With the rise of technology and the ability to always be connected, working from home is more possible than ever. People are striving for a better work-life balance, and remote working is seen as a potential solution. However, there are two important questions to bear.
1. Does remote working even suit every job?
In a study, call-centre employees in a Chinese company were randomly assigned to either work from home for a period of nine months or stay at work as usual. Results indicated that the cohort working from home were 16% more productive and more satisfied with their jobs. Similarly, in a survey, MBA graduates whose firms had flexible work arrangements were more likely to aspire to senior positions in their organisations than those working at less flexible companies.
However, call centre agents work largely independently. There is little need for collaboration or creativity. In some instances, success of organisations depends on employees working in the office together and sharing ideas.
Thus, jobs that are routine and do not require human interaction are best suited to working from home, such as translators, data capturers, web developers, social media managers, analysts and transcriptionists.
Jobs that require use of specialised machinery or interpersonal interaction, however, are less likely to work – such as medical doctors, heads of strategy, client liaison officers and people working in innovation hubs. In 2013, Yahoo!’s CEO placed a ban on remote working as she believes that people are more collaborative and inventive when together.
2. Is remote working really for everyone?
To some this may be rather obvious, but not all personality traits enable a person to be successful when working remotely. Some skills and traits that are considered “success factors” are:
- High levels of conscientiousness;
- Being very organised;
- Lots of self-discipline; and
- Good communication skills.
A recent Gallup report demonstrated that employees working from home were more engaged than their office counterparts. However there is a catch. The report indicated that only the remote workers who spent less than 20% of their time working from home were more engaged, whereas remote workers who spent almost all of their time working from home had the same level of engagement as on-site workers. The report thus emphasised that working from home was most effective in moderation.
Amabile, T. & Kramer, S. (2013). Working from Home: A Work in Progress. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2013/07/working-from-home-a-work-in-pr
Bloom, N. & Roberts, J. (2015). A Working from Home Experiment Shows High Performers Like It Better. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2015/01/a-working-from-home-experiment-shows-high-performers-like-it-better
Johnson, H. (2017). 10 Real Work-From-Home Jobs for 2018. The Simple Dollar. Retrieved from https://www.thesimpledollar.com/10-work-from-home-jobs/
Surowiecki, J. (2013). Face Time. The New Yorker. Retrieved from https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/03/18/face-time