I’m lucky enough to have the work-from-home vs. office productivity debate every morning. I work out of two offices: one in downtown Chicago and the other in my condo. I like working in both spaces for different reasons, and I am glad I get to move between them. But I have sometimes wondered where I do my best work, downtown or at home.
I’m not a typical employee. I work for myself and I generally work by myself, no matter which office I’m in. But it’s my job to get the best, most productive work out of Gail Golden, so the pros and cons of working from home vs. working in an office are important to weigh.
Many employers wrestle with this question. There’s no doubt many employees appreciate the option to work at home, and more people are working virtually than ever before. The benefits of working from home are clear — more comfort, more flexibility, and more control. But what about the disadvantages of working from home? Are employees equally productive in both settings?
Some recent research cited in The Hartford’s newsletter sheds light on the question of working at home vs. in an office. Not surprising, it seems the answer depends on the nature of the work. One study found that call center employees got significant advantages out of working from home, completing more calls when than they did while working at an office. But another study found that scientific collaboration was much more impactful when the collaborators were working next to each other.
When the work requires a high degree of concentration and is somewhat repetitive, working from home is better than working in an office. But when collaborative creativity and problem-solving are required, physical proximity matters.
So, when business leaders are trying to make the work-from-home vs. office decision, employee satisfaction is one key consideration. But the research suggests that another important element is the kind of work the employees are producing. Let your call center folks do their work from home, but ask your creative collaborators to work in a shared office. And of course, set clear expectations and benchmarks for your teams. That way you can measure productivity in a transparent and objective manner, and design the work environment accordingly.