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Recently there was a memo from Yahoo CEO that in no uncertain terms talked about the importance of physical presence in Yahoo offices. What it implied is that work-from-home option is off and move your sorry asses back to your desks. Apparently, physical presence is somehow correlated with efficiency at work. The premise is faulty to say the least. This is not a biased opinion of someone who works from home day in and day out and I mean professionally. Because I anyway slog my butt off working at my home that does not even count as productive work in India. That is another story altogether.

So, I decided to think a little in depth about what work from home actually means. Somehow, Corporates feel that they are doing a favor by letting the employee work from home irrespective of the fact that the employee delivers the work as per deadline and attends to any conference calls etc. even in clearly off office hours. When most people are told that you work from home, they think that you dress in your pajamas (okay, they are not wrong there :)), put your feet up and while away your time at the computer on social media networks.

Nice fantasy! The truth is far from it. When a person works from home, discipline is of utmost importance. If you don’t schedule your work, you will end up messing up a lot of things including deadlines. So, your productivity if anything is heightened. You become a better planner. And yes, you don’t need to be physically present even in office spaces. Don’t most of us work with international clients without seeing them sometimes ever in our life. Skype, conference call, whatever you want to call it, every person is now just a flick of a button away. And there are enough examples of people sticking around to show the boss or taking tea and coffee and social media breaks while at work on their office desks.

Now let us look at the advantages. You cut tremendous hours in commuting for your employees when you allow them to work out of their homes not to mention save on company’s infrastructure and resource costs. A person working out of home is using their own electricity/ computer/laptop/ internet and space. You get the benefit of a stress-free employee who enjoys flexitimes to cater to specific needs or chores that could range from caregiving for sick parent/partner to young kids.  An employee who will be in a pretty bad shape of mind if forced to come and work from office.

Think about it! And what happens to the millions of women who drop out of the workforce in India each year to raise families. A report says that in 2009-2010, a staggering 57% of women with graduate and post graduate degrees were taking care of domestic duties only. At a time when organizations struggle with talent crunch, experienced talented women dropping out of workforce because they simply cannot afford to go to office is very sad and hurtful to the economy. Companies have to actively engage this resource in order to increase their own productivity.

Finally, freelancers like me would just not be able to work if we did not have work-from-home options. It is true that in individual jobs like that of a Content Writer or an IT professional working on solo projects, it is easier to work in isolation. It would certainly not be possible for a Sales professional or a doctor to do so. But, that said, technology must also be kept in mind. These days when one can study online and work globally sitting at home, there is no reason why most companies should not adopt this option wholeheartedly and at least offer it to some employees. It could be a judicious mix of both working in office and from home but this option is definitely there to stay.

Also don’t you think that work-life balance is the responsibility of both the company and the individual? We have only one life to live. And we can at least try to do justice to both our roles. Corporates can help us achieve that while not compromising their own bottomlines. As much as we try to turn a blind eye to it, raising a family and burnout are serious issues that need to be addressed. An individual can’t possibly leave out personal worries when reporting to work. And one way of alleviating some stress is by giving a flexitime option in terms of work from home.

I think it is a win-win situation and would also help in decongesting some of our cities.

What do you think of work-from-home option?

Pic courtesy: Freedigitalphotos.net

Comments

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64 Thoughts on “Does work-from-home hamper work productivity?

  1. Spot on, Rachna. The key is discipline and preparedness. The benefits are huge. For people contemplating WFH, it helps to have a solid contingency plan in place. Stuff like power backup, a second internet service provider, basic troubleshooting training for computers, and willingness to bend hours to accommodate those who do not respect your working hours.

    • True Subhorup! Of course, people who want to go for this option must have a contingency plan for power backup, internet service provider etc. as you rightly pointed out. As far as bending hours is concerned, sure sometimes when it is very urgent work, one does accommodate. But, it must not become a norm. At least that is how I work.

  2. Nice thoughts here Rachna but in corporate world a healthy balance between work from home and in office presence are the only way to best achieve the desired results as some work areas do need physical interaction and we are still far away in terms of IT realities in work from home,

    • Thank you Rahul! At least those in the IT field or with work profiles that can incorporate work from home must actively explore this option. They will also get loyalty from the employees and less turnover problems. Of course, there are some work areas where WFH just does not work especially team-oriented tasks and positions. But even these people can sometimes WFH. It is all about a mindset.

  3. As you said, there are pros and cons to it. It’s a total misconception that there won’t be much to do. If you are WFH, you have to be present in front of the computer all the time. You step away for a break, there is a guilt that creeps in, OMG! What do I say when my boss pings me and I’m not there? And in fact one does more work at home than working in an office. There are many who mis-use wfh option too..My darling used to wfh and she would be working more than the regular 8 hours. Many men think that wfh is not really working at all. They count your daily chores and domestic work in your wfh…give me a break!! I would any day prefer to go and work in an office as I can wind up in a time tabled frame..:P

    • Latha my point is about productivity. Sitting in front of the computer and doing useless activities or chit chatting with colleagues does not imply productivity. The same applies to someone wfh. The biggest advantage when you work from home is that you can schedule your work and other activities and of course save chunks of time in the commute. It is not only women but men who are actively using WFH even in India. And as far as preference is concerned, every organization must be willing to offer this depending upon your work profile.

  4. You have summed it up very nicely Rachna and I am all for it. The commuting time is saved. if you are travelling in your own vehicle ‘petrol’ is saved and so on. But then this option is suitable for some fields. For others like production engineers and all they have to be physically present.
    WFH I feel is the best option atleast for mothers, provided kids allow them to work at home 🙂

    • Totally agree with you Bhagyashree. WFH has its own pros and cons. My post was about productivity, and I don’t think being physically present in workplace in any way enhances productivity.

  5. In fact, I would say that work-from-home option is the best because more work gets done. There are no idle gossip sessions during coffee-breaks, no extended lunch breaks. No harassment from superiors and sex-starved colleagues and no commuting hassles. A lot of time can be saved and perhaps the work that gets done in three days in a regular office gets done in a day and a half at home.

    Ah, forgot to mention, the time one takes for dressing up 😉

    All said and done, working in an office also has its advantages like socialising, getting a breather from home, enjoying good coffee and chats (the talking ones) and of course the office togetherness.

    Joy always,
    Susan

    • You have pretty much covered all Susan, Yes the socialization part is definitely a big plus when one goes to office and sometimes one does need to get away from home too.

  6. Yes Rachna, I totally agree with you that working from home is more productive and rewarding,specially for women. There are many advantages of WFH (1)they can plan their household work more methodically.(2)They save on transport, domestic servants,clothingand cosmetics.(3) They remain away from critical situations in office.

  7. Rachna, I would say it depends on your situation. Since I don’t have much work to do at home (as in looking after a family etc.) working from home tends to be a little boring for me. I like to get out of the house, interact with colleagues and I feel I work better in a formal work environment. I rarely work from home even thought it would mean saving on an hour long commute!
    But WFH is a boon if you are trying to balance work and home. The key as you say is to be disciplined and plan your work efficiently. I have people in my team working from home and I think they work better that way because their minds are at ease re. the home front. (One is trying to look after an ailing parent and the other has a small baby)

    • Completely agree Ruchira! It is all about your situation. Mostly young parents or those with sick or ailing relatives will opt for it. For them it is not frivolous whiling away of time but flexitime that is an issud. That is why productivity should not be an issue at all. I feel it is an option that companies must seriously explore especially in today’s times.

  8. jahidakhtar on March 7, 2013 at 1:12 pm said:

    Work from home is really a good option but should be limited. Some people usually take advantage and the productivity would go down. Also it depends on the kind of work.As far as the software industry is concerned, the turn around time definitely increases.

    Regards,
    Jahid
    Flashbacks

    • I agree with your first point that WFH can be used in a limited depending upon a person’s role and job. But disagree with the second premise. IT industry is the most proactive with respect to offering WFH and very stringent on deadlines. I personally know of people including my own husband who will stay up nights but deliver on time. So productivity is not an issue.

  9. Well ya there are certain fields where being in office is important but wherever possible, work from home should be there. and btw, the pajamas bit is so true and that’s a big advantage… there is no worry of going through the wardrobe in the morning and saying to hubby “mere paas to kuch bhi nahin hai pehnene ke liye” 🙂

  10. Right now I will give anything to save the amount I spend travelling. It takes away all my spare time. 🙁
    There are a lot of companies that have started providing the work from home option but people misuse it and that is where the problem starts. If people understand that it will help them in the long run and be responsible, we can save truck load of resources.

    • Actually Amit some places people misuse it and in other places organizations do not have good policies in place to monitor productive work. You cannot tell me that once people enter office, all they do is work. On the contrary, there is so much waste of time and lack of productivity at workplaces that it is a huge drain. But the premise is that WFH means having fun or wasting time both of which untrue for most who opt for it. Glad that you said that you would want to save on commute. Most people it seems love struggling with traffic and rigid routines.

  11. Work from home is certainly a win-win situation for both the parties. Yes, you need to be more methodical and disciplined!

  12. Yahoo CEO gives a reason for taking this step and that is their competitors were doing great, the employees had gone in their easy and comfy zone and most of them were running side business of their own.. hence the work was suffering. May be true!!

    In India most of the companies do not encourage work from home because they do not trust their employees. The managers feel they will not be able to keep an eye on their team if they worked from home. And until you have a defined set of work, its difficult to monitor the amount of work each one has delivered. I work for the biggest telecom MNC and I see the mistrust almost everyday.

    But I strongly believe work from home should be brought in. The person has to deliver, give him/her work, the company should ensure better ways of checking this. In return, the plus of staying at home are so many, you save on cost to company as well as commutation time. Also for females, its being with your child, managing domestic chores and delivering your talent.

    • Agree Manjulika, I read her reasons and perhaps for her company they were justified. The fault lay with them that they allowed employees to get away with unproductivity which these folks would have indulged in even at their workplaces. You brought the very important trust factor. Somehow, in India still employees are treated as little children who will be responsible only if in front of their boss’s eyes. Some bosses still expect their teams to stick around even if no work is there. If you leave early despite completing your work everyday, it still counts negatively. These mindsets also automatically assume that people just waste time at home. Like you I believe too that better ways of checking productivity are needed rather than forcing an employee with say a sick child or some other concern to come to workplace. Unless the mindset to see it as a beneficial tool comes in companies will continue to arm twist their employees to come to offices despite many just leaving them.

  13. In general I agree with you. But 2 points I must raise here – one general and one personal.

    1. When you are not going to office, you begin to feel disconnected from the company. For freelancers it is fine. But people building careers with companies need to feel connected with the company or they turn too mercenary. This becomes worst of both worlds for the companies. They need to unnecessarily pay for infrastructure, facilities, health insurance, vacation, maternity and what not while employee does not develop any bonding/loyalty to the company. In that sense giving work to freelancers is a much better option that giving employees work from home. This is one of the reasons many consulting companies have culture of asking everyone to come to base offices on Fridays even though all the work happens on the client site.

    2. I person start taking things too easy when I am at home. In my entire career I have done only 4-5 days work from home. (For long I have been working without bosses. So I can go to work or work from home as I please). But these 4-5 days hardly anything got done. But that may be just me.

    • 1. And you may be right. So, in which case having a mix of WFH and physical presence can be worked out. No one formula is sacrosanct. It may be modified as per individual companies as well as employees. What is more important is the right way of measuring productivity because you and I both know how much time people while away at offices. As a matter of fact, WFH is a great way to retain employees who may not get this at another company. It is all about being pro people which helps organizations undertake these initiatives. WFH does not need to be the only way but something that can be offered at certain times especially when an employee specifically asks for it.
      2. Well I cannot speak for you but I know a lot of people and many men who can work very efficiently from home. Some people do need a structured setup to perform optimally but others need the benefit of flexible timings to perform. WFH is a humane option especially when one is traveling a lot to reach the office and back and when one has extenuating circumstances at home.

      Companies need to be open to this idea as well as come up with better productivity measures both at workplaces and at homes. Coming back to my original point, there are pros and cons to both but those who opt for it do not allow flexitimes to come in the way of their productivity when they work from home.

  14. If Yahoo and other companies decide to pull back its work-from-home option, lack of flexibility is definitely going to create problems for the women employees..!!
    WFT is certainly a good option for both the parties…

    • Yahoo was crippled with some serious issues. Losing badly to Google, it had employees that really misused WFH and some of them even started their own ventures. That hurt them real bad. I don’t blame Yahoo CEO. My only concern is that it should not set a precedent for everyone else.

  15. well i believe its more of a subjective question wherein some people think that work from home reduces efficiency whereas on the other side, few professionals doubles their productivity while working from home and at the same time spend quality time with family!

  16. I agree with every single point you have made. Though, I do think that the poor CEO of Yahoo is getting unjustified criticism. I have been in situations where I have seen people misusing the WFH entitlement…it impacts productivity and team spirit…and presumably innovation at Yahoo.

    • I actually wasn’t intending to criticize her. Given the soup her company is in and how her employees exploited WFH, no one can blame her for banning it. My only apprehension is genuine workers could have been affected along with the bad seeds and that it does not set a bad precedent for others. I do agree with your view that some people do misuse the entitlement. And that must have checks and balances in place. But it really is an option worth exploring and this one problem should not make companies close their eyes on it.

  17. I think the work from home option depends upon the type of work you are in. If a person has to work remotely then work from home makes sense.

    I wrote a somewhat similar post a few months back mainly because people thought work from home meant I was just having a gala time.

    http://www.lazypineapple.com/2012/10/do-you-work-from-home.html

    • Very true, Vinita! It does depend upon the kind of job and one’s role as well. It does work better for those in solo roles. I remember your post on WFH. It was quite a delightful read.

  18. OCDs like me find working from home very troublesome. Like if I were in an office with set timings and i whiled away my time drinking tea and gossiping on or offline I felt no qualms about downing shutters at 6 PM or whenever the office closed shop officially. There was a brief period when due to some confidentiality issues I had to work from home. Boy! I felt guilty about every minute I took away from work for tea or meals or just a mite of relaxation and ended up working till 2 AM. That stint wooed me away from work from home 🙂

    For the Companies, however, work-from-home can be a big boon – provided it is such work as can be so done and they can set clear deadlines. If, indeed, they managed to do it as a matter of official policy, they can save a lot of real estate costs as well – smaller offices overall and all. The only problem is companies are a. too hidebound to accept change and b. too lazy to modify their systems and procedures to cater to a large proportion of their employees working from home.

    • True Suresh. And one of the sore points of working from home is the missing interaction and a space where one can leave home behind. Well you are a conscientious one. Apparently there are some who have no qualms in doing nothing when WFH giving a bad name to all that do it. As you have rightly pointed out, companies are often not open to change. But at least in Bangalore, we see WFH actively explored in some industries. For my content writing, I have never attended a single interview. So, things can be done online and over the phone if there is a will.

  19. I vote for work from home option

  20. Completely agree.. few days a month i work from home. But the next day my collegues look at me as if i am back from holidays !

  21. A coincidence, I must say…I wrote about the work-from-home option on my blog too, but it’s more of my experience shifting from the regular work-at-office situation.

    For people like me (workaholics & perfectionists), work from home or office doesn’t affect or compromise the quality of work or timelines. In fact, like you pointed out, the company only stands to gain, saving on its space & resources. For me, save the commuting time, it’s pretty much the same. And time for myself has perhaps become even more sparse, with having to fit in the duties at home too!

  22. insignia on March 9, 2013 at 1:03 pm said:

    I think its Oracle or EMC that has work from home once in a week. With technologies like internet, video conferencing and all that, WFH is a good option. But its definitely not equal to working from office. Advantages are many, work at your coziness of home, save real estate price of offices, utility, save commute blah blah blah. But productivity definitely drops.

    If I can hear someone say that I did better or equally good job as I would have done at office, I would definitely like to talk to them and hear their winning formula. You have so many distractions at home, and its home! you don’t take work seriously. Above all, meeting and discussing face to face can solve problems quickly. Last thing, I would feel uncomfortable anytime to ping or call a person who is working from home, I would still think that I’m intruding.

    • I don’t agree with your assessment of commitment or productivity when one works from home. I can work well from home and I know many men and women who can. Your point about pinging at home, why can’t you during office hours or other urgent time? It depends upon the individual’s circumstances and their role at work thst dictates their efficiency at WFH.

  23. Instead of calling people back to office, companied should seriously think on giving employees option for working from home. Look at the benefits:
    1. No petrol cost
    2. No traffic snarls
    3. Low infrastructure cost on the part of organisation
    4. Reduced operational cost
    5. No indulgence in office politics
    6. Higher employee satisfaction

  24. Working from home/flexi times maybe a choice for men but for most women (especially new Moms) it’s a compulsion. And if companies refuse to accept this work format, many women will be forced to leave their jobs.

    • Exactly Purba! And WFH is actively being used by new dads as well. Companies and people must recognize this very important aspect of women leaving jobs. This is a choice women should not have to make as the cost of raising families.

  25. I was a sales professional previously and we did work from home on certain days. Even otherwise, we go on trips to other cities and we work away from the offices anyway. The point is: When there is pressure to complete some work, there is no way that one can relax either when they are at home or when they are at offices. Only those people who don’t have much work can relax and while-away their time (they do this anywhere- home or office).

    I agree with the points you have mentioned and I strongly recommend work from home. All the technologies that are required for creating a private network (to work) right from home is already available.

    • I completely agree. When I have deadlines, I know I will deliver them even if I have to stay up at night and do it. That said, many people do misuse the option much to the detriment of those who use it sincerely.

  26. Very apt Rachna, working from home has always worked for me, and I totally believe that I work more efficiently when I’m working at home. I can develop a schedule which works for me. At times while working from home, our personal life might take a backseat. There are pros and cons of WFH for sure, but everyone cannot be happy & work successfully while working from home.

    • You are right, Momsters! There are pros and cons, but it works big time for sincere folks who are struggling for every minute in their lives and would rather not work if not given this option.

  27. Ooh, I couldn’t work from home… I need human company, lots of people around me… I’d go nuts sitting at home. I hardly ever take days off, for this reason.

    • :). I understand. When circumstances in life change and you have to take a call between not working and working from home, WFH starts looking appealing. And you find your socialization methods too :).

  28. I absolutely agree that it takes a lot of discipline to work from home and people who do it should be commended rather than questioned! Regarding the CEO’s rule, I think she’s living in the Dark Ages first of all. Second of all, I find it extremely hypocritical that she has a nursery for her child built next to her office while she deprives other parents from being with and taking care of their children! That will definitely not improve company morale!

    • Well what works for a person often is not considered for the employees. In her case, maybe she needed to take the step to pull Yahoo out of the huge mess, but perhaps it could have been in a better way.

  29. I have read most of the comments here.
    I have a different take,perhaps so by being from the old school.
    Work us office,ones desk,that environment,thst smell,thst formal dress.
    One ant be as efficient WFH.
    I know,most of you will disagree with me.

    • I know what you are talking about but time, priorities and way of working changes. Those who are committed will work productively even from home. My husband and I both do it, so I know that it can be done well. The will should be there.

  30. Sorry about spellings…..it happens when one writes while on the move

  31. Was waiting for the time to read this post Rachna!!! Spot on!!! LOVE this post. The times have changed–if women have to join workforce in full force without needed to compromise their family and their life, this is the way to go. I agree with you on the self discipline piece too–it is not easy to work from home when you dont have external motivating factors. Kudos for writing it!!!

    • Thank you so much Bhavana. You have summarized it beautifully. Around me in this community of over 300 families are brilliant, exceptionally qualified women –MBAs, dentists, Engineers, CAs and others who are young mothers and have given up their jobs with regret. There is a burning desire in them to work again but the time lag and responsibilities don’t allow them. What a significant waste of productive manpower and so much sadness at what could have been. If only companies could be sensitized more!

  32. I work from home on days there is a bandh or hartal. Here in Kerala, it happens at least once in 3-4 months. That’s another story altogether. But even on these days that I work from home, I find it hard to sit and work like I would do in office. I have no distractions at home, still. So may be it is a matter of discipline. 🙂 I don’t know how you juggle it all so well – but I keep saying that all the time, don’t I? 🙂

    • Sometimes, when the choice is between not working and WFH; the commitment comes in naturally. If I had a choice, I would wish to go and work in an office. No two ways there. But, being a mom, I have placed my children on very high priority. And WFH gives me an option to do what I love professionally yet the flexibility to handle my household responsibilities. I am extremely grateful for it and commitment then naturally flows. Besides if I don’t plan my work, it can get out of hand :). Thank you for your warm words, dear!

  33. Pingback: Start a new life... professionally - Rachna Says

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