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Why Letting Your Employees Work From Home Could Make Them Want to Quit

Jade Yourth
Industry Insights
mother sitting on couch with a laptop on her lap, child and dog laying beside her

Working remotely may seem like it will improve staff-retention, but it could actually be making things worse.

It's no secret that working from home has its perks. No commute means staff will save on time and money. It gives them freedom to balance life and work, plus they can cozy up in pajamas on conference calls and send emails while curled up on the couch. Sure sounds nice, right?

We've all read articles on how companies should "get with the times" and ditch the nine-to-five, allowing for a more flexible schedule. But with little to no face-to-face interaction, it's not uncommon for company culture to suffer or disappear altogether. From a leadership perspective, it's pretty difficult to build camaraderie, challenge one another, and collaborate on projects when everyone's out of the office.

Giving staff the option of telecommuting has been a popular perk that leaders use to attract talent. However, it may be having the adverse effects. A study by the United Nations found that 41 percent of "highly mobile" employees who work out of the office said they felt some degree of stress and more susceptible to insomnia, compared to just 25 percent of office workers.

There are plenty of examples where working from home has been a successful transition. However, it's definitely not for everyone. Leaders need to gauge their team's behaviour and work habits before they make the decision.

So before you grant out-of-office status, here are five questions to ask yourself:

1. Does your team have enough self-discipline?

There's no question that employees need to be incredibly motivated to pull it off. Without a start time, it's tempting to hit the snooze button, turn on the television, or start doing household chores.

That's why some employees actually benefit from a structured day so they can escape the daily distractions of their personal life. Finding the right balance to ensure productivity is crucial to be successful working from home.

2. Will it interfere with their work/life balance?

The line between work and home becomes blurred as the two inevitably become intertwined. When you work from home, you're always technically at work, making it easy to feel guilty when you are not working. Staff can fall into a trap where they never turn off and unplug.

The result? Stressed out employees who start resenting both their personal and professional lives. A fresh mind creates fresh ideas, which is why separation from the two worlds can do wonders for innovation and performance.

3. Can they handle the isolation?

For those who are naturally quite social, this could be the greatest challenge. Will the office jokester be able to handle long bouts of quiet or never leaving the house?

There's no one to talk about last night's Game of Thrones episode with, to go for lunch with, and to ultimately build relationships with. From a company stand-point, this could severely hurt the culture and team dynamics.

4. Will you become a paranoid, micro managing leader?

Many leaders become paranoid when their employees work from home. They'll start sending a few emails to see how long it takes them to reply, or phone them to see whether they pick up on the first ring.

If you're spending most of your time ensuring your team is really working, it's a surefire way to erode your relationships (and your sanity). Trust is a big one, so if you don't have that in place quite yet, it may be best to keep them at the office until you feel more comfortable.

5. How will you keep staff accountable?

Leaders have to be prepared to become more involved when staff is working remotely. This means setting expectations, deliverables, and following-up with deadlines.

Make it clear that days they're telecommuting should be treated the same as when they're in the office. They need to be easily reachable from the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and communicate on their progress regularly.

While the idea of working from home may be ideal on the surface, remember it doesn't come without disadvantages, both for you, the employee, and the company. More often than not, the novelty of waking up and already being at work can wear off and become tedious, causing productivity and their happiness to suffer.


Founder and chief executive, Creative Niche