Telecommuting Can Be Beneficial for a Work/Life Balance
In early 2013, a leaked memo to employees of Yahoo showed the company had reversed their telecommuting policy citing that “speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home.” But Scott Boyar, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Management, Information Systems and Quantitative Methods at the UAB Collat School of Business, said it is hard to make a blanket judgment.
“The success of an employee working from home depends on the person, on the job and on the training the organization provides to do that role remotely,” Boyar said. “An organization has a lot of responsibility when letting workers go virtual, but the employee carries a lot of it too. There are questions they should ask themselves.”
• Does it fit my personality and preference for integrating work into my family environment?
• Can I structure my time and stay motivated to work throughout the day?
• Will I fight the temptation to want to skip workdays altogether?
If these can be answered in the affirmative, Boyar said telecommuting can be an excellent option for an employee looking to better balance the time spent working and the time spent with family.
“While there can be distractions at home like kids, animals, TV and chores, there’s often flexibility to transition among various roles — particularly family — if boundaries can be set with some self-discipline,” Boyar said. “If there is ability to adjust your schedule around kids, you could begin your work at 6 a.m. while they sleep. Break to get them to school, then go back to working. Break again to get them into their afternoon activity when school is out, then transition back into work.”
Boyar said telecommuting benefits include reduced transportation costs and environmental impact and saving commute time. If set-up properly, work can be done independently with fewer interruptions than occur in an 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.”
Boyar added the ideal situation for most employees may involve a balanced approach — working in the office and home throughout the week.
“Organizations should not shy away from alternative work arrangement 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.”