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Work From Home - Benefit or Blight?

The idea of work from home lights up the eyes of anyone with tough commute. We often spend a lot of wasted time on the road.

I think most IT staff will see reducing their commute time as the biggest plus factor of work-from-home policies. They can save a lot of personal time and improve quality of life not to mention the vehicle cost savings. From the company perspective, there are staff retention benefits and substantial savings in office space and parking costs.

Is work from home a benefit to companies and employees, or can it damage teamwork and careers? The answer appears mixed and I have switched sides a number of times.

Fryer showed that Work From Home allowed employees to be more productive and less stressed whilst improving work-life balance, recruitment, diversity and retention. IBM agree and as much as 45% of its 400,000 employees working remotely. These days, your colleague or boss may be in another country or even time-zone so why would it matter if you are at home.

Bloom, the founder of travel website Ctrip, was blown away by the benefits of work from home. They believed that there would be a hit on productivity but it would be more than cancelled by the reduction in staff attrition and office costs. Ctrip got the benefits but also found that staff at home were more productive, completing 13.5% more calls.

However, work from home comes with its negatives. Knowledge workers are not call centres and it is dangerous to extrapolate those benefits. IT workers are often working in an Agile environment where collaboration is key. There are many collaboration technologies (e.g. Slack, Zoom etc.) these days that are now stable and effective, but are they as good as face-to-face collaboration? Secondly, remote workers sometimes complain about losing a sense of community and connection to their company. Fairness, is another common complaint and some studies have shown that work-from-home workers can miss out on opportunities that office dwellers get, whilst other complain that work-from-home rights are allocated unfairly.

Many of the perceived disadvantages of work-from-home appear to relate to its implementation and resistance from middle management. To overcome these issues, the work-from-home policy need to come from the top and sold properly to middle management. The policy roll-out needs to focus on collaboration, because in our domain, a loss of collaboration is extremely damaging.

How does work-from-home affect your career decisions? We cannot deny that saving on commute is very attractive but it should not be everything any more than your salary should be. The most important aspect to your long term career is the kind of work you do. Working for a company, that promotes learning especially in trending technologies is more valuable than work-from-home or a few extra rand.

If you ever want to chat about your career, email us and we would love to help you.

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