Why are more and more people working from home? You can cite all kinds of reasons; lower real estate costs, flexible hours make recruiting easier, and lots more. But one of the biggest reasons, and the reason people who work from non-office locations (either a satellite office or the north end of the dining room table) is, it eliminates a commute.
Turns out, one of the biggest complaints about work has nothing to do with wages, or the job itself, or even people stealing our yogurt from the break room fridge. Nope, the reason people choose to work from home is that just getting to work is such a hassle.
In a recent LinkedIn article, author Steve Blakeman gives us these fascinating facts about how so many of us function day in and day out:
- If your commute is 26 minutes each way, that’s 52 minutes in the car (not counting looking for parking) a day, and over a year that’s 9 days.
- If your commute is 90 minutes, you’ve basically given up a month of your life.
- The average American household spends $1700 a year getting back and forth to work… to make money to pay for things like…the ability to get to work.
- Commutes have been blamed for everything from the rise in physical ailments (it’s hard to hit the gym when you’re stuck on the 405, and those exhaust fumes aren’t helping) to increasing the divorce rate (between just being away and coming home cranky, nerves get frayed).
Working from home might seem, then, like a simple solution. It can be, but just because you don’t have a hellish commute doesn’t make it the right answer. Here are some things you (and your boss) need to consider:
- Rather than wasting time in a car, will you simply add those hours to your workday? While this sounds like a good idea to the bean counters (we can pay them the same and get more work out of them. Genius!), increased working hours means increased stress on the worker and their family. Companies who let people work from home need to help workers create reasonable expectations and boundaries to protect their personal time
- At least when someone gets to work after their hellish trip, they are at work. There’s a start and stop time, and evidence of attendance. While paranoia is never healthy, the organization has to have standards and processes in place to ensure work is done. This is not hard to do, but it needs to be done right.
- Road rage is a terrible thing, but so is isolation and loneliness. Are your people getting the social stimulation and creating the working relationships needed to be both effective and mentally healthy? Do their workstyles lend themselves to working from home, or is the commute just the price they need to pay for working at their most effective?
If you’re going to manage people who are trading their commute for the ability to work at home, are you prepared? Check out our virtual programs on Maximizing Productivity for Teleworkers, in both a Manager’s version and one for individual contributors.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Co-Founder and Product Line Manager
Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in Management-Issues.com.
Wayne, along with Kevin Eikenberry, has co-authored the definitive book on leading remotely, The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership.