In my opinion companies should consider having their employees work from home. This is not to say that all employees should work from home or should work from home all the time. Many, probably most, jobs are not practical to do from a home office but for desk jobs where employees spend most of their time behind a computer there can be some real benefits obtained from allowing them to work at least some of the time out of the office. There are many rewards and risks of these arangements and these should be evaluated before the decision can be made. I have listed some of the benefits and potential pitfalls of letting your employees work from home from an employers point of view.
- Supervision: Can the employee work without supervision? Are they skilled enough to get the work done and know where to to go for help? There has to be a high level of confidence on both sides before you can proceed.
- Fractured support network: If something goes wrong it may take longer for the problem to be fixed. This may require changes to the support system to assure that issues do not go unresolved or are not fixed in a timely matter. A key example is IT support. If something goes wrong with the network, the computer, or anything else it may require the employee to go into the office instead of tech support being onsite. In my case this never became an issue as I had very little go wrong and I lived close to the office.
- Increased costs: This will depend on the job and what equipment is needed. In my case I never vacated my original office and I just set up a second office in my home. My laptop was the only thing I carried between the two offices. I only worked in the office two afternoons a week but the company still thought it best that they keep my office intact and give me new equipment (which I returned when I moved back full time) for my home office. In my case the increased cost was minimal and was not much of a concern.
- Trust that work gets done: You have to be able to trust the employee to get the required work done as if they were still in the office. You will not want to let your employee work from home if there is not a way of monitoring work getting done. My work was transparent enough that my performance would not be able to slip without it being easily noticed by my supervisors.
- Potential Animosity: You may have to be selective as to which employees you can let work from home and which ones cannot. The positions that need to stay may be jealous and divisions may occur and morale may drop.
- Low cost reward: Many employees will value working from home. I know that if my employer allowed me to work from home indefinitely I would probably still be their employee. Lifestyle decisions are important to people and if people are happy with their work environment they are not likely to look for other work. Retaining good employees is a major benefit of letting people work from home.
- Increases morale: I was proud to be trusted with working from home. It created a stronger sense of ownership and perhaps more reason to have pride in my work.
- Increase in productivity: I wrote about this phenomenon in the blog Inefficiency of working in the office instead of working from home.
- Free up some office space: Maybe you have two employees who work half time in the office and half time at home and now can share one desk in the office. Office space is expensive and having home based employees may be a better option then having to expand the office.
There are so many different industries that would require their own criteria as to the risks and rewards of letting employees work from home. In my case I felt that the rewards greatly outweighed the risks from the employer’s point of view. The 14 months I worked from home was successful for both sides. While it was agreed that it worked well, the company was reluctant to set further precedence for a permanent work at home compant. It was a very large company and it would have been a large process to implement a company wide policy. I argued that it would be a great step to retain good employees (something that they were not doing a vey good job of) but they did not want to deal with the hundreds of interested employees. Now only if I was running the company…