Working from home is the dream. Employees have all the job security inherent in a 9-5 grind, without suffering under the metaphorical “grind” itself. They can choose to work in their pajamas, take lunch whenever they want, and even forego the commute altogether. Even employers can potentially limit office expenses by relying on remote workers. But does working out of a home office live up to its reputation? Secondly, can workers really be as effective on a couch in their living rooms as they are at their desks in an office?
Research on the subject has delivered somewhat conflicting answers. In 2006, the tech retailer Best Buy instituted working model for their corporate employees that promised “100% flexibility.” In this system, no employee was expected to punch a time clock, and working from home was widely considered as an acceptable choice for an office worker to make. Moreover, the company reported a 35% jump in employee productivity after instituting the new model. In this case, it would seem that working from home didn’t simply match office efficacy, but exceeded it.
But do the results for one experiment at one company aptly represent the potential for office workers across a wide range of roles and fields? The answer would seem to be not. According to a study conducted by the employee engagement firm TINYpulse in 2016, 91% of participating employees reported feeling more productive working in an office than they did working from home. Of course, it’s worth mentioning that this particular survey relied on self-reporting – it thereby isn’t subject to tight controls and may be less accurate than other studies. However, the point stands; regardless of whether employees actually are more productive in the office, they feel as though they get more done when they have a separation between their working and home lives.
So, what is the answer to the home-work conundrum? Is working from home simply a glorified vacation day, or is it a productive strategy for work? In all likelihood, it isn’t one or the other. A study conducted by the Association for Psychological Science found that a work-from-home model isn’t guaranteed to be effective; instead, its likelihood of success is based on the type of work required, the needs of the business, and a worker’s ability to be productive in an independent environment. A work-from-home model might be perfect for a stay-at-home parent facing work and daycare conflicts, but be less suited to a recently-graduated college student who needs structure to be productive.
Simply put, each employee and employer’s situation is distinct; each individual should carefully consider their working habits and professional circumstances before opting for a work-from-home model.