Opponents of the idea of working from home tend to be traditionalists with dire predictions: Nothing will get done, the company will lose out on productivity, and it will somehow cost more to operate without everyone packed into one central place. The truth of the matter, however, is that technology has changed the working milieu in significant ways, and these so-called predictions are nothing more than myths about the working-from-home experience.
Todd Miller, author of Going Virtual, and Mike Pugh of j2 Global are WFH proponents, and claim that a distributed home-based workforce is the new disruptive best-business practice. The cloud, mobile tech and a massive evolution of modern online communications have prompted 21st century-minded managers to re-imagine the parameters of the old business workspace.
Here are three of the most popular, and stubborn, myths—each one busted by modern-day realities.
Myth #1: Offices are the most productive work environments. Studies show that offices are actually among the least productive places to get work done. Basex, a research firm, estimates that nearly three hours per day is lost to office-related interruptions and distractions. Bottom line? American businesses spend over $750 billion per year on that downtime.
Thanks to technology, it's not as necessary as it once was to always be together physically in the same office. Phone and Web-conferencing applications often mitigate the need for in-the-flesh interaction with co-workers. Cloud-based storage and file management puts customer information in employees' hands, whenever and wherever. Virtual whiteboards make for highly collaborative environments as well. None of this is to say that we never meet in person again; it's just that the baseline of when and where we do has shifted.
Myth #2: Productivity depends on in-person supervision. Do you know what the top Web application used by closely supervised office workers is? It's not a sales app, and not a research tool. According to Miller, it's Farmville.
Motivation and productivity are the result of people leading people, but the research tells us that good results are about inspiration—and that employees respond to compelling visions that are translated into crisply defined goals and objectives. If your workers understand where the company is going and they're excited about that direction, they will understand how they’re contributing to its success. This is a powerful force, and it's not dependent upon middle management—or anyone else—lurking at the cubicle's edge. In other words, the onus for productivity isn't on physical environs and monitors to observe employees; it's on the people that lead their staff by inspiration.
Myth #3: Traditional offices are more economical. Turns out, they're probably not. Taken together, real estate, utilities, equipment, absenteeism and lost productivity can cost a business as much as $40,000 per employee each year. Additionally, costs from catastrophic events can prove insurmountable to businesses anchored in a traditional office. Crain’s New York Business reported that Hurricane Sandy cost downtown New York City businesses an estimated $17 billion. Downtime was a huge problem in the wake of that event. Employees were simply unable to work because their traditional offices had been compromised.
There are even more cost savings implicit in what's left after these myths are busted wide open. No more recruiting that Silicon Valley expert by physically relocating him or her—payrolls can now absorb the WFH specialist in less expensive ways.
In the end, this is what WFH really promises: the best minds in a new kind of workspace divorced from traditional expenses, but still linked to the time-tested tactics that foster success.
Read more articles on company culture.