Work from Home: A Dying Practice?

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Working from home is an appealing concept to many. Work in sweatpants, avoid the annoying office flyby that interrupts your thought process, and even take your laptop out to the patio on nice days…what’s not to like!? Over the past decade, working from home has become a major trend thanks to modern technology such as Citrix Virtual Desktop solutions, IP Telephony and Unified Communication technology, and the rise of the smart phone. However, despite the personal benefits, the future of work from home is becoming cloudy as many companies have nixed the once loved practice of working in your PJs.

In recent years, companies such as Best Buy, Honeywell International, Bank of America, Reddit and IMB have either eliminated or reduced their work from home policies, citing a need for more workplace collaboration and more control over the workday. Collaboration amongst teams is noted as a primary driver for creating innovative projects and solutions, however, despite advanced technologies that allow employees to remain present and connected from anywhere, companies like those mentioned above feel the need to bring people physically together to keep the creative juices flowing.

Working from home: Encouraging or enabling?

By the Numbers

Below are a few stats that represent the rise and popularity of working from home over the past decade:

  • In the United States, working from home increased 115% between 2005 and 2015.
  • Around nine million, or 2.9% percent of the U.S. workforce, works from home at least part of the time.
  • Fifty-six percent of workers in the U.S. hold jobs that are compatible with telecommuting, up from 50% in 2014.
  • Employers can save over $11,000 per half-time telecommuter per year. Full-time telecommuting employees save over $4,000 each year. Half-time telecommuting employees save an average of $2,677 annually in commuting costs.
  • The average age of a telecommuter is 46 years of age or older.
  • Data indicate roughly 80 to 90% of people who don’t currently telecommute would like to start.

Despite the numbers saying that working from home is a financial and environmental plus for employers, big time companies have still found reasons to reel people back in.

Why Companies are Getting Rid of Work from Home

IBM is a notable example of a company that recently completely ended the option for employees to work from home for their marketing team. Even more extreme, IBM was so determined to inspire creativity within their 2,600 people strong marketing department that they even closed small offices, forcing employees to commute to one of 6 major U.S. cities (Atlanta, Austin, Boston, New York, Raleigh, or San Francisco.) For decades, IBM employees were allowed to work from anywhere, which came with significant savings for their business (a savings of over $100 million dollars in 14 years due to a significant downsizing in office space.) The main reason IBM decided to bring in their marketing team was they found that the team needed to respond to changes quickly and on the go, which required real-time collaboration.

Perhaps maybe a bit ahead of the curve, Best Buy ended their work from home policies in 2013. Back then, Best Buy was struggling to compete with online retailers like Amazon, and wanted an “all hands on deck” approach to help turn things around.

In fall of last year, Honeywell International banned telecommuting worldwide for thousands of employees, who announced working from home should only be used in special circumstances only a few days a year. Similar to Best Buy and IBM, Honeywell felt that collaboration was needed to out perform their rivals.

The Benefits of Working From Home

Besides the aforementioned financial savings a company gains by having employees work from home, there are many other key benefits for both the employee and the employer. Working from home fosters flexibility for people to make their own schedules, which is huge for millennials (millennials now surpass Generation Xers in the workforce).

Collaboration

Collaboration is a key driver for client experience, addressing problems, and creating new solutions. 

Also, for employees who live in large urban centers with notoriously dreadful traffic build ups like Toronto, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Atlanta or Montreal, travelling to work can be sheer hell with a 30 minute to 1 hour average one way commute. Working from home is also significantly positive on the environment, with reduced traffic,  less emissions, and less garbage to dispose of in the office.

How do millennials help modern businesses?

The Verdict

For the time being, work from home is here to stay. Companies like Cisco and Citrix have been developing advanced technologies that allow people to remain fully productive and involved no matter where they are in the world. With technological benefits such as video conferencing phones, Web Ex, Citrix App Virtualization, and more, employees can be empowered and entrusted to control their own work fate and work from the comfort of their own home. Time will tell if we have started to see the true death of telecommuting, but as long as technology keeps collaboration happening, the practice should stay around for the foreseeable future.

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