The New Office Hours
I agree with Ezra and Matt that there are many benefits to working from home. There are even more significant benefits to being able to work from home. I’m fortunate to have a job where we’re paid to get our work done and have no set office hours or vacation time. Being your own boss in terms of time management isn’t a flexibility afforded to every job; our receptionist has set hours, for example. But for a job like mine, where sometimes the most efficient use of my time is to just get out of bed and start typing to meet a deadline, I’m definitely more productive for being able to allocate my time according to my own best practices.
There are also benefits that are indirectly positive for my productivity. I can attend events in the city and catch up later, so it’s good for my professional development. I can take shorter but more frequent vacations because I can always search for the cheapest flight, then telecommute a bit if getting the good deal required scheduling a longer trip than planned, so it’s good for my bank account and mental health as well. And even though there’s no requirement, I tend to spend a lot of time in the office because I have a very collaborative role (read: meetings), because I generally like interacting with my coworkers, and of course there’s the gossip! But given that I have a job, I’m generally in the office when I want to be more often than when I need to be.
Now, there are drawbacks to be sure. One is that I sometimes feel like I’m always working, or at least thinking about work, since I’m accountable for my work whether I’m in the office/city/state/country or not. Fortunately I also like my job or this would be even more problematic. Another is that some people are not particularly responsive by electronic means, so they might be incredibly productive working from home but really annoying for coworkers who can’t get quick answers.
One of the more interesting challenges is dealing with the “impression management” problem, where staff members may love the time policy but they don’t internalize it, remaining suspicious of the productivity of colleagues who are frequently out of the office. Other staff may respond to this indirect pressure by spending more time in the office than needed simply to be seen working. I wonder whether this is a problem that will diminish over time, or if people just have trouble believing without seeing in general.
Anyway, I think the benefits of being able to work from home outweigh the costs, but that the psychology that goes into why we might or might not choose to do so is really the more interesting part for me. So there’s my two cents.