Should You Let Your Employees Work From Home?

Today, many companies offer their employees the option to work from home, even if they live relatively close to the office. But common sense tells us that for some employees, this may not be the best option. As you can imagine, some unsupervised employees would sooner fill their day playing World of Warcraft than actually working. This decision tree will help you decide if you should let your employees work remotely, or if they should be required to work in-house.


This post was written by Colin Dobrin. Infographic reprinted with permission of Mindflash.

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  • Cooper Smith

    Because so much of it comes down to trust, I think the answers in many cases should be less about where they work than why are they still working for you at all?

  • Ryan Biggs

    I searched through all of the comments, and I couldn't find the work "collaborate" anywhere. Don't get me wrong - I love working from home when I can.  But I am often involved in creative work that involved collaboration with other members of my team. I have worked with remote teams on creative projects in the past, and it is always a struggle, especially if the team hasn't had the opportunity to meet face-to-face in some situations. Things like Skype and GoToMeeting and wonderful tools, but they are still extremely clumsy compared to sitting around the table with your team face to face.

    On water cooler talk as a time waster:  employees aren't always chatting about favorite TV shows around the water cooler. Sometimes they are talking about things that are happening around the office. Sometimes it is the place where you find out that another team is struggling with a similar problem to the one your team is struggling with - maybe they've already solved it.

    Maybe some of you work at a company where office politics never come into play, but I haven't encountered one yet. I managed an employee who was one of the only people on staff who worked remotely, and this was an unexpected challenge. If people in the organization you work for are not in the habit of keeping a chat client open all day and pulling together impromptu Skype meetings, it's really hard to keep up to date with the day-to-day pulse of an organization.

  • James Flouhouse

    Good debate and while some say "are we still talking about this?" - it's important to bring things up again for those who don't allow it, yet are considering doing so.  Some find themselves highly productive from home, and considering the hour or two saved (from commute and such logistics) they may happily work more (and more creatively) as a result of the lower non-work related frustrations, as well as the motivational surge from added benefit of breaks taken in their own garden or kitchen.  For those employees who value these things, the potential results are a win for both employee and management.  Suggest to those hesitant....trial basis with necessary periodic review and perhaps survey of colleagues / clients to measure changes in results.      

  • Bill Hoot

    I've always thought I could work from home and actually be just as, or more effective than showing up every day at one of those cloth covered cubicles.  I don't participate in the coffee fund, the birthday cake fund and I don't really like using the nasty breakroom we have because it's utilized by people that are directly related to pigs.  There really must be some outstanding benefits to all concerned, less law suits, less gas and vehicle cost for the commute, less accomodation and no real gossiping potential.  I see total freedom and yes as long as the tasks or goals have deadlines and it can be accomplished via the internet, email, phone, two way camera's or whatever I would welcome the chance to give it a try.  I finished college online and will admit I did just fine with a goal, made good grades but it does take someone that is truly self directed, so I see problems right away for some of my long term work associates that cannot stay away from their personal communication devices during work hours.  I like most of my co-workers, some I deeply respect, and others I wish would move along so it's clear I'm not at work for the social aspect, but rather to serve and assist my employers customers.

  • Melissa Tan

    I work with virtual teams all the time with most of the team/colleagues located overseas.  This gives rise to the challenge of putting one's thoughts clearly and effectively in electronic formats like e-mail and telephone.  If I have colleagues/team members in the same office as me, I would want to reap the benefit of this proximity by having them come into the office so we can have face to face discussions and also build team bonding. 
    Yes, commuting is a waste of time.  But so is waiting for your team to appear online so you can ping them or waiting for them to reply to your e-mail. 
    I advocate flexi-working hours so people can commute outside peak hours and leave early/come in later on some days if they have to take their child to the doctors etc. 

  • Saif Arshad

    This is absolutely brilliant! I went over the loops quite a few times to try and find out errors, but for some odd reason it works every time. Great job with making it informative and comic at the same time.

  • jOSH

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  • Bruce Specter

    Are we really still debating this?  I agree with the comment that proximity does not equal productivity.  If management  and/or productivity of employees are the issues, you have the wrong employees.  It has been proven time and again the increase of productivity demonstrated by a remote/virtual workforce.  They tend to work longer hours, are spared the constant interrupt-driven environment of the ole brick-and-mortar and continually out-perform their office-bound peers in review.

    Oh, wait, this was intended as humor....MindFlush....last idea this tracer had died of loneliness!

  • Louie Bernstein

    I worked from home for three years and was then thrust into the thick of it as a General Manager, with people coming at me 24 x 7.  What I found was that a balance is what is needed.  I think the decision tree is probably accurate but I think there is really something to be said for human and co-worker interaction.

  • Charley David

    Company's should focus on proximity.   Use the tools that are available... and Oh BTW... I've read Chinese transit maps easier than that graphic.. (post was trite - graphic was downright awful)

  • Alex Romanovich

    Times have changed dramatically - we encourage employees to work from 'wherever' because everyone in this day and age understands the consequences of 'foul play'. This topic is outdated - I am surprised we are even discussing it, since modern management practices only work based results and accountability. Results is what's important. Also, in the era of social media, no one would risk the credibility loss or even a hint of 'bad performance' rated by peers or the employer. Crowdsourcing and 'consultants for hire' is another factor - full time employees may be a rarity in the near future, where companies really discover the risks and benefits of crowdsourcing. 

  • Matt

    So linked in put up a question. Should you let
    your employees work from home? Answer: If you have hired employees who
    can discipline themselves yes, you can. If you have run the
    risk of a mountain of issues. This answer is completely based on
    leadership and the personal integrity of your employees.

  • Karen Auby

    I guess this is supposed to be funny. Sorry, but it missed the mark. consider flow charts that are less complex and maybe people will get the joke. 

  • VanessaTH

    I also agree with Miles.  I just started working from home in April and am finding it only a win-win for everyone.  There are obvious advantages in managing yourself and, yes, I responsibly enjoy them.  However, I find I am also working more hours, more effectively.  My job responsibilities require I work more than 40 hours a week, usually and I frequently sensed I was criticized for not being more social and interested in what others were doing around me when I worked in an office.  I am not anti-social, but I found I was constantly driven by the fear of not performing and I did not seek out time to socialize.  Working from home has made it easier to work and not harder.  Its funny.  I've worked for my employer for over 11 years now.  I was told years ago that I would never be offered the chance to work from home - ever, even though at the time there were a few special people allowed to do it.  One of the company executives at the time lived in an area with the a high concentration of Microsoft workers.  She commented that she watched her neighbor abuse his ability to work from home, sometimes to take his son to a game in the middle of the day, etc.  I find that so short-sighted - she didn't know if that person had arranged that ahead of time or what the circumstances were.   'neanderthal' thinking for sure.  The only reason I finally got to work from home now is that company headquarters moved to another state and I guess they valued my work enough not to replace me.  It all worked out.

  • Michael_Kaplan

    Should it really matter what they do, or where they are? I say, let them play and let them play hard.

    At the end of the day what’s the goal? Focus on the agreed goal.

    Establish metrics for success and Measure. If things are on track, it should not matter where they are. One BIG caveat though, if physical location (office) is key criteria for success, don’t work from home.

  • Erin Schulte

    While this does help clarify the issues you should think about when making this decision, yes, you are correct: it's somewhat tongue in cheek. Thought the "raw meat" branch might tip people off to that....But, glad it's inspiring discussion, either way.