Working from home, also known as telecommuting, is a growing trend in this country. According to 2017 data, the total number of U.S. workers (not including the self-employed and freelancers) working from home at least part time is more than 3.5 million. That’s a lot of people.
Moreover, the growth of telecommuting has been quite substantial in recent years. The total number of workers who telecommute at least for part time has grown 115% over the last decade. The number of employees offering work from home options has increased 40% in the last five years. Companies that offer at least part-time work from home are estimated to save a combined $44 billion annually.
Having said all of that, all that glitters is not gold. Allowing employees to work from home means taking them out of the more structured office environment and allowing them to work where they are significantly less structured. Dallas-based BenefitMall explains that it takes a concerted effort by both employers and employees to maximize work from home opportunities.
Establish Clear-Cut Goals
There are several things employers can do to get the most out of work from home programs. At the top of the list is establishing clear-cut goals. At-home workers need to know exactly what is expected of them on a given day. Otherwise, it is too easy to get distracted by things that have nothing to do with work.
Hand-in-hand with establishing goals is establishing a means of measuring whether or not they have been achieved. Measuring is easier in some environments than others. For example, consider a company that provides contracted telephone support. Their at-home workers login to a cloud-based application through which they do their work for the day. The software tracks their time and activities.
Encourage a Dedicated Workspace
Another thing that employers can do is encourage their at-home workers to create a dedicated workspace that is quiet and distraction-free. It’s okay to work on the living room couch if there are no other options but creating a dedicated space just for work establishes a clear line of delineation that can help prevent distractions.
There are tax advantages to doing this as well. People who have a particular space in their homes carved out exclusively for work can claim the value against their taxes. But that space has to be only for work. If it is also used for personal activities, tax benefits are lost.
One of the benefits of working from home is that electronic communications can be facilitated a lot more efficiently. Indeed, e-mail and text-based chat are wonderful things. However, face-to-face conversations or even better. Employers can enhance work from home programs by taking advantage of videoconferencing from time to time. Setting up video calls once per week can help quite a bit. Even daily video calls are not necessarily a bad thing.
Require Regular Office Visits
Finally, employers should require their at-home workers to visit the office on a regular basis. Frequency depends on geographic location. For example, workers who live in the same town as their employers can visit the office every week or so. Those who live in another state or across the country might be limited to a couple of times per year. In either case, visiting the office keeps at-home workers more plugged in.
It is clear that work from home is a growing trend. The key to making it work is to understand human tendencies. When policies are put in place to maximize those tendencies, work at home is mutually beneficial.