The ongoing debate about working from home – also known as “telecommuting” – versus working at the office is not clear cut. At first blush, it might appear obviously beneficial, keeping workers happy. And, happy workers mean better outcomes for the business. Everyone wins. Yet, to think about it broadly, from the perspective of the business owner and the staff, we see some interesting, often overlooked aspects.
The most common defence for working from home is how much it saves in terms of costs. If you’re not driving to work, you’re obviously not using petrol, suffering wear and tear on your car and so on. You’re also not dishing out money to buy lunch or breakfast either, since you’ll be at home where, ideally, food is available.
For the business, they’ll be using less electricity, water, parking spaces and office supplies. All this saves the business money, too.
Yet, thinking about it from a broader perspective shows this might be too close-minded. For example, just because you’re not buying lunch at the office doesn’t mean you won’t need food. Since you’re at home, it probably means you’ll need more groceries. Thus, your grocery bill goes up – or rather, you don’t save because the money you used for food at the office just goes into the grocery bill anyway.
Furthermore, working from home means creating a proper office. As Making Sense of Cents notes:
“After deciding to accept the job and work from home, I knew I needed to upgrade my office equipment. My laptop is five years old and can barely handle WordPress. I’m also going to need a printer and a steady supply of pens and notebooks. Electricity costs will most likely increase as well, as you would be home more.”
Indeed, we can’t forget our bills will start to go up, too. This might mean you should consider something like equipment finance to fund turning your home into an office.
For a business owner, there’s often hesitation in allowing their staff to telecommute due to the nature of the work. This is especially the case when teams are working together on a project, which require meetings and client input. Employers’ concerns stem from not being able to monitor staff properly.
Yet, each of these concerns are often solved by the use of modern technology. For example, plenty of teams around the world work together, using instant messaging services, shared documents, the Cloud and so on. As Accenture notes, “through the use of collaboration technologies that improve the manner in which work is done, companies have achieved impressive results.”
From something as simple as not having to print a document multiple times to more comprehensive collaboration, work can be done more effectively without physical proximity. There’s nothing inherently better about being in the same physical space as your collaborators but what matters is the work outcome.
Other complaints also don’t hold water. For example, the idea an employer can’t monitor an employee is a bad sign. As Forbes notes, an ideal employee doesn’t need monitoring.
“You are hiring an employee who can get the job done without extensive hand-holding. As the owner of the company, you have your own tasks to take care of and, when you delegate activities to the individual whom you’re hiring, you don’t want 20 questions, rather you want execution.”
None of this shows definitively that telecommuting is better. It only shows the discussion has nuance to be considered. There are benefits to both sides. What’s important is working from reality, not assumptions about what is and isn’t inherently better. Running a business means being aware of the reality, not what merely “feels” right.
Image source: Shane Adams / Flickr