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With Marissa Mayer’s recent ban on Yahoo! employees working from home, much attention has been turned to the idea of remote working and whether it aids productivity. A recent uSamp study polled 1000 professionals to share their thoughts on working remotely, and found that 65% of those companies allowed employees to work remotely, but only 27% of that number worked solely remotely, and most people (47%) combined office and home environments for work.

Is Working Remotely More Productive?

The issue of whether remote employees are as productive as those working in an office differs according to your industry and job description. When discussing her decision to ban remote working at Yahoo!, Mayer said, “People are more productive when they’re alone, but they’re more collaborative and innovative when they’re together” (Kelly), going on to assert that Yahoo! needs the power of creative minds working together in an office.

However, although Mayer issued a ban on remote working, she did acknowledge the value of working out of the office. USamp’s study found that 47% of the people who went into the office did so because it was expected of them, 23% for face-to-face interactions, 18% for productivity, and 9% to be a team player. However, 67% of the professionals polled stated that working remotely is productive, with only 7% disagreeing. These statistics indicate that many working professionals feel they would benefit from working at home and have the opportunity to do so but don’t take it.

I think Marissa Mayer’s point about productivity versus creativity is significant in relation to this topic. While employees working at home can get more done, having someone to bounce ideas off of is incredibly beneficial if you’re working creatively. However, the balance between the two could most certainly be achieved with social media and chat tools, where remote coworkers can Skype or chat about work while being physically separate. And, in general, encouraging social media use around the office can also facilitate this in an in-house situation.

Replicating Home In an Office Environment

The real question that this discussion brings up is whether people should utilize their opportunities to work remotely, and how to replicate effective working environments at work. Although it might seem clear that most people feel more productive at home because they feel more generally comfortable, you can replicate some of that in your office environment.

For some people it’s as easy as bringing favorite snacks and an iPod, but I know a number of people that bring pillows, blankets, and other items to help them feel more comfortable at work. Additionally, it is important to take opportunities to get out of your chair and move around. Some jobs have the flexibility for working in different parts of the office, and this can help to break up the monotony.

Take ownership of your personal office space by bringing things from home. This will help you to feel more comfortable at work by making your space more personal and individualized.

Balancing Remote and Office Work

As 47% of the people studied worked both remotely and in the office, it appears that there can be a best-of–both-worlds approach to balancing in-house and out-of-office work. As Mayer says, the benefit of working in an office is that you can receive inspiration from coworkers, which facilitates creativity; however, not every job needs that type of creative coordination on a constant basis, so there are definitely instances when working remotely can be completely appropriate and productive.

Although the majority of people polled worked at home almost all or part of the time, the office environment is also key to being productive in certain ways. Having a designated office space can really help employees to feel connected to their work and more comfortable and productive. As someone who has worked remotely, I do think that a balance between the two can be the best solution for both productivity and creativity, and while it felt excellent to work at home and produce, it was also critical to be surrounded by creative influences.

If you’re considering encouraging your employees to work remotely, or working remotely yourself, it is important to measure the benefit in terms of creativity and productivity, and make a decision based on what is required of you and under which conditions you, or your staff, work best.

Sources

Hall, Kevan. “Staying Visible When Working Remotely.” Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kevan-hall/staying-visible-when-work_b_3324107.html. (30 May, 2013).

Kelly, Meghan. “Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer Speaks Out About Her Work-From-Home Ban.” VentureBeat. http://venturebeat.com/2013/04/19/marissa-mayer-wfh/. (30 May, 2013).

Koetsier, John. “To Work Remotely or Not, That Is that Question.” VentureBeat. http://venturebeat.com/2013/04/24/to-work-remotely-or-not-that-is-the-question-infographic/. (30 May, 2013).

Popescu, Adam. “The Pro’s Guide to Working Remotely.” Mashable. http://mashable.com/2013/04/24/how-to-work-remotely/. (30 May, 2013).