Employees Who Work From Home Are Happiest, Most Productive
The idea of an open office plan sounds appealing — no barriers between employees, which results in better collaboration, more connectedness through socialization and lower building costs since you don’t to pay for a lot of extra walls and doors (or cubicle dividers).
But there’s one problem, and it’s a big one — employees hate it. In fact, the open office plan, according to a Harvard Business School study, drastically reduces teamwork and interaction.
The study found that teamwork decreased by 73 percent in an open office plan, and the amount of time spent emailing and instant messaging co-workers increased by 67 percent and 75 percent, respectively. It turns out that employees like their privacy. They prefer to communicate one on one.
A study by the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that employees prefer their own private office by a 2-to-1 ratio over any other option. Second is a private office shared by just two or three co-workers. (The open office plan did rank just slightly ahead of the cubicle farm.)
But before you begin building walls, there is another option that has ranked high in several studies for increased productivity, fewer sick days and lower building costs — letting employees work from home.
As an employer, your first thought is probably, “Yeah, right, if I let them work from home they’ll sleep until noon, watch TV all afternoon and I’ll never get any work out of them.” Well, your first thought is wrong.
Numerous studies have found that working from home has actually increased production. One two-year study of a Singapore company found that employees working from home produced as much in four days as employees who came to the office did in five days.
A big factor in the increased productivity is the employees’ mental state. They are 33 percent more likely to feel engaged in their work than in-office employees. Because they’re not engaging in social chit-chat and attending often pointless meetings, they also are able to concentrate more on their work. Plus, since they’re already doing much of their communication via email and texts, they still feel connected to their co-workers.
Other experiments have shown that focusing on the employees’ production rather than the number of hours they work makes them more task-focused, especially if the reward is a three-day weekend.
Working from home also decreases the amount of productivity lost to sick days. For starters, the sick employee isn’t spreading germs to co-workers, leading in a domino effect of losing people to illness.
But employees who have a mild illness that might keep them out of the office often are still willing to do some work if they can do it in sweatpants while lying on their couch.
Some employees are even willing to take a small pay cut in exchange for working at home, which creates a win-win situation for employer and employee. The employer saves on payroll, and the employee saves in commuting and wardrobe costs.
Probably the biggest plus of all is that employees who work from home are happier, which means they’re willing to stay with the company longer.
Replacing an employee, especially a veteran employee, can be costly. Various studies have shown that it might cost as much as two years of the employee’s salary to train a replacement. And in today’s booming job market, finding a suitable replacement might require an employer to increase the salary. So, it makes sense to keep an existing, trained employee happy and employed with you for as long as possible.
Allowing employees to work from home might also help a company attract millennials, who prefer more flexibility in their work environment.
The idea of allowing employees to work from home might take some getting used to. It will probably require some shifting of job responsibilities, setting up reporting protocols and an assessment of just what constitutes productivity.
The practice obviously won’t work for every business, but it could mean a boost in productivity and a decrease in costs if implemented correctly. And what employer doesn’t want that?