For a lot of companies or departments, remote working is a real possibility. Keeping your work life balance in check becomes a lot easier when you have reasons to work from home.
But what about as a rule of thumb? When workers rely heavily on a computer, like countless Agile software development teams all over the world, is there a reason not to? And does working from home increase productivity, actually?
Over the decades there has been hesitance from employers of letting their teams work from home. And for good reason: how do we know that our remote workers are actually working? And how does remote working work, anyway?
Well, that’s where trust and good technology comes in, but if you take the plunge and go for even just a part-time working from home arrangement, both employee and employer get to reap the benefits.
Here are 10 good reasons to work from home and become more productive:
1. Employers Working Remotely Can Reinvest Their Commuting Time
If we’re not working from home then we’re traveling to an office and that travel time is mainly lost time. And studies show that commuting times are getting longer too. Based on 2018 data in the US, the “typical commuter now spends 20 more minutes a week commuting than they did a decade ago”. That all adds up to over nine days a year when we could be doing something better. A lot of people would rather re-invest that time and work remotely to increase their productivity.
But some people do actually like their commute – it gives them time to read the news, reply to mails, listen to an audio book (if you’re driving), or just to have a few minutes’ peace from the demands of your family, something that’s difficult when your workplace is your home.
One of the things that a lot of people notice when they start to work from home is that they find it harder to switch off; they realize they miss this aspect of their commute now that they work remotely.
One of the best ways to get around this is to build a ‘mini commute’ into your new remote working routine. You could take a 15-minute walk at the beginning and end of each day. Not only is this healthy, it also sends a message to your brain that it’s time to switch modes.
2. Distractions Go Down, Focus and Productivity Go up When Working Remotely From Home
Working from home also increases productivity because it’s easier to focus. In the office (especially noisy open-plan offices) you have to greet everyone, ask about their weekend, chat about last night’s football results…the list is endless and all these little two-minute chats add up to a lot of time being lost.
There’s also the ‘context switching’ factor which software development teams are particularly familiar with. If you are ‘in the zone’ dealing with a complex piece of code when someone drops by your desk to ask if you can help them with something, you have to stop what you’re doing, change context twice (once to leave the zone and once to get back into it) before you’re productive again. Some reports even suggest that context switching can eat up to 80% of your productivity.
When people are working from home, there are simply fewer ways to get distracted. And if you make full use of the technology you have by changing your notification settings so that you can focus, your productivity shoots up.
3. Remote Workers More Productive When It Comes to Meetings
Another great distraction is meetings. If you’re making good progress on something, but a meeting is starting now, you have to stop and you lose that burst of productivity.
It’s important to remember that working remotely from home doesn’t make them disappear. But how to stay productive while working from home relies on how you run those meetings. An Agile software development team using scrum can integrate Geekbot on top of their standard Slack set-up to run their daily 15-minute standup meetings. Rather than everyone stopping what they’re doing to dial in at 10am, it turns something that a lot of developers consider a waste of time into something that’s truly productive because they can provide their daily updates when it’s best for them.
But do we even need so many meetings? In the office there’s free-flowing coffee, you can see who is available, and ‘idea/creativity/brainstorming spaces’ are easy to jump into for a quick chat.
Move that to the working from home setting and the mindset changes: do I really need to meet that person? We start to get back to basics: what do we actually need to talk about? If there’s nothing we need to discuss, we’d all much rather be getting the most out of our increased productivity.
And let’s face it, even though the tools we use today have come a long way, there’s still some improvements to be made to video conferencing software. We’d all rather keep the amount of time dialed in to a short and productive minimum. One of the ways Geekbot is great for that is that you can shift a lot of the meeting topics to be done in advance. For example, if you’re running a scrum team retrospective you can get the team to answer questions on what went well/not so well in advance. Then a remote-working scrum master can filter this information in advance so that during the meeting itself you only need to discuss the actions. No more awkward silences. No more wasted time.
4. Working From Home Work Life Balance
One of the main reasons people choose or request to work from home is for the work life balance. You might have personal commitments like needing to pick your kids up from school, make it on time to an evening class nearby, or you just want to maximize time with the family.
And you can’t underestimate how highly this scores in terms of employee satisfaction. A company that makes juggling your working and personal commitments easier is clearly one that values you as a human rather than just a robot churning out work. This means an employee feels more valued by the company, they work more productively, and are less likely to look around for other opportunities.
5. Introverts Are More Productive While Working From Home
For some people, the open-plan office environment where you’re forced to stand up in front of 100 people for a presentation is tantamount to extreme stress. And then there are the after-work drinks you feel obliged to go to as well.
The simple fact is, one of the main reasons introverts like to work from home is that you feel more comfortable when your workplace is your home. That’s not to say they are a complete recluse and can’t cope in a group, but 2-3 days working from home each week is what they need to feel more relaxed. And this is when they are their most productive. As line managers and leaders, it’s important to recognize this.
If you want to get the best productivity levels out of your hires, allow for their differences and consider whether letting them work remotely is better for the individual. They prefer typing to talking? Run meetings with them via Geekbot to give them the time to organize their thoughts.
6. Working From Home Means a Healthier, More Comfortable Life (If You’re Proactive)
There is a whole range of health and comfort reasons to work from home. Here’s a quick overview:
- With all the time saved from not commuting, you can go for a run, join a new sports club, or just do yoga right next to your desk. Only your cat will wonder what you’re doing.
- You’re less likely to get sick because you’re not picking up everyone else’s (and their kids’) germs
- You can wear what you like. And spend less money on a constant changing wardrobe or make-up.
- You can set the temperature as high or low as you like it
- Your lunch options get more diverse than what the office canteen sells
- You get to choose your own coffee…(it’s important not to forget the little things in life…)
- You can listen to whatever music you like, and lower the risk of hearing damage while you’re at it
In essence, working from home safe-guards the work life balance, and puts the choices in the hands of the employee to decide what’s best for them. But watch out! Focusing too much on how to stay productive while working from home can easily tip the balance the other way. Before you know it, you forget that you need to move around, take breaks (a pomodoro timer is useful for this), eat lunch, and get some face to face time with other humans once in a while. Likewise, some people need to put on a shirt and tie to trigger their brain into working action.
So it’s important that if you do start working from home, not to think that will all be plain sailing. Put some measures in place to ensure you know how to stay focused when working from home, and make sure you keep it healthy, both physically and mentally.
We’ve looked at the reasons to work from home from an employee perspective. But there are also some other benefits of working from home for employers too. If all of the employee productivity and health reasons above weren’t already enough…
7. Cost Saving: Benefits of Working From Home for Employers
Well, if everyone is at home, who’s in the office still? Maybe you can downsize or even get rid of the office altogether, which will save you a heap of cash. Not only in terms of the rent of the actual building, but also running costs, from electricity to expensive standing desks to the weekly fruit basket.
8. There Are Great Remote Workers All Over the World
Having a working from home policy will be music to your hiring team’s ears too. It opens up literally a whole world of possibilities. Struggling to find a developer who can write that very specific language in your own location? Well rather than searching a 50km radius, you can start to cast the net much wider which increases the chance of you finding the right remote worker for the job.
9. Temporary Staff Tend to Work Remotely
You have a short-term project where you need some specific expertise? You’re probably looking for a contractor or freelancer, then. And freelancers are more likely to be remote workers who do short-term contracts for a range of clients all over the globe.
10. Well, Why Not? Remote Working Works a Whole Lot Better Than It Used to
It is much easier to have people working from home than ever before. There are countless technologies, tools, tips and tricks out there that make it not just possible, but actually help us learn how to stay productive while working from home. Geekbot is one of those tools that helps remote workers stay collaborative but keeps the meetings and distractions to a minimum, and maximizes productivity by letting them engage when the time is right for them.
So employees working remotely from home enjoy greater productivity, flexibility and health. And the benefits of working from home for employers are that you have happier (more productive and loyal) employees, plus lower costs and better access to talent. On top of that we have the tools to support a move to remote working.
So really the only thing that’s stopping us is giving it a go. And while you don’t have to go 100%, it’s easier than ever to switch to remote working overnight. You can also start by having employees try it 1-2 days a week, until they know how to stay focused when working from home. Ask yourself: how does remote working work for you? And inspect and adapt until you find a balance that’s right for your team.