The Benefits of Working from Home

Going to work in an office can be stressful and costly for both employee and employer.  Thanks to technology many people have the option of working from home (or off-site at that warm beach somewhere!).  For consultants and freelancers there are obvious reasons why you should work from home (you might not have another choice anyway!) but for full-time employees there are financial and personal advantages to working at least a couple days per week from home.  Not every profession allows for this flexibility but if yours is one of the many that do, here are some benefits to look into for both employer and employee.

Lower Costs for Employers

Reduced office costs
Fewer people in the office results in lower office bills: less coffee to provide, fewer paper clips to stock, fewer phone calls to pay for, less toilet paper to buy and so on.

Managers may plan to have a certain number of employees working from home at any given time and may even choose to have smaller offices where employees rotate among desks.  These days so much is done by email that an employee might not even need his or her own number at work but should he or she really need it, technology may permit call forwarding, calls over the internet and whatever else is possible.

(If you’re an employee and you’re terrified of not having your own desk with your own stacks of documents, check out this 14 minute video about Semco, a company in Brazil in which employees in fact are not allowed to use the same desk all the time.  But be warned: after learning about Semco you might never see work the same way again!)

Reduced health insurance costs
Employees who have more flexibility in their schedules tend to be happier people because they may arrange their schedule to include running errands, taking care of their children and getting enough rest and exercise.  Happier employees = healthier employees = lower health insurance costs.  You may read about the “link between psychological health and overall health” here.

Lower Costs for Workers

Less fuel and other car expenses
In 2009 Cisco released the results of their survey of nearly 2,000 of their telecommuter employees around the world.  On average each employee saved approximately US$5,000 in 2008 in fuel expenses alone by telecommuting (the total for all surveyed was US$10.3 million).  Working from home you’ll also be putting fewer miles on your car and reducing gas emissions.

Lower child care expenses
Although working from home you’ll still need to dedicate the same amount of time to work, you can still be the person who will drop off and pick up your children after school, take them to the doctor or even watch out after your toddler for half of the day.  But most importantly, the time you spend with your children is priceless, which brings us to the next section.

Personal Reasons To Work from Home

Spending time with your children
Thirty five hours per week at work (40+ for Americans) plus commuting time all adds up to time not spent with your children.  Both you and your children will be happier if you spend more time with them.  But you can always ask your children what they think.

In my own experience, I feel very lucky I had my dad around when I was a child.  Due to his working schedule, Dad spent half days at home and it was just awesome to see him around!  He could just be taking care of our dog or taking a nap before his next shift but there was a very warm feeling in knowing that Dad was around to take care of me if I needed him.

More time for oneself
You may put the time you spend commuting towards your hobby, favorite sport, studying or other experience more enriching than attacks of road rage and smelling the armpits of that guy in the metro who’s never heard of deodorant.

Increased productivity
When employees have more time to be with their families or to do things for themselves, they’re happier people.  Happier people are less stressed out and are less likely to make mistakes.  Happier people are more productive, which leads to more work done and more money saved.  This I learned from Dr. Foo, my neurologist in NYC (great guy, by the way!), but in reading an article at CNN some supervisors see the productivity value in flexibility as well.  One supervisor mentions that employees are more committed to a company that allows them to have flexible schedules.  Another manager explains that having employees with flexible schedules is an advantage to her because that way her company may expand its working hours to better cater to the 24/7 business cycle in which it works.

If you’ve never thought of working from home but your company offers this option, you might be interested in finding out how such arrangement works out for you.  If your company doesn’t have a work-from-home program, you may be in a position to ask your boss about this arrangement.

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