It happens twice a year. My former coworkers and I meet up for happy hour to catch up on each other’s lives, show pictures of our kids, and reminisce about the old days.
But at one point, I noticed that the same thing kept happening. After we had relived some of our favorite memories, we’d start with the war stories about our old company.
There was the time casual Friday was inexplicably taken away, along with a warning that any violators would be sent home to change — and charged with half of a vacation day.
There were the many times the office had a delayed opening, but several people never found out due to the antiquated “phone tree” system management relied on to communicate information.
There was the penny pinching that forced us to stay in questionable hotels, use laptops held together by duct tape, and cover the interest costs on our credit cards when it took 2 months to get compensated for travel expenses.
But the worst offense by far, we all agreed, was the company’s policy to never, ever allow us to work remotely. Not when most of the major roads in my county were closed due to down trees after Hurricane Irene; not after we had worked all weekend at a conference and hadn’t been home in 5 days; not when schools were closed and we had no one to watch our kids.
That policy bread more resentment than all others combined, because as editors, we knew we could easily do our job from home. We all had reliable Internet connections, and were able to access the content management system remotely.
But to management, work from home = shirk from home. The belief was that those who weren’t being closely supervised could not — and would not — be productive.
That belief, much like the phone tree, is antiquated. It’s also completely flawed. Not convinced? Consider the following pieces of evidence:
- A case study of travel website Ctrip found that those working remotely completed 13.5 percent more calls than office-based staff, and that they were far less likely to quit.
- A Harvard Business Review (HBR) report found that those who work from home are more productive per minute, according to researchers, who “cited less noise distraction, fewer breaks and fewer sick days as some possible reasons for the boosts in productivity.”
- A meta-analysis of 46 studies in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that telecommuting reduced stress and increased job satisfaction.
It is not, however, the ideal situation for every employee. A 2014 University of Calgary study found that personality plays a key role in determining whether remote work is the right fit, and that those “who were honest, conscientious and satisfied with their jobs were productive at home, while (unsurprisingly), workers who had a tendency to procrastinate were less productive.”
The HBR study had similar findings, noting that high-performing employees often elect to work remotely because they aren’t worried about getting distracted. The authors urged companies to “be open to employees working from home occasionally, to allow them to focus on individual projects and tasks.”
JetBlue recently did just that, and found that offering flexibility helped to attract top talent — specifically “educated, high-ability mothers” — and lower attrition, which has improved the quality of its workforce.
Again, it isn’t the right arrangement for every company and every individual. Those who are younger and may be seeking social interaction at work aren’t the best candidates; nor are those who aren’t disciplined. But as these examples show, there is tremendous upside to allowing for flexibility whenever possible.
It’s certainly been the case for my happy hour group. More than half of us now work remotely, and we’ve never been happier or more dedicated to our jobs.
Now when we get together, we talk about what a game-changer it is to have flexibility. Whereas before we’d have to use vacation time to get the car fixed or attend a Mother’s Day “lunch” at daycare, now we can take the time to do those things, and make up the work at night.
And when we reminisce about the (not-so-good) old days, we can finally laugh.