Just about everyone dreams of working from home, especially when you actually lose sleep over the thought of waking up to your day job. The reasons many of us can’t stand our jobs are manifold, but the majority of us have at least a couple – in fact, a Gallup poll this year revealed that just over half (52%) of all people dislike their job, and a further 18% are ‘actively disengaged’ from it.
That leaves only 30% of hard-working folk who actually give a rat’s about the place they spend most of their lives… yikes.
Alas, very few of us have the luxury of being able to storm out of the cubicle and never look back. Short of winning the lottery, working from home – either in a self-employed or salaried capacity – is often deemed to be a fairly rosy alternative if you’re lucky enough to pull it off.
Given that you’re an Untemplater reader, chances are you’ve given telecommuting some serious thought. Of course, we’ve got to be balanced here and point out that idle imagination is usually at odds with the reality of home working – it’s not all cocktails and lounge pants – but there’s a very good reason why more people should be working from home:
For the greater good.
Here’s a rundown of reasons why an increased number of telecommuters can have a massive, positive impact on the fabric of society.
Not surprisingly, people are happier working from the comfort of their own home rather than in a gray office under strips of fluorescent lighting. Although the survey is a little outdated, compare the 2007 finding by the WSJ that 70% of people allowed to work from home were satisfied with the company they work for with the Gallop figures mentioned in the first paragraph of this post – that’s almost entirely the opposite satisfaction level when you insist on employees showing up for their 9-to-5 in person.
If you’re an employer, at this stage you might be thinking ‘happy employees are great, but I’m not going to be very happy when everyone’s slacking off at home all day’. A fair concern, but a misplaced one.
Allow an employee to work from home and they’ll put in five to seven more hours per week than their counterparts in the office, according to the Monthly Labor Review. That’s not far from getting an extra day’s work out of your staff member for no extra cost.
Two factors explain why this is the case: for one, there’s a higher impetus for the home worker to prove they’re not slacking on the job, and therefore retain the privilege of telecommuting.
Secondly, they don’t tend to have any qualms about putting in the extra hours simply because they can; with commuting time cut out of the equation and a greater ability to schedule home commitments around working hours, an extra few hours at the desk is easier to achieve.
In a macro-economic sense, around $550 billion is lost annually in the US thanks to lost productivity. Just imagine how much we could recoup by getting hardworking employees into an environment in which they’re proven to be more productive.
“A-ha!” our hypothetical employer is now thinking. “All well and good, but how on earth is everyone going to work together effectively when they’re on the other side of the state?”
Again, fear not – according to Cisco, which were keen to get its employees working from home, 83% of employees stated that they were able to communicate and work with coworkers “the same as, if not better, than during on-site work”.
Of course, not every occupation lends itself to telecommuting but boundaries are increasingly being pushed back as technology such as Skype and cloud sharing enter new frontiers. It’s only going to get better from here.
One of the most obvious benefits – in a grander sense – to a workforce that largely works from home is the reduced carbon footprint.
By how much? Imagine taking every single one of NYC’s commuters off the roads. Yep, that’s the scale of which we’re talking – a 51 million metric ton reduction in carbon emissions, and that’s just by everyone telecommuting half of the time.
Couple this with the fact that we’d have to replace road infrastructure and vehicles less often, it’s a change which would not only do the atmosphere a whole world of good but it’d also reduce national and personal spending at the same time.
Throw in the added benefit of reduced traffic jams and you’ve got a total win-win for everybody.
Another very tangible effect of companies open to telecommuting is that it opens up the potential work pool. If you’re hiring in Chicago for a data analyst, you’re not likely to have a gifted mind from Albuquerque physically walk through the door.
And while shedding the traditional approach to hiring and rolling with the times makes a hiring manager’s job way easier, it’s also great for the country as a whole. Without naming individual cities, there are numerous areas filled with highly skilled people yet the job situation is so dire they often resort to cash loans in order to make ends meet. While there’s no shame in that, it is undeniably backwards that geographical location should prevent great people hooking up with great jobs in this day and age.
Over To You
This all said, however, there are a number of downsides to working from home – both on a personal and economic level – that we’ve not had space to cover (although they’re arguably never going to topple the positive arguments to increased telecommuting). Are you an employer that has a strong policy on letting workers operate from home? Do you regularly telecommute yourself? Do let us know your thoughts in the comments below.