Should IT Managers Allow Their Team Members To Work From Home?

Telecommuting is popular, but is it the right choice for your team?
Telecommuting is popular, but is it the right choice for your team?
Image Credit: Scott Maxworthy

I’m willing to bet that one or more of your team members has come to you and requested that they be permitted to work from home. For most of us IT managers this tests our IT manager skills and poses a dilemma: we can understand that our team members want the convenience of working from home; however, at the same time if we can’t see them, then how will we be able to tell if they really are working or not?

The Case For Working At Home

The good news for your team members who want to convince you that you should permit them to work from home is that there are studies out there that confirm that allowing people to work from home is a boost to overall productivity. Many of these studies have shown that there is real, tangible value to allowing workers to remain home while they work.

These benefits include the simple fact that workers who are permitted to work from home have been found to be happier with their jobs. The ability to work by themselves has created a less stressful work environment and so the same workers reported that they felt less work stress. The overall result of this was that the productivity of home workers was higher than their colleagues who were working in an office. Team members who work from home have been shown to have a higher degree of job loyalty and they have fewer intentions of quitting.

Working from home, or “telecommuting”, is a growing trend. In 2015 60% of businesses allowed some of their employees to work from home. This was an increase over 2011 when only 53% of firms allowed this.

The Case Against Working At Home

Although there may be benefits to allowing some of your team to work from home, it turns out that there are studies that show that this may have a negative impact on productivity. As an IT manager you need to be aware of the whole story. No matter how much your team members may beg you, you need to understand that there is a downside to working from home.

On of the biggest reasons to say “no” to a request to work from home would be due to the need to have your team members interact with each other. This is especially true at the start of a project when “face-to-face” time is most valuable.

Additionally, what the studies have shown is that employees who telecommute just a few hours a week (for approximately 15 hours) turn out to be more satisfied than those employees who either telecommute more or less. The thinking is that these employees are getting the benefits of working from home while still getting the social ties of working in an office.

What All Of This Means For You

As IT managers we are asked a lot of questions by the members of our team. One question that we’ve been getting more and more of lately are requests to be permitted to work from home. We don’t really have any IT manager training on this topic and we’d like to know if this is a productivity booster or not; however, it’s a bit unclear as to what the research says.

It turns out that you can find research to support both sides of this argument. Studies have shown that workers who have been permitted to work from home are generally happier and are experiencing less stress than their office based colleagues. However, there are specific times such as the kickoff of a project where face-to-face interaction is needed and can only be accomplished by having everyone in the office. Studies have shown that team members who work from home some of the time seem to be the most happy.

So what’s an IT manager to do? The benefits of working from home are clear and the overall improvement in moral of your team will be a boon to both you and the team. Think of this as a form of IT team building. If your company permits it, it sure seems like allowing some limited working from home would make your team even more productive than they are today.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: What do you think is the best way to measure the productivity of telecommuting workers?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

How is that IT career of yours going? I certainly hope that it is going well for you. However, I’ve got an important question for you: are you trying to do it all by yourself? It turns out that getting ahead in the world of IT can be a lot easier if we use out IT manager skills to discover how to effectively network. Now the big question is just exactly how does one go about doing this?