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Reasonably remote

Calling remote workers back to the office has just as many drawbacks, if not more, as letting them work from home in the first place.

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From the pages of In Business magazine.

As I write this in early November, my LinkedIn feed is swelling with takes on “new” reports that bosses are rethinking work-from-home policies.

Once upon a time most bosses were highly skeptical of telecommuting, reasoning that employees would spend more time goofing off than working. When studies proved workers could be more productive when allowed to work remotely, companies changed their tune and began offering telecommuting as a recruitment and retention perk. Now some of the earliest telecommuting adopters are changing their tune and calling workers back to the office. IBM Corp. is just one example, as noted in reports this past spring about a company-wide move to relocate remote workers back to one of six regional IBM offices.

This reminds me so much of the old butter vs. margarine debate. Everyone used to eat butter, until we were told margarine was a healthier alternative. Then after people switched to margarine food scientists did an about face and said perhaps butter wasn’t as bad as we thought. Truthfully, no one can really decide if butter or margarine is that much better or worse than the other. The solution: just eat whichever you prefer and don’t worry so much about it.

I’d say this latest kerfuffle over telecommuting has largely the same solution. Telecommuting is not perfect, but neither is forcing workers back to the office. I’m lucky to have a flexible remote work policy at In Business that lets me work from home many Fridays.

In my experience, working from home actually lends itself to greater productivity. I live in Janesville, so my daily commute to IB’s Monona office totals about 80 minutes. On days I work from home that results in an extra hour I’m able to devote to work because I’m not stuck in the car. I love it — I’m sending emails to sources before they even get to their place of work, and checking off some routine tasks early before the rush of the day sets in and bigger priorities take over.

Remote work also eliminates a lot of distractions. I don’t mind when co-workers are having conversations nearby, and if I really need things quiet to focus on writing I can always close my office door. However, other distractions that cut right through my concentration — people moving about, phones ringing, deliveries being made — simply aren’t present at home during the day where it’s just me, my laptop, and at worst one cat or another looking for a belly rub.

(Continued)

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