Should we have a National Work From Home Day in Canada? A discussion broke out recently on our Facebook page about the benefits of working from home, telecommuting. There was some debate as to whether ‘working from home’ wasn’t just code word for ‘taking a day off.’ Of course this is not the case; many people work from home either full-time or as part of their flexible scheduling arrangements. These people are not ’slackers.’
However, there is the danger of being perceived as merely taking a day off when you work from home, especially if your office culture doesn’t embrace the concept or your boss isn’t in tune with it. I promised Facebook user, Kylee that I would post some of the WFH benefits for her to help get the conversation started.
Working remotely, or not remotely working?
There are numerous advantages to having the option of working remotely for a day. Here are just a few:
- Focus. You can accomplish everything on your to do list that day without the constant interruption of people dropping by your desk for favours or chit chat.
- Free up time. You win back all the time that you normally spend commuting. Recent studies have said that this is an average of 45 minutes each way, (with Toronto scoring the slowest commute times in the world, and Montreal fairing not much better.) Just like that, you would add an extra hour and a half of freedom to your day.
- Quarantine. If you’re feeling a little under the weather (but not bad enough to take a sick day), you can WFH and therefore avoid the risk of infecting the rest of the office with your potential cold or flu.
- Achievement. People are actually more productive when they do their work on their own schedules. WFH implies that you are responsible for getting the work done whenever and however you accomplish it. Working from work implies you’re responsible for having your butt in a chair from nine am to five pm.
Those are mostly the advantages to pitch to an employer. There’s lots of personal benefits too, like it’s always ‘bring your dog to work day’ at home, WFH on a day that school is out saves the babysitter/daycare costs, no one steals your lunch from the community fridge when you’re at home (okay, that one could still happen.)
Obviously there are some pitfalls to working from home as well. Here are a few of the potential drawbacks.
- Out of sight… Because you’re not physically in the office, you risk being cut out of the decision making process for projects.
- Stalled. You lose face time with the boss, which can limit both your ability to learn from people in higher roles as well as your chance to make an impression on them.
- Loneliness. Actually going in to work offers the opportunity to socialize with coworkers, hear a variety of opinions, get immediate feedback on works-in-progress and to just get out of the house.
- No home to go to. If you work from home full-time, you’re also constantly at your workplace. Can you maintain work/life balance when you’re always at the office?
The arrangements that I’ve seen work best are flexible. People go into work most of the time, but on occasion (once a month, once a week, randomly-as-needed) they work from home either to accommodate some personal need, to add variety to a long work week or just to catch up on stuff.
Having the flexibility to work from home is empowering. Employees appreciate those kinds of perks, and it makes them more loyal to their employer. Plus WFH occasionally while maintaining a usual presence in the office eliminates most of the pitfalls that I mention above.
Perception is still a risk. So it comes back to broaching the topic with the boss, creating the culture of acceptance. (FYI – my boss has already ‘Liked’ the discussion on Facebook, and I plan to hold her to it.)
When researching my failed attempt (okay, I am starting to sound like a slacker) to make birthdays an automatic day off (see the Facebook discussion), I discovered that the UK already has a National Work From Home Day. So it’s not a new idea. Still, why shouldn’t we? Having a WFH day passed into law and printed on the calendar sure makes it easy to add to your work culture.
What do you think? Are you in favour of a National Work From Home Day for Canada? Let us know and I’ll write some follow-up pieces on successful policies and more of the benefits to help sweeten the deal.
- Peter Harris (Workopolis Writer)