunity to work from home can be a wonderful opportunity that allows you to balance your schedule, depending on how you handle the situation. If you are a disciplined, dedicated employee, there’s no reason why you can’t make it work.
Allison Rice is the Marketing Director for Amsterdam Printing, a leading provider of custom promotional pens and other promotional products to grow your business and thank customers. Allison regularly contributes to the Promo & Marketing Wall blog, where she provides actionable business tips.