Working from home on the rise
Working from home is still unusual but figures indicate more and more people are trading the office block for a desk in the suburbs.
In the European Union, official figures show only 7% of employees in 2005 worked from home at least a quarter of the time and 1.7% did so almost all the time.
In the United States around 10% of all workers in the 2010 Census reported working from home at least one day a week.
However, working from home appears to be increasing in popularity. United States workers reporting working primarily from home at least once a week increased from seven percent in 1997.
Perhaps it’s getting easier thanks to improvements in computer and telephone systems.
Working or shirking?
In a high profile move in 2013, technology company Yahoo! banned staff from remote working, according to reports from the BBC and elsewhere, apparently saying impromptu meetings were important and speed and quality can be sacrificed when working from home.
Official data does not measure if working from home is efficient – either from workers’ or the employer’s perspectives.
But a study out of Stanford University in 2013 has examined the performance of workers in a travel booking company in China, including a group that volunteered to work from home. It looked at the efficiency of those working from home, a second group who wanted to work from home but were told to come into the office as usual and a third group who didn’t want to work from home.
They found the performance of home workers increased 13%, principally because they worked more minutes per shift and that group also reported higher job satisfaction and were less likely to move to another job.
But when given the choice after the initial nine-month trial, about half of those Chinese home workers returned to the office, citing loneliness at home. Some also felt they were being passed over for promotions – a common fear of home workers, also evidenced in this London Business School study.
It’s not for everyone
Even if you want to work from home, it might not suit your job. A White House report from 2010 says that managerial jobs and those requiring higher qualifications are more likely to allow working from home. Less skilled jobs had less flexibility. The report says the costs and benefits of adopting flexible arrangements differ across industries and employers of different sizes.
Changing work patterns
Working from home might come down to personal choice and the type of job you do.
Benefits for employers include saving on office space costs and for employees time commuting and other factors. But the results of studies suggest it can pay to try to keep loneliness at bay, keep the communication flowing with calls and emails to colleagues in other locations and to be extra visible on visits to the office with plenty of face time with influential peers.