HOW OFTEN SHOULD EMPLOYEES BE IN THE OFFICE?

COMPANIES STRUGGLE TO QUANTIFY THE OPTIMAL NUMBER OF HOURS IN THE OFFICE - BY ANNE HARDY

In our competitive job market, companies continuously assess benefit packages that will attract and retain top talent.  The ability to telecommute is one of the key benefits used to entice candidates as a growing number of people seek flexibility in their workplace.  For companies, it is challenging to determine the right mix of in-office versus telecommuting hours, evident as companies continually refine telecommuting policies.

Yahoo for example made a major shift in its in-office policy when Marissa Mayer stepped into the Yahoo CEO role.  Marissa came from Google, a company which focused on employees’ creative interactions and thereby placed high value on employees being physically in the office, able to collaborate and exchange ideas in person.  Her decision came under fire, but she stood firm that an in-office policy would boost productivity and engagement.

There has been a lot of research on the optimal number of in-office work hours.  How often should employees be in the office to drive productivity and results for the company?

The advantages of telecommuting can be quite compelling, such as reduced office space costs for the company and increased flexibility and independence for employees.  For employees living in large metropolitan areas, telecommuting offers a tremendous time and energy savings by allowing them to stay off congested roads to get to work.  This means more focused time dedicated to work while being more available to family. But over time, disadvantages tend to emerge that are of concern for some companies, such as reduced engagement and collaboration.

According to Gallup's State of the American Workplace report, “Engagement climbs when employees spend some time working remotely and some time working in a location with their coworkers. The optimal engagement boost occurs when employees spend 60% to less than 80% of their workweek -- or three to four days -- working off-site.”

Workrise data shows that employee commute negatively influences what Dr William Kahn calls our psychological availability, which is our "sense of having the physical, emotional, or psychological resources to personally engage at a particular moment”.

All of this suggests that companies that offer the flexibility to work from home and telecommute can continue to have engaged and connected employees, provided the employees are given the technology, tools and management support to enable effective interaction with their team and across the larger organization.   

In the coming years, we will continue to see companies strive to offer competitive benefit packages that balance corporate and employee needs.  Ultimately, it is critical that benefit packages be closely aligned to current workforce expectations.