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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Dreamt of Working from Home? —You Might Want to Think Twice

As effective communication tools become common in the workplace and as more work can be assigned and completed electronically, the idea of being able to work comfortably and efficiently from home is becoming a more plausible reality. However, outside of the traditional work environment, many employers and employees are still uncertain about productivity and overall work performance, especially when working from home, a place often full of tantalizing distractions.

Recently, Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, announced that Yahoo would no longer be allowing its employees to work from home. This announcement comes on the heels of a study released by the Harvard Medical School which claimed that being close to coworkers plays a vital role in creating competition, which has been known to spur innovation. Being under the gun, too, certainly helps everyone push through the wall of procrastination.

Working from the office, of course, has its traditional advantages, including an on-site supervisor and easy communication between employees and their superiors; there is a reason the traditional work environment, even if slightly amended, is still in use today. But this same environment also has its disadvantages, including the inherent stress of a competitive environment. Coupled with long commutes, typical office jobs can leave employees tired and stressed—qualities that decrease productivity and innovation.

Since many jobs today are done on computers, the possibility of working off-site has become a reality. Unlike working in an office, working from home or another personal space allows employees to avoid strenuous and time-consuming commutes. This saved time can lead to more sleep and less stress—two things that can certainly help employees produce quality work more efficiently. Entrepreneur magazine reported, “employees who work at home can be more productive than their in-office counterparts,” while The New York Times also noted that in addition to better employee productivity, telecommuting also “reduces companies’ real estate costs and improves employee morale, leading to less turnover.”

With studies showing that working in an office can lead to better overall work performance, having a work environment conducive to productivity seems to be the most important thing when it comes to getting the most out of employees. This idea of creating the best-of-both-worlds scenario, especially in regards to part-time employees, has lead to the use of “virtual offices”. A virtual office is a great way to retain the feel and seriousness of an office while reducing distractions. If a virtual office space can closely mimic a standard office environment, both productivity and employee morale can climb to new heights.

This best-of-both-worlds scenario can also be created in the workplace. Companies like Google, for example, have chosen to retain the office environment while also creating a more relaxed office that, in some ways, seems to replicate the comfort of working at home; Google’s Los Angeles office not only pumps out important technological work, it also boasts an espresso bar and on-site dog park. Of course, not every business can afford to fund such amenities, nevertheless, it is the message that counts—this office is your home away from home, and the more comfortable you are, the better your output.

Maxime Rieman is a writer for NerdWallet, a financial literacy website that helps businesses find the lowest checking fees, consumers find cheap car insurance, and everyone take that dream vacation they’ve always wanted.