Working from home is getting a bad rap.
Yahoo banned it, as did IBM. Some researchers even suggest that working outside the office has ill effects on one’s health.
I’ve worked from home for over 4 years. While I’ve certainly felt sporadic pangs of loneliness, it’s never negatively impacted my work performance. In fact, I believe the “social isolation” has actually helped me be even more productive, and better able to understand the outside world than if I worked in an office.
In fact, the flexibility to work from home is an enormous recruiting tool. Diebold executives have bragged about how hiring people outside of its Ohio headquarters helped improve its talent pool. And a whopping 67% of employers allowed people to work from home, according to a 2014 study from the Families and Work Institute.
Here’s how working remotely can be good for employees, and why employers should encourage it (at least from time to time).
Yes, working from home gets lonely. No, that’s not a bad thing.
If you’ve ever worked from home, you may think, “wait a minute. Working from home is awesome! I get stuff done in my pajamas and hang with my pets all day. How could it be bad for me?”
Let me explain. Working from home on a regular basis can get lonely without a social outlet.
Recently, several studies concluded that loneliness has the potential to be as bad for us as smoking, drinking and eating our favorite fast food three times a week. One study that was published in the Society for Personality and Social Psychology in January found lonely people are more likely to produce inflammatory compounds, which can in turn lead to heart disease and other chronic disorders.
Apparently loneliness has the potential to negatively affect businesses as well. A recent study on the UK workforce called “The Cost of Loneliness” claims social isolation costs employers approximately $3.1 billion in productivity loss due to impacts on employee health and overall wellness.
A productivity boost: Fewer colleagues and no commute
Imagine you didn’t have that long commute to and from the office every morning, and you only had to look presentable from the waist up (for video calls).
Suddenly it becomes very clear how remote workers could easily surpass office workers in terms of productivity.
According to a 2015 Stanford University study in which they monitored a Chinese travel agency’s employees for a year, the employees who worked from home had a 13% higher performance rate than the office employees. They were also more productive per minute, which researchers believe was due to less external distractions, fewer breaks, and fewer sick days. Take that, “Cost of Loneliness” report!
You’ll end up getting a better night’s sleep
Anyone over 25 knows how important sleep is for staying focused at work. A study that was published in the Sleep Health journal chronicled the sleeping habits of 500 workers, and found the ones with more flexible work schedules and atmospheres slept better overall. Having some control over where and how they work seems to make people feel more in control of their lives, which in turn results in sleeping more soundly.
Working remotely means less job stress and less family stress
Speaking of control, working from home on the regular seems to increase employees’ perceived autonomy and decreases overall job stress.
These beneficial effects seem to grow exponentially for “high-intensity remote workers,” aka people who work from home half the week or more.
A 2007 meta-analysis of 46 individual studies exhibited this as well as a lower rate of work-family conflict.
Some people are cut out for remote work
Here’s where that study at the top of this article comes back into play. Working from home has the potential to make your work (and home) life much better IF the setup suits you. Personally, I feel like I do better work from home, because there are less external distractions, and I feel free from office bureaucracy, but I’m a particular type of person.
A 2014 University of Calgary study found there are other types of people whose productivity is stunted by the work-from-home atmosphere. These may also be the people who are more negatively affected by the loneliness factor, which could in turn lead to the health problems stated above. If you’re someone who thrives off of constant face-to-face interaction, you’re probably not meant to be a remote worker.
Employers should, however, extend the work-from-home option to everyone.
Considering all the benefits above, employers would be wise to offer all their employees a remote work option. By giving some work-life control back to their employees, they’ll be getting the most out of the ones who thrive in such an environment. At the same time, all their employees will feel less stressed about needing to stay home with a sick kid, or waiting 8 hours for the plumber to show up, because they can still “clock in”. Life doesn’t usually work around a traditional work schedule, but, thanks to technology, most jobs can work around life.