While the practice of working from home vs. in the office has been a topic of debate for years, it has risen back to the top of discussions after Marissa Mayer, Yahoo CEO, put an end to telecommuting at that company earlier this year.
As with most trends, there are two schools of thought. And sometimes those schools overlap. Studies have shown that working from home has both upsides to productivity and downsides to collaboration. Even Marissa Mayer herself acknowledged that “people are more productive when they’re alone,” and also claimed “they’re more collaborative and innovative when they’re together.”
Proponents of telecommuting point to numerous studies showing that people who work from home are, on average, more productive than other workers and that telecommuting cuts down on traffic during peak hours, reduces companies’ real estate costs (they don’t need as much office space) and improves employee morale, leading to less turnover.
The opponents point to a Stanford study found that the rate at which home-based workers were promoted dropped by 50%, confirming the “out of sight, out of mind” theory. Another negative effect, and one that Ms. Mayer strongly believes, is the missed serendipitous encounters at the office that lead to new products or strategies. The office can be a creative and dynamic place to work. Colleagues can bounce ideas around and inspire each other, hold impromptu meetings and enjoy the trust promoted by face-to-face contact. Physically working alongside colleagues can create a lively atmosphere and sense of camaraderie, and there is the potential for beneficial social aspects in relationships outside of work life.
So, is it better for both employee and employer for employees to work from home? You decide.