Do you wish your boss would let you work from home? With the direction the modern workforce is moving, your dream may not be too far from reality.
According to a new survey by WorldatWork and FlexJobs, 80 percent of today's companies offer flexible work arrangements for their employees, including the option to occasionally telework. Although many of these programs are discretionary and on an ad-hoc basis, nearly half of employers who allow remote work say telecommuters are just as productive as in-office employees. Meanwhile, 42 percent of employers say flexibility is an essential element to organizational success.
If your employer does offer remote-work options, you might think these statistics are the perfect evidence to convince the boss to let you work from home. But be warned: Not everyone is suited to telecommuting, and you need to make sure you're really prepared for it before you make the case to your supervisor. [Is Your Personality Making It Hard to Work from Home?]
Scott Boyar, an associate professor in the department of management, information systems and quantitative methods at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said whether an employee is successful working from home depends on the person, the job and the training the organization provides for the individual to do that role remotely.
"An organization has a lot of responsibility when letting workers go virtual, but the employee carries a lot of it too," Boyar said.
Employees thinking about working from home need to consider all of the factors that come with working remotely. Jane Sunley, CEO of employee-engagement company Purple Cubed and author of "It's Never OK to Kiss the Interviewer" (LID Publishing, 2014), advised potential telecommuters to ask themselves the following questions before changing their work structures:
- Am I happy spending long periods of time on my own?
- Am I self-disciplined and self-motivated?
- Am I confident working without supervision?
- Am I comfortable communicating with my colleagues via email, chat, videoconference, etc. instead of face to face?
- Do I have a quiet, distraction-free area at home in which to focus on my work?
- Will telecommuting help me achieve the work-life balance I want?
If the answer is "yes" to all of these, telecommuting could be the right choice for you. In addition to a better work-life balance, other benefits of telecommuting include reduced transportation costs and environmental impact, and time savings due to the lack of a commute. In addition, if your home office is set up properly, work can be done independently with fewer interruptions than occur in a traditional office environment.
"I like the social aspect at work, but it can be hard to get things done efficiently in the office with too many interruptions," Boyar said. "However, being away from the office can limit informal social interactions that help employees form bonds with each other, and such social ties can improve job satisfaction and be a catalyst for advancement opportunities."
Sunley noted that it's easy for telecommuters to forget about taking breaks, which can decrease productivity over time. Remote employees need to be able to structure their days to include those breaks, but also set boundaries with friends and families to maintain good work habits.
"You may now appear more available to them, and [they may] not realize the demands that working from home requires," Sunley told Business News Daily.
If your employer isn't on board with full-time remote work, Boyar noted that an ideal situation for most employees may involve a combination of working in the office and at home throughout the week.
"Organizations should not shy away from alternative work arrangements, such as telecommuting or flex time, because it gives employees with other responsibilities the opportunity to schedule necessary needs around their work," Boyar said. "This option can lead to a much happier employee, which is always good for a company."
This article was originally published in 2013 and updated Oct. 7, 2015. Additional reporting by Business News Daily senior writer Chad Brooks.