Does working from home equal slacking?

New research has found that a growing number of Aussie workers are willing to take a pay cut in order to be able to work from home. It’s causing a bit of a debate on Twitter so I thought I’d chuck my opinion into the ring because it’s something that gets me a bit hot under the collar.

My biggest issue is the suggestion that working from home equates to doing less (especially if you’re going to take a pay cut for the privilege). And that’s a perception a lot of shortsighted employers, who treat their employees like slacker teenagers who can’t be trusted, have.

In my own experience, working from home can be extremely productive. I usually get more done on a day of uninterrupted silence at home—or on my balcony—than I do in the office with the constant phone calls and people wanting something from me. Of course it wouldn’t work as a full-time arrangement in my job—and for most jobs—but I think bosses should accept that sometimes, with good reason, allowing your staff to work from home makes sense, and can even lead to an increase in productivity.

Add to this the fact that demonstrating trust in your employees to get on with their work without having you constantly looking over their shoulder will probably make them work harder and increase morale.

Flexible working has long been a big perk of working in the public sector but why is the private sector so scared of it? We’re all adults. Why not have some trust in your employees? When they want to slack off, they’ll chuck a sickie…

  • Working from home isn\’t a priviledge, it\’s an alternative! If your pay is getting cut, it should be due to the changing nature of your role, or hours, or outcomes. Not due to location.

  • I suspect it depends on your self-discipline. For me, working from home consists of daytime TV, loading the dishwasher and just one more episode of The Wire before I make a start. Before you know it, it’s 8pm.

    But I fear that’s just me.

  • I agree with Marie. It seems like a very dated idea. The team in my work opt to work from home when they have too much to do, not too little.

    If a workforce is home-based it actually *saves* the employer money on broadband, office space, refreshments… the list goes on. Maybe we should be discussing why you should get a pay rise to work from home – you have to pay your own heating/air con and usually achieve more for the business.

  • Jo

    I agree with Emily, I wouldn\’t take a pay cut to work from home because I\’d still be working. I\’ve chatted with a few of my friends about this topic and most believe they would be willing take a pay cut for a shorter working week. I\’ve started a poll about it,

  • Working from home is still working, right? Most people who work from home work the same if not more hours…so I don\’t understand why people would take a pay cut. I don\’t think it should be considered a luxury/perk – it really is just a more flexible working arrangement, but it is still work. If the work was not getting done, you would get caught out quickly and the work from home option can be re-considered for that particular individual.

    The world is changing and so are our priorities – for individuals and businesses. It\’s the people that really make the business and businesses need to be smarter, adapt and embrace. Telework Australia is an organisation that advocates work from home / working remotely and the information on their website sums it up perfectly:

  • Simon Fitzgerald

    Increased productivity; staff ‘permitted’ to work from home feel valued because their employer trusts them; happier staff due to flexibility; increased staff loyalty…the list goes on.

    I find that when I work from home I tend to log on much earlier and log off later than a typical working day.

    Put simply, a win-win for all parties.

  • Mad dog lady

    I work from home a couple of times a month and ALWAYS get more done than I do in the office, with the phone ringing constantly and emails pinging into my inbox every two seconds. And because I avoid my hour-long commute each way, I can start earlier and finish later without actually sacrificing any more of my day than I would were I in the office. I don’t miss the office interaction when I’m at home and ultimately would love to run a full-time home-based business. I definitely wouldn’t take a pay cut to do it, though – I’m being more productive at home!

  • Mandy from Melbourne

    I have been working from home for the past 4 months after relocating from Sydney, the flexibility is terrific and I find I can work very effectively without interruption especially between the hours of 10am to 3pm, however also being able to attend to various tasks after hours when I would have been driving to and from work. I do miss the interaction with staff but have plenty of banter on e-mail, so far so good.

  • Sarah

    In a past life, I worked from home for many years. I worked longer hours, was more productive than in the office, and certainly didn\’t miss the lengthy commutes. I was actually on a higher salary , and in addition, was able to charge my employer for the (minimal) costs of running an office from home. I would visit the office when needed for big meetings, about once a month or so, otherwise everything could be done online or by phone. The arrangement suited everyone. My employer certainly reaped the benefits of higher productivity, and I enjoyed the freedom of structuring the day as it suited me best. It may not work for everyone but it worked really well for me!

  • First, let me say that I was one of the folks quoted in the press release and I’m part of the worldwide workplace advisory council. However, I also need to stress that this is not a commercial position – I ‘m not getting paid by Citrix outside of early access to some very interesting research data.
    Based on the raw data I saw from the report, there is no indication that working from home is slacking. Certainly employees do not see it that way. 58% of Australian employees in large organizations and 48% in SMEs wanted “the ability to work from home.” Key reasons for wanting to work remote include: Setting own hours (40% or large enterprises as opposed to 29% for SMEs), saving money on petrol (16% for enterprises and 20% for SMEs) and avoiding traffic and commuting (14% for enterprises and 15% for SMEs). That amounts to some pretty big sentiment – and remember that a large proportion of this study was done before petrol prices sky-rocketed.
    What this means is that Australians –especially those in larger organizations – are seeking to reverse a decades old trend of increasing levels of unpaid overtime, and returning to a more ‘balanced’ lifestyle. Its not just GenY either – the age groups where across the board. You could argue that is slacking, but I think that’s a bit of a stretch, given the number of other reports on Australian’s work habits.
    More interesting for me is the cost rationalization in terms of transport and lost time during commuting. This is particularly important to note as our population centers are shifting outwards into satellite cities, with increasingly long commuting times (eg. my wife working in Sydney and we live on the Central Coast – she spends just under 3 hours a day travelling to and from work). As we see changing demographic patterns in housing and work location, which is connected to housing affordability and infrastructure, the cost incentives to work remote will likely increase.
    In summary, the report offered no data on how effective working from home is… it looked at the drivers and attitudes towards working remote. And those drivers are very real and connected to big shifts in our economy and culture.
    Best regards,
    Joseph Sweeney

  • Melissa

    At the end of the day it is about outcomes, and for some having that lack of distraction in a home environment is beneficial to driving greater productivity. In my view it should not be viewed as a benefit, but a way to better support your staff to perform at their best. Workers are increasingly more mobile and technology has enabled greater accountability and connection to workers that are off site. Our team have the option to work from home when they need to. We all remain connected via Skype and other tools, there is still absolute engagement and communication without compromising output. Ensuring quality outcomes and employee engagement to me is what it’s all about.
    I am Director of The PR Group BTW

  • I am lucky enough to work from home, although I run my own business, so only have to report to myself and my clients.
    If convenient and suitable to the role, working from home should be a flexible option for both employers and employees. In the end it comes down to productivity, getting the job done and meeting expectations whether from home or the office.
    As a virtual assistant, my clients need to trust me that I will effectively and efficiently get their jobs done and it is my best interest to work as hard as possible to surpass their expectations.
    Working from home is certainly not the ‘easy’ option either, there can be many distractions at home; the telpephone, knock at the door, tempation to turn on the TV, or go to the fridge. Working from home is challenging and takes commitment, dedication and a focused attitude. And I love it!

  • Jen you might be interested in the work of Cali and Jody who wrote a book called \”Why work sucks and how to fix it\” its about \’ROWE\’ (results orientated workplaces). Their website is they are all about \”the radical idea that workplaces treat adults like adults\” – they are doing fab work within huge US companies.

  • Thanks, Allison. Sounds interesting. I’ll check out the website.

  • As a long time home-based worker (since 1982, part-time; 1987, full time) I can vouch for the great productivity enhancements that can be achieved. And like Joseph I also am a member of the Citrix Online Worldwide Workplace Forum. Those interested in this subject could also look at ….

  • pollyemj

    I love love love working from home. It’s so refreshing to work uninterrupted by some of the regular office distractions. Like you Jen I find it improves my productivity a lot. And I hope one day I can work more often from home than in an office!