Does working from home make for happier employees?

Denise Dador Image
Friday, November 24, 2017
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Kristin Harrington is one of a growing number of Americans who work from home.

It's Monday morning but you're still in your pajamas. It's OK, though, because you're working from home. All the coffee, none of the commute.

It's the new normal for a growing number of Americans, with more than ever before choosing to do some or all of their work from home. But is it working out and creating happier, more productive employees?

It is for Kristin Harrington. She works hard as a full-time employee and a full-time mom, and does it all without getting in the car.

"I can flex my own hours. And as long as I'm able to get my work done then everything is fine," she says.

Telecommuting is exploding with nearly a quarter of employees now doing some or all of their work from home.

Maura Thomas, author of "Work Without Walls" says it's easy to see why. "No commute. You save all that frustration," she says. "Wardrobe expenses, car expenses. Fewer sick days because you're not exposed to airborne illnesses."

In fact, a recent study found a cultural shift in which the idea of "work" is being separated from the idea of a workplace. But while the study found this has led to significantly higher levels of job satisfaction among remote workers, it can also come with a cost: the inability to clock out when the workday is done.

In fact, the study found 39 percent of remote workers routinely work extra time, compared to only 24 percent of office workers.

"There's a barrage all day long of email and voicemail and instant message and text messages," says Thomas. "It's difficult to just turn that off."

But, she reiterates that being able to "turn off" is key for long-term success. She says balance is important and you need to make time for things like exercise, sleep and family.

Kristin says she works hard, but always makes sure there's time for her family, by clocking out at 5 p.m.

"I have the best of both worlds," she says. "I get to be a mom and I get to generate full-time income."

One potential pitfall that can come from working from home is a feeling of isolation.

Experts say one way to combat that is to try to stop by the office from time to time, if you're local. You can use videoconferencing to feel connected if you don't live nearby.

Another suggestion: ask your employer to schedule off-site meetings or have team building events or retreats. It's a good way for everyone to get to know one another outside the office.