Ever since Marissa Mayer nixed Yahoo's work from home policy in 2013, executives and managers have been grappling with the balance between accommodating employees' personal schedules and lifestyle demands with organizational management and productivity concerns.
Working from home is still seen as a big perk for many employees: commuting to work in your slippers and bathrobe and having lunch at home definitely have some perks. However, many employees are seeing real and significant downsides. First of all, the lack of separation between work and home creates challenges. Many work-from-home employees say they work later in the day and more hours overall. They also find that work time at home is less focused and home time is often interrupted by work. The lack of separation means that each world bleeds into the other which causes problems.
Some employers are bringing back office hours and work-from-work policies. And many employees are glad. Here are some of the reasons why.
1. Greater separation between work and home life
While some employees can create good routines and structures to keep work and home separated, the majority cannot. While few people would suggest they like their commute, it does create a physical and psychological separation between the two worlds and allows people to transition mentally, effectively keeping a healthy space between home and work.
2. More focused work environment
Creating a focused environment is difficult and working from home can present distractions. The recent viral video of Prof Robert Kelly doing a newscast with the BBC when his two toddlers inadvertently come into the room behind him shows the awkward situations that can occur. While the office has it's own set of distractions, it can be more easily optimized for work activities.
3. Better tools and resources
For folks that love tinkering and troubleshooting wireless printers, work-from-home can be fun. But for those who don't want to be their own tech support team, working from home can be a challenge. Taking computers to be fixed, waiting for technicians to arrive and install equipment, sitting on hold for hours trying to troubleshoot modems can be a nightmare. Having a professional staff to maintain infrastructure keeps employees focused on value-add work.
4.More face-to-face communication with coworkers
Even though most people are aware that the majority of communication is nonverbal and typing can be slow and difficult, work-from-home employees do most of their communication via email, text, and messenger. This means that not only is the communication quality poor but it's also slow. Working together in the office means you have a much better chance of meeting face-to-face with your colleagues and avoiding miscommunications and delays.
5. Higher levels of team collaboration
A recent HBR study showed that the nature of work has been changing over the last two decades and that more and more employees are engaged in highly collaborative tasks. While video conferencing services and collaborative documents have improved tremendously, they still don't compare to being in the same room with stickies and a whiteboard. Collocated teams can get more done, faster.
6. Strong sense of culture and community
Many work-from-home employees find that while the flexibility and avoidance of a commute is great, they begin to go stir crazy after a while. Especially for extroverts, working from home can be a prison sentence, but even introverts are social creatures, and we all need interpersonal interaction to keep us engaged and stimulated. Phone and video calls don't make up for in-person, face-to-face time. Furthermore, many people end up getting out of the house to work at coffee shops or co-working spaces, but, at some level, this defeats the point of working from home in the first place.
Companies who are trying to build a strong company culture and team morale have learned that having regular office hours and being collated is core to their objectives. Often, the desire to work from home stemmed from toxic work environments, so rather than creating work-from-home policies, companies should focus on developing productive, engaging work environments and cultures.
While some time working outside of the office is needed to give people flexibility to live their lives, making work-from-home your core policy comes at a high price for both the company and the employee.