In a recently published article by Fast Company, a noteworthy finding related to the American workforce has been highlighted. The story has focused on the significant rise in number of freelancers and work from home employees, and how they are changing the way organizations function. What is even more worthwhile to note is that the stigma associated with the ‘work from home’ class of people as being useless and underpaid is slowly fading away. And with this, a new breed of independent workers is seemingly emerging, and rather consciously too.
This was quite a refreshing read for a freelancer like me. Not because I was happy to receive the empathy for my kind (which was much appreciated, I must say) but because this feature has highlighted two highly underrated things. One, that modern work ecosystems have become flexible enough to accommodate a lot many independent entities over fixed ones. And two, that working from home is seemingly and scientifically a good way to work.
I have worked from home for as many as four years and I will admit that working from home has been empowering on many levels. I get to work on my terms and time, I get to work without worrying about the harrowing commute on Mumbai locals, and I get to maintain a work-life balance far better than anybody with a full-time, office-based job. Resultantly, I find myself being a lot more content with my work and remarkably inspired to take on the challenge each day.
Here’s why I assert that working from home works:
1. It is mentally and physically un-stressing
It’s an undeniable fact that when all your energy is focused on doing one task, you are more likely to do a good job at that task. This is what working from home is like. Because your mind is not worked up before you even get to work, you are in a far better position — mentally and physically — to take on your days’ tasks.
2. It is a positive culture for both the employee as well as the employer
The issue of maintaining a permanent staff is perpetually harrowing for organizations all across the world. And if at all a budget cut seems to be looming the horizon, the first ones to hit the chopping block are the workforce. When an organization maintains a set of independent employees — whether they are a set of people working from their homes or hired to work on contract basis — their overhead costs are far more variable than fixed. This allows an organization a lot more flexibility in terms of controlling fixed and overhead cost and abiding by a budget.
As for the employee, the best part about working from home is the sheer convenience of it all. Plenty of studies have established that working from home is scientifically an efficient way to work as it helps (psychologically) in boosting an individual’s productivity, ingrains in them a greater sense of accountability, induces a sense of empowerment, and a pseudo- entrepreneurial characteristic which is typically lacking in a conventional office setup.
3. It breeds entrepreneurial tendencies
When people work from home, a good chuck of stress is taken away from the daily life equation. The time and energy, thus, conserved can now be directed towards thinking creatively, laterally and clearly. This is the breeding ground for innovation and entrepreneurial ambitions. This is one reason why many organizations today have embraced a work from home culture. You never know where the next big idea may come from.
But all said and done a ‘work from home’ culture works only under certain conditions.
1. The need to have clearly defined goals
Some conventional organizations argue that allowing employees to work from home makes them loose control over their people as well as the outcome. They fear that this oversight will adversely affect the company’s productivity. I agree to this assertion. The only way work from home policy will work is when employees are directed with specific, clearly defined goals and outcome parameters. In fact, this is the only factor that an organization ought to control to get any job done.
2. The need to set up appropriate communication channels
If a team is scattered over long distances, it is always advisable to decide upon appropriate channels of communications as well as the time for said communication. Internet technology allows for so much flexibility today that work from home is actually quiet conducive. Teams today can conveniently run with Dropbox, Google Drive, project management software and shared To-do list templates, without the hassle of shuttling back and forth from offices and worrying about work-life balance.
In today’s time, only end results are the absolute truth. So as long as employees are achieving the set benchmarks, should it really matter if the outcomes occurred over an office desk or a beach bench? Perhaps not.
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