Why work from home makes sense…

My C-Level boss (CIO) at my fortune 500 company day job just issued his tenets for a well run organization. Included in those tenets was a pretty clear statement about tolerance for “working from home”. In short developers may be granted part time work at home privileges, but other functions – particularly “leadership” functions do not qualify.

Before I say anything else let me first say this. As the CIO it is more than reasonable for him to run his organization as he sees fit. If that is his call… that’s his call.

Now, let me tell you why his decsion makes NO sense:


Here is just one factoid taken from today’s Arizona Republic. Excerpt from the article “Leisure time wasted on the road“.

American drivers spend 3.7 billion hours a year stuck in traffic delays, the Texas Transportation Institute found in its 2005 study of congestion in 85 metropolitan areas, including metro Phoenix. Much of the gridlock is caused by unexpected incidents for which drivers cannot plan.

3.7 BILLION hours!!!

Before we get carried away, lets clean up that number a bit.

Assumption #1: Not all of those hours are employees commuting… so lets take off 1/3. That leaves 2.5 billion hours.

Assumption #2: Not all of those hours gained will be spent on work… lets take off half for soccer practice and picking up dry cleaning. That leaves 1.25 billion hours.

Assumption #3: Remote/Work from home employees are a productivity loss… so some of the benefit is just making up for what is lost. Setting aside the validity of that argument… lets take off half again. That leaves 6.25 million hours.

The result – we gave you back 3 billion hours for non-employee commute hours, employees using the time for things other than work, and making up for lost productivity due to “work from home” – and you still get 16.9% of the hours your employees used to spend commuting back in productivity.

What is that in real terms?

  1. A 300 person IT shop, with 250 positions which could be “work from home”.
  2. An average commute of 30 minutes.
  3. Total Commute Hours per year is: 32,500 man hours.
    1. 250 * .5 * * 5 * 52 OR Employees * avg. commute hours * days in week * weeks in year
  4. Net productivity gain: 5525 man hours. That is 2 and 1/2 full time employee equivalents.
    1. 32500 * .17 = man hours
    2. 5525 / 52 /40 = FTE

Even after we gutted the total hours spent the average organization will still see a nice productivity improvement. Is it small – yes, but it is free; and we have not calculated any cost savings from having reduced our office footprint by 83%.

The reality, however, is that the productivity gains will be much higher. Employees consistently list work life balance as the biggest detractor from their ability to maintain productivity. You just gave them back a cumulative 1.25 billion hours for that balance.

More importantly, removing the widely held belief among (traditionally older) senior executives that “work from home” means “they are not working” would enable organizations to stop resisting and begin embracing remote employees as an important part of thier workforce.

This change in culture enables the changes (i.e., investment) in technology to keep remote workers connected to the enterprise and functioning as effectively as if they were just down the hall.

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