The old-fashioned notion that most people who work from home are women with small children is no longer valid. Not so long ago women workers shouldered a greater burden of family responsibilities and child rearing. It was therefore quite natural for them to ask for and get work from home arrangement. Changing societal norms towards equal participation in household duties including bringing up children has spawned another social reality. As more men participate equally in fulfilling their household duties, the need for flexible work policy for men is growing.
Statistics reflect this change like nothing else. Internationally, a survey conducted by Flex+Strategy Group found that male employees are far greater in number than female employees as far as remote work is concerned. Surprisingly enough, childless workers or men with children both availed of the opportunity to do online work from home. This survey has thrown a light on the fact that a flexible working policy is welcomed by all employees regardless of gender. Indian companies reflect this trend.
More and more companies are acknowledging that flexibility is a desired requirement of all employees. This social reality is gender neutral. A Harris Interactive poll last year showed that 37% of men and 31% of women spent time working from home at some point or the other in their working lives. Nearly 66% of the workers told Harris that online working from home led to a rise in productivity and output. Companies that allow remote work do not think that flexible work is about women employees alone.
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Why do employees want to work from home? There are many reasons. Modern day nuclear families put pressure on both the working spouses for looking after children. Old parents need looking after too and household errands need to be run. Work from home policy allows workers to juggle all this in the most efficient way possible. Time management helps workers to discharge their personal and professional responsibilities in a satisfactory manner. In India, there are other compelling reasons as well. Bad weather conditions like a long and unpredictable rainy season causing frequent flooding in Mumbai coupled with terrible infrastructure, are an incentive for companies to allow remote work. Some IT companies allow their employees to work from home 9 days in a month.
Advantages of working from home are many. In India especially, one of the biggest advantages is the avoidance of long and often stressful commute to work. Telecommuting employees are less stressed. Full time telecommuters end up saving a great deal of money in transport costs. The time and energy saved thus is better employed in work and in discharging personal responsibilities. Flexible working schedules allow workers to be more efficient with their time, ultimately allowing them more family time. Money saved on transport is an added advantage. Many men actually prefer to work from home as there are lesser distractions at home than at traditional workplaces, especially when they have to chase deadlines.
Benefits of working from home are great for people engaged in creative and analytical work. People engaged in such work find the open plan work spaces of today very distracting. For them uninterrupted work in office is almost an impossibility. They prefer to work at home, away from distractions and concentrate on the work at hand better. They can work longer, taking short breaks in between. And connect with the family at the same time. It is a win-win situation. Thus working online from home boosts productivity for sure.
Although statistics suggest that working from home is gender neutral, women still hesitate to make a push for it lest they are seen as solitary workers and not team players. When men in professional leadership positions make a go for remote work, they actually open up the way for women workers to work from home without any fear of professional setback.
Consensus is emerging in modern workplaces that the traditional 9 to 5 offices have become obsolete. Companies encourage flexible working. As long as the work gets done, it matters little where it gets done and for how long. In a bid to control attrition, companies are offering flexible working policy to more and more employees. Employers offering work from home flexibility lost very few workers. These companies are also realizing other benefits of allowing employees to work from home: they find that telecommuters on the whole are better educated and do more analytical and creative work than non telecommuters.
Companies that allow remote work find it easier to hire young talent. Despite the many benefits of working from home, quite a number of large and not so large companies are not in favor of allowing employees to work from home. Their reasons range from client confidentiality to security concerns. They are wary of data breaches. Some voice concerns that such a policy impacts teamwork and employee bonding.
Looking at the overall scenario however, it is clear that the benefits of working from home or telecommuting far outweigh the disadvantages. The trend will gain further momentum. For both men and women, the advantages of working from home are very real. Companies that are not yet ready for this reality , will have to change their attitude towards working from home very quickly.
- More men too now working from home. Vipashana V K. Reeba Zachariah. 30/9/19.
- Men work from home more than women. Vicky Elmer. 24/2/2014