Working From Home: An OPEN Forum Guide

Some claim that employees' productivity decreases when working from home; others argue the opposite. OPEN Forum experts weigh in.
June 30, 2011

Working remotely went from unheard of, to a luxury, to common procedure for many companies. With so many businesses shifting online, it’s easy to access your work wherever you are, but the question still remains: Is working from home a good idea?

While some claim employees’ productivity levels fall, others argue the exact opposite. So, where do we stand? OPEN Forum experts tackle the perks and the downfalls to help you decide what’s best for your business.

An Office Mentality

Just because you’re home doesn’t mean you should stay in your pajamas with the television blaring in the background while simultaneously trying to do housework. Get dressed, turn off all distractions and get to work. “Consider using a coffee shop or a library as your 'office' to avoid distractions at home. Sometimes doing this just once or twice a week can make a big difference in your ability to focus on tough tasks or when working on a deadline. At home, create a designated work space. If you can't have a whole room for an office, use something physical to block off the space and make sure both you and others in the household respect that space,” suggests Lynn Truong.

Reality Check

Does your idea of working from home include lunch dates, a midday workout session and catching up on your favorite shows? Think again. Katie Morell speaks from experience: “After years of working on staff at newspapers and magazines I leapt into freelance writing a little more than 18 months ago. I wasn’t naïve; I knew I’d have to work hard to start my business. What I didn’t expect were the challenges that came along with working from home. There are several.” Check out how small, medium and large businesses divvy up telecommuting and see Morell's tips for making sure your day at home is a successful one.

Balancing Act

Although working from home can be freeing, many telecommuters get sucked into working 24/7. Everyone needs to remove themselves from work—mentally and physically—to maintain their sanity. “Before you begin working, start by breaking down your time into small chunks of tasks. By planning bite-sized tasks for your work hours, you can maximize your time and get a lot more done. Sitting down without a plan usually results in spending your time picking away at a bunch of things that don’t get you anywhere,” advises Heather Allard in 7 Steps To Work-Life Balance When Working At Home.

Embrace Change

You may be of the mindset that working in the office is absolutely necessary, every day of the week—but times are a changin’. “I’ve long been a proponent of letting people work at home, simply because it makes employees so much happier,” writes Rieva Lesonsky. To make it work for you, she suggests to schedule one day per week where employees must work face-to-face in an office environment. “Encourage employees to get together informally to bond and brainstorm,” she suggests.

When In Doubt…Spy

If you’re managing employees who work remotely and are questioning their productivity levels, there’s good news: there are programs made specifically to check in and make sure workers are on track. Meet Peerdrum, a “new software program that enables employers to view their teams’ desktops to witness and track their computing activities and performance during paid working time, by delivering screenshots of workers’ active monitors every 10 minutes,” explains Jill Fehrenbacher. While you of course want to respect your employees’ privacy, if there’s a need to take drastic measures, there’s a program to help you do so.