Monday, October 22, 2012

The Proven Productivity of Work From Home

Because they must try to remain operational during and after natural disasters by running lodging hot-lines and providing maps to emergency crews, community-destination marketing organizations such as the one I ran in Durham, NC, until retiring a few years ago, were among the first, at least in this community, to empower staff to be able to work from home beginning as early as the mid-1990s.

By 1999, the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau (DCVB) was using the tool to provide workplace flexibility and to amp up already high productivity by another 20%. 

This is one of many reasons that organization has received four national Sloan Awards for Excellence in Workplace Effectiveness and Flexibility, after becoming the first DMO in the nation to be so recognized in 2005.

Between 2005 and 2010, the number of workers telecommuting in the four-county Durham metro area increased from just over 8,000 to nearly 11,000 which represents nearly 5% of the workforce.

The Durham metro area only appears to be below the national average of 10% because it provides such a large proportion of jobs for non-residents who commute in from in other metro areas.

Nationwide since 2005, the percentage of regular telecommuters has grown 66% while the workforce grew just 3%.  Half of the nation’s workforce is now able to telecommute at least part time.

I suspect the number would be even higher except that at least half of employers are ideologically conservative and not just because that group has been slower to embrace new things.

According to research done by Dr. Jonathan Haidt and others, a significant element of the moral matrix of conservatives is wrapped around the fear that people who are slackers will cheat the system.

According to the research in his new 2012 book The Righteous Mind, liberals tend to focus on fairness as equitable, while conservatives tend to focus on proportionality.

It is easy to put safeguards and monitoring in place to curb abuse, and there is evidence that there is less abuse from those that work from home than there is among those in the workplace in general.

Those who continue to deride the practice of working from home as “shirking from home” are well advised to read the results of an experiment by a major Chinese employer that was published a few months ago.

The study was led by Dr. Nicholas Bloom, an economics professor at Stanford University.

Something tells me though, that just as there are still employers who whine about receiving too many emails and instead of shifting to contemporary message platforms, still pine for the days of the snail mail in-box, there will always be executives who resist the concept of work from home.

They will be easy to spot fading away in your rear view mirror while still muttering about takers vs. makers.

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