Working from Home Does Raise Employee Engagement, if Done the Right Way
Much electronic ink has been spilled in the wake of Yahoo’s decision to force its employees to spend more time in the office, and we are guilty of joining the chorus of commentators. (See our take on the situation here.)
The big challenge about divining the benefits of work-at-home arrangements is striking the right balance between working at home and in the office. That balance will vary from job to job.
Evidence remains strong, however, that allowing a certain amount of work to be done at home does raise employee engagement, and therefore productivity.
Here is the latest article we have found on the topic, published on the Harvard Business Review blog.
The bottom line: How much work should be allowed offsite depends, but most employees could benefit from being able to do some work at home, because working at home as a break from working in the office clearly has a positive impact on employee engagement. To quote from the article:
“One particularly interesting pattern popped out of the data: strongly positive comments from employees on the occasional days that they worked from home. Again and again, we saw people writing about how refreshing it was to be freed from office distractions and to have the opportunity to catch up on work. Participants felt that they made more progress when they worked from home. The reasons they cited included increased focus, greater creativity, saved time that would otherwise have been spent commuting, and feeling relaxed and comfortable.”
Note that the productivity benefit seemed to come from the change of pace that allows the employee to concentrate on more thoughtful tasks without the normal distractions of the office workplace.
Any manager or HR business partner tasked with figuring out how to strike a home/office work balance should start by examining the tasks of the particular job.
- Which tasks are best done in isolation?
- Which require collaboration?
- How much faster could individual tasks be done when distractions are removed temporarily?
- Are you trying to encourage more collaboration between teams, which requires interaction (this was the motive force behind Yahoo’s change in policy)?
We spend an increasing amount of our time with clients focused on engaging employees not just with their fellow workers, but with their jobs. Once we start nailing down “job DNA,” we find that employees can assess the requirements of the job honestly, and given the chance they will work with their managers to properly balance work-at-home time with work-in-the-office time.
We would stop viewing it as a “perk,” and change our mindset to using it as an engagement and productivity tool that has great benefit to the organization.
With that mindset, you can approach each job with the idea of finding out what balance of home vs office work would make the person in that job perform at a higher level.
Does this make sense to you? What has your experience been with working at home some or all of the time? Would you agree that the arrangement must vary by job? Would employees in positions that are deemed “highly collaborative” resent the fact that they receive fewer opportunities to work from home?