Why flexible working from home is awesome and why more employers should offer it

More and more, technology is allowing many of us to do our jobs from home – or at the very least, telecommute on occasion. I am fortunate enough to be one of those lucky few that can work from home once in awhile as much of the software that I use is web based, and due to the wonderful fact that I can log in to my work computer remotely. While, it hasn’t quite got to the point of working from a SUP camp in Costa Rica, I haven’t given up hope.

Lately, with my freelance business growing the way that it is, along with my martial arts training, I’ve been thinking that if I could spend even more time working from home, it would really amp up my productivity in all areas. It would also help to provide some of the work life balance I’ve been missing lately.

To give an example of how this can work to everyone’s advantage,  I’ll tell you a bit about the last time that I worked from home. I was suffering with a migraine. Had I been at the office, I would have just suffered through. I would have looked at my phone, made idle chit chat with co-workers, and I would have spent some time starring at my computer screen trying to look busy because frankly that’s all I would have been capable of doing at the time. But working from home, the story goes a little bit differently. I got up and took a hot shower – felt better and got back to work.

Which scenario sounds more productive to you?

But if you require more objective evidence that more employers should offer flexible work arrangements, then consider some of the proven benefits to both employees and employers.

Benefits for the employer

  • Working at your own pace, without distractions like office gossip is more productive. A recent study conducted by Stanford University found that not only did the majority of employees not slack off while working from home, their productivity level actually increased by 13%.
  • It allows employers to recruit from anywhere. Since distance is no longer a barrier, employers can recruit the best and brightest no matter where they happen to be located. Looking at my list of clients that I freelance for, none of them are in London. The closest is Tillsonburg followed by Burlington and Toronto. I’ve also done work for clients in the United States, England, Germany and Australia. This simply wouldn’t have been possible if I had had to meet each one in person.
  • It encourages creativity. Let’s face it, looking at the same four cubicle walls day in and day out doesn’t provide a lot of inspiration. But when you stop segmenting “work life” and “real life” – when you’re not constantly weighing whether you are on or off the clock, it allows you to have more inspired ideas for the benefit of your employer whether your at your home office, your local Starbucks or on a tropical beach somewhere.
  • It’s cutting  edge. Despite the advantages of being able to work from home or on a flexible schedule, very few companies actually offer it. The idea came into the spotlight again about a year ago when Richard Branson announced that Virgin employees would now reap the advantages of this model – Branson even goes as far to offer unlimited vacation provided employees get their work done. But this didn’t originate with Virgin. Branson got the idea from Netflix.  That’s not to say that Virgin and Netflix employees can do whatever they like – they operate on a principle called Results Only Work Environments or ROWEs. Cali Ressler, co-author of “Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It” emphasizes that companies should be looking at the results that employees produce and not the face time. The fact that only a select handful of employers actually offer this type of arrangement can give those employers a distinct advantage – allowing them to attract and retain the best talent.

Advantages to the employee

Clearly not every job is suited to working from home or working on a flexible schedule. Retail and dining establishments come to mind. According to research from Global Workplace Analytics, the average employee who is permitted to work from home at least 50% of the time is 49 years old, has a college degree and works in a non-union, salaried, management or professional role. Over 75% of these earn at least $65,000 a year.

But those lucky few who can work from home and on flexible schedules tend to be happier and healthier because they have a greater work-life balance. Research from Penn State University also shows that these workers get an average of 8 additional minutes of sleep each night and have better sleep quality than those who must go into the office every day.

Employees who work from home may also feel more freedom to get up and move around once in awhile. Taking a five minute movement break every 25 minutes may well help them avoid certain health problems later on in life.

All this isn’t to say that working on a flexible schedule doesn’t have some drawbacks. It turns out that out of sight can sometimes also mean out of mind. And it’s not uncommon for work from home employees to be overlooked for promotion. But for the 36% of us who would choose working from home over a pay raise, the other cumulative benefits may well be worth it.

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