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Is Working From the Office Still Necessary?

Every day can seem the same when it comes to the monotony of the daily work schedule. You get up, take a shower, get ready for work, get in your car, drive to work and start your day. For many, the work days consist of sitting at a desk and doing work built around emails, phone calls and browsing on the Internet. Actual human interaction may involve driving to meet with clients or an occasional internal meeting with the bosses or the work team.

Does this sound like your daily work schedule? It should, because a wide number of people work in this type of environment. But, the thing is, these employees could be so much more productive if they had an opportunity to work from home. How do I know? I’ve been in both places and I speak from a position of power on this particular issue.

I have mostly worked in places that expected me to be in the workplace. As a newspaper reporter at the State Capitol, it mostly made sense that I was physically there to witness key votes and be available to be close to the action. Then, as I moved into PR, I began to discover that while there were certainly times I needed to be at my desk, there were more and more times when I could have spent days and sometimes weeks without ever leaving my home.

Data from Global Workplace Analytics indicates 50 percent of U.S. workers have some opportunity to work from home while 20-25 percent frequently get to take advantage of not making the commute to the office. What GWA also found, however, is that over 80 percent of the workers surveyed would like to have the opportunity to work from home rather than the office.

The thing is, this isn’t just a bunch of workers trying to be lazy or to just complain. There is no question that workers are being asked to do more now than at any point in the history of the world, and they are getting work done at record levels. With technology advances and just general knowledge in getting work accomplished, I am able to do more in a day than my counterparts from a decade ago could get done in a week. Email, instant messaging and cell phones all contribute to making life much easier when it comes to communicating. And delivery of large electronic files (images, documents or even portfolios) can be done through file-sharing networks that didn’t exist when I first began working professionally. I don’t need an office computer to accomplish any of this. I can do it from home on my laptop and without many of the distractions that come with being in the office.

Distractions? Yes, you heard me right. Sure, I’ll admit that some people are prone to being more distracted at home than at the office. They may have kids, pets, visitors or even the television keeping them away from getting work done. But in the offices I’ve worked at, the distractions of other employees, phone calls, unnecessary meetings, and unexpected visitors all adds up to unproductive days.

At home, I get to manage the distractions. I don’t have kids around interrupting me. I don’t have pets lingering around to distract me. Everything else gets ignored so that I can accomplish whatever it is that I’ve put on my daily schedule. Maybe I am just better at sticking to a schedule and getting work done, but that is a personal issue that can be resolved to make you a better employee. In return, we have fewer vehicles clogging the roads, more hours being spent working rather than getting ready for work and commuting, and less time and money being spent on childcare.

So, yeah, there are employers who will fight this tooth and nail. I have worked for them. Don’t be fooled, however, because for them it is all about being able to control you rather than basing it on actual results.

I don’t need data to tell me whether people are more productive in an office or a home. The truth is, good employees are going to be productive regardless of where they are sitting and bad employees are going to lack production in an office and at home. But we can do the right thing and let people work from home more often, and the world benefits. Seems like an easy call to me.

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