By Cam Marston

Technology and millennial demands for flexibility have conspired to convince many companies to allow their employees to not bother coming into the office. With the internet, remote messaging systems and cloud technology, there doesn’t seem to be much reason in many industries for employees to be corralled under the same roof.

While the advantages of working from home are obvious – who wouldn’t want to work in their PJs? – I cited a study in a blog several months ago showing that many millennials are actually now seeing the benefits of a more traditional office setting – particularly the interpersonal communication and the greater ease of collaboration.

Now, in a recent piece for Bloomberg, Rebecca Greenfield notes that some employers are also finding that allowing employees to work from home isn’t always such a great idea.

Greenfield interviewed the owner of a New York-based public relations firm who allowed his employees to telecommute and found that they took advantage of the perk. Some couldn’t be reached, or were lax in communicating with coworkers and superiors. One even refused to come in for a requested meeting because she’d planned a trip to the Hamptons.

It can turn into a classic give-an-inch-and-they-take-a-mile situation. In allowing employees the freedom of working remotely, they may eventually feel emboldened to set their own hours, to dictate their own terms of work.

Even those employees who work diligently from home may not be as productive. We all know the distractions that come in a traditional office setting, but those at home are often even more difficult to avoid – that pile of laundry staring you in the face, those unwatched episodes of House of Cards waiting on Netflix.

This isn’t to suggest that telecommuting isn’t here to stay in one form or another. Greenfield cited a Society of Human Resource Management study which found that more than 60 percent of organizations allow some type of it. But nearly 80 percent of those organizations also said they don’t allow it on a full-time basis.

Like anything else, telecommuting has its place under certain circumstances and with certain types of employees. Self-starters who communicate well and don’t need much supervision are ideal candidates to work remotely. And all of us run into situations – daycare issues, sick children, bad weather — where the flexibility to work a day or two from our homes makes our lives easier and our work more productive.

Those who abuse the privilege, however, won’t likely have it for long. And employers who get burned too many times may feel that it’s just not worth the hassle.


Category: Editorial