Working From Home or On-Site: the Pros and Cons

BY: ON MONDAY, MARCH 11, 2013

One of the biggest news stories of the past few weeks is Yahoo’s ban on working from home. As tech jobs have become a larger part of the job landscape, more positions have transitioned to work-from-home jobs. But does working from home increase or decrease productivity?

For those of us who run tech-based companies, this can be tricky. Office space can be expensive to rent, and if what you do requires you to be in front of a computer all day, there’s often no reason to be in one specific place. Technology is inherently mobile—and in today’s digital day and age, we can even work from our smartphones. Laptops, tablets, desktop computers and WiFi connections are portable. And, let’s face it—a home office can be a familiar, comfortable place from which to work with the added bonus of a nearby snack supply! Even more important, working remotely can cut down on time wasted commuting and, for the right employees, spur productivity.

And that’s the million dollar question: does working from home decrease productivity? According to Yahoo, the answer is that it does. The company reportedly was concerned their employees were goofing off more and doing less work while at home. And, according to memo sent out by Yahoo “speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home.”  It also stated working from home also makes it more difficult to interact with your co-workers, perhaps slowing down the flow of ideas and overall productivity within the company.

If you’re a small business owner, considering the productivity of yourself and/or your employees is very important. As your time and budget are likely at a premium, it’s important that everyone you work with maximizes their potential. So should you consider renting or buying office space in order to maximize the productivity of your employees? Here are some pros and cons to working in an office:

Pros:

  • Your employees will have a sense of camaraderie in an office setting. They can run ideas by each other and collaborate more frequently without the associated hassle of setting up a meeting or conference call.

  • Even if you’re a solopreneur and your company is really just you, a change of scenery has the ability to change your mindset. Transitioning from home to an office may help you get into “work mode” more easily and be less distracted.

  • It’s sometimes easier to get questions answered more quickly in an office setting. Even if you’ve established communication channels, sometimes there’s no substitution for simply walking over and asking a colleague a question.

Cons:

  • Cost is arguably the biggest factor in a decision to secure office space. Renting or buying office space can be costly and for a small business or a startup, that can feel like an unnecessary expense early in the game.

  • From a culture standpoint, having to show up and work from an office can often feel more rigid, especially if you’re a tech company or startup and your employees are working all hours of the day and night. Adhering to set hours can sometimes limit the flow of creativity--some people really do their best work at 3 a.m., while others may thrive during more traditional work hours. So keeping that in mind as it relates to the overall culture of your company is important.

  • Your employees may already have a place where they feel they can work to their best potential. Confining someone who prefers to work on a comfy sofa or outdoors on a park bench in an interior space can have an impact on productivity.
It’s important to take these ideas into consideration when deciding whether a virtual environment with remote workers is the best fit for your business or if office space is the route for you. As you’re deciding, don’t forget to talk with your employees about it, too. They’ll feel like they have a say in what goes on with the business—and you might discover some valuable insight you hadn’t previously considered.

What about you? Are you a fan of the virtual environment and working remotely or are you an advocate of office space? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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About the Author

Megan Totka

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. As a small business expert, Megan specializes in reporting the latest business news, helpful tips and reliable resources, as well as providing small business advice.

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