Does ‘work from home’ affect productivity?


Companies are increasingly allowing the ‘work from home’ facility, but does this benefit them? HR Katha finds out…

V Ravi, vice president & head, L&D (RPMG,) Reliance Industries Ltd

Working from home suits best for those who do not require frequent social interaction

V Ravi

I agree and quite favourably. Barring exceptions and specific requirements, many office jobs can be handled from home. That telecommuting is on the rise across the world and here to stay, is evident.

I have experienced that I can produce my best work, which includes writing e-mails and reports, when I am at home behind closed doors. While working from home demands a certain focus and the ability to block out distractions, I have the means to allow myself minor distractions, whether it is taking a walk around my home to clear my head, spending a little time reading a newspaper, taking a bite or two in the kitchen across my room, doing some exercise or even indulging in a short nap. These deliberate distractions can help balance one’s work-life better, especially if one has personal commitments too that can be addressed without hampering work.

However, this should be practised only once or twice a week when there is no requirement for one to be in the office or when working at home enables privacy and efficiency.

Working from home is most suitable for those who do not need frequent social interactions. The IT and Telecom revolution has made it possible for any one, irrespective of the nature of occupation, to be in touch virtually with any other co- worker in real time. Moreover, distractions through direct phone calls are minimised. It is possible to stick to a schedule which may otherwise be impossible in an office where you may be drawn into avoidable meetings.

Anurag Kalyani, sr. manager, human resources, Siemens Ltd

With the advent of technology, no task is left which cannot be measured

Anurag Kalyani

Organisations, which intend to keep their employees constantly engaged and motivated, and at the same time retain their talents, try to offer attractive work solutions like flexible work hours, virtual office and assistance to manage work–life balance. I believe one such effective method followed by progressive organisations, with strong values and high levels of trust on the employees, is the work from home option.

The option is very effective for

  • Companies in the green field stage.
  • Employees who have clearly-defined timelines for all tasks.
  • Specific project management people.
  • Women employees in special situations.

In today’s world, the advent of technology has left us with no task, which cannot be measured. I believe that the organisations that do not feel confident of introducing the work from home concept, should strengthen their processes. They should also look at the benefits of this option, which include: saving on real estate cost for sales organisations working in metros; saving on administration cost and support-staff cost (like front office, housekeeping, gardens, etc); high work–life balance; longer retention and; more engaged employees. These are just some of the positives.

I’m lucky to work in an organisation, which believes in its employees and offers this option to them. Hence, I sincerely think this facility, if carefully implemented on select employees (as a pilot project and then roll out to all in a phased manner),will surely be beneficial for organisations in the longer run. Companies should believe in the theory Y of Douglas McGregor.

Madhav Vamsi M, campus head,

It is all about how an individual reconciles his personal and professional life

Madhav Vamsi

While we are in a world where everything is connected, the concept of ‘Work from Home’ (WFH), in my opinion, still has an image problem. Why has the concept not taken off yet? Is it the elusiveness of the ideal or the fact that it is considered a complete myth?

Is the argument about centralised command-and-control (let’s call it ‘Place 1’) vs virtual or remote workers or telecommuting/teleworking (referred to as ‘Place 2’) vs the productivity of various models? I guess organisations, their leaders and HR practitioners like me, are yet to figure this one out.

A few years ago, I had invited a friend over for dinner. He was in India for a brief period and was apparently on WFH status with his employer. As he sat at the dinner table, his first act was to log onto his laptop—a flash to his employer that he had ‘logged in’ and was on his task. What took me by surprise was the second act. He asked me for a water bottle with specifications of size and quantity of water. The bottle, according to him, should have had enough water for exerting the precise weight on the space bar of his computer. Weird, right? Well, he then proceeded to open the notepad on his system, ensured that his cursor kept moving so that his unsuspecting employer, sitting several thousand nautical miles away thought he had indeed logged in and was working hard.

The story does not end here, for all of you who thought it did. My friend left the system on (yes, with the bottle on the spacebar) and went off into slumber-land!
Do we have systematic evidence or consensus to believe WFH is a boon or a bane? With all the arguments, we all tend to weigh the pros and cons, but how are we going to do the balancing act?

Management decisions are based on data. While telecommuting or WFH is largely discussed as a modern management practice, lack of relevant data, especially in emerging economies like ours is not helping organisations to firmly design WFH.

With more than a decade of experience, I take a third place on this context. It is about life-work balance. It is all about how an individual reconciles his personal and professional life. For me, the truth for a prospering career or organisational productivity lies in carefully combining work and home so as to not lose oneself and one’s loved ones, or one’s foothold on success. Giving work and home, both, their due!

Merely possessing skills, which thrive in a virtual environment or which flourish in an environment, where the culture is to work on the site, is hardly adequate. Collaboration is essential for lasting results! 


Comment on the Article

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

seventeen + four =