The corporate culture is changing. As a result of a variety of reasons such as the recession, high fuel costs, and technological advances, it is increasingly common for workers to become unchained from their desks and to work at least part of the time at home. But as working from home is on the rise, so is working increased hours. Indeed, “a recent study suggests that nearly two-thirds of U.S. companies report that their employees have worked more hours over the past three years.”
It is not clear what the connection between these two trends might be or whether there is a connection. Are businesses becoming more flexible about where their employees work as a result of the increased time demands they put on their employees? Or are employees working more as they become increasingly available outside of their office, through mobile electronic devices? Does this phenomenon make work-life balance easier or more difficult to achieve?
Some sources point out that in a world increasingly driven by technology, people expect instant results. There are many times when a colleague, client, or even supervisor thinks he or she needs an answer outside of the standard 9-to-5 business day. And employees who wish to keep their jobs feel pressure to work outside of their normal hours as a result, instead of focusing their downtime on family, friends, and outside interests.
So the danger to increased time working from home is that many employees may feel unable to turn off the BlackBerry and focus on being truly present at home. On the other hand, increased numbers of people working from home seems to at least imply a greater sense of freedom and flexibility for some employees, rather than being chained to a desk and a time clock. This freedom is important, because it can be more family-friendly, which encourages personal effectiveness. A strong manager sees the importance in an employee going to a soccer game and making up that time from home at a later time, thus encouraging work-life balance.
Perhaps if more managers allowed such flexibility, there would be less need for unusual sick leave excuses when someone needs a day off but doesn’t have a legitimate excuse. Perhaps if employees had more flexibility, they would be less likely to invent stories about the need to stay home as a result of large appliances falling on them or small mammals getting stuck in their hair.
However, these excuses might begin to bleed into the realm of working from home as well. Without designated boundaries and expectations, such as when an employee is and is not available for emergencies and for non-emergencies, you might find one of the accountants on your staff feeding you a line about the lion escaped in the backyard, when in reality, he is just trying to read his kids a bedtime story.
Working from home can be a great arrangement that allows for more flexibility and improved work life balance, but both sides will benefit by laying out a few clear expectations from the get go.
What is your take on working from home?