Get more work from employees.. send them home

This isn’t particularly genomics related, but interesting and related to our work here at OpenHelix. We are a semi-virtual company. Our scientists, including myself, work full time at home. We do have a physical office in Bellevue, Wa where the CEO and support staff work, but the rest of us (including Mary, Jennifer and I here on the blog) work from home.

Though it was an adjustment for me learning how to telecommute (find a physically separate place to work, make rigid routines, and for me use a ‘get things done’ system, instill in family and friends… 1,000 times over.. that you WORKING and it’s not your free time just because you are in the building, and technical aspects.. yeah for skype!). Yet, I love working from home. It gives me the flexibility to raise a child, cook dinners from scratch, enjoy hobbies and it saves me money in gas and car upkeep. In fact, if it wasn’t for the 2 mile drive to our daughters’ school, we wouldn’t even need a car. The drawbacks (little social time with colleagues, etc) are minor and easily fixed.

I am a solid advocate of telecommuting. Done right it’s great for the employee, their families and the environment.

That’s a long segue into this next statement: It’s also good for the company, Want your employees to work more? Send them home .

It turns out that not all work hours are the same. The BYU researchers calculated a “break point,” that is, the point where 25 percent of workers reported that work was interfering with family life. Among people who have to log all their hours in an office during certain times, this break point happened at 38 hours. Since many full-time workers log 40-45 hours per week, this means a lot of people are feeling conflict.

If you give employees some flexibility about their schedules, though, and give them the option to work some of the time from home, the break point doesn’t hit until 57 hours. That’s 19 more hours per week — 50 percent more than the office-only workers, and the equivalent of 2.5 full days.

We’ve found that it saves us money. Smaller physical footprint, no office rental, etc. But, according to that study linked above, it also gets more actual _work_ from employees. I think I can vouch for that. I personally think I hit my “too much work” point much later than if I was working from an office I’d have to commute to.

For one thing, I don’t have the 30-90 minute or more commute to travel to work every day. There’s a good solid hour or two of free time or work time. And because I can be flexible, for example picking up our daughter from school at 3:00 to take her to some activity, it gives me a lot leeway in how to use my time, making work less stressful. That in turn, makes more work easier to do. I find myself often working after the kid is in bed, or I have a free hour on the weekend. I know that at-the-office workers also have to often do that, but for me… I’m doing it more often when I want to, and those “have to” moments are less often.

I’m sold on telecommuting. I think, for many companies, employees and families… and the environment, it’s a win-win-win-win :D.

HatTip: Andrew Sullivan.

(and the study was done by BYU researchers, my undergraduate alma mater :/)