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The utility of time: time is money, but not all time is made equally

Tuesday, August 11, 2020 by Sae Koyama

As lockdown restrictions begin to ease and workers are encouraged to return to offices, a big question employers and employees alike are asking is “is it better to work from home?”. Even beyond COVID safety considerations, there are many benefits to working from home. This includes better work-life balance and less commute stress (something that cannot be taken for granted, with many studies attributing poor health to commuting), as well as being more environmentally friendly. On the other hand, a communal workspace could be better for collaboration and support, be better equipped and, of course, many jobs are simply not possible without employees on site.

Time is a resource. Like any other resource, it has different value depending on where it is allocated. If your time at work is much more productive (and so has more value) than your time at home, then the negative value of the time spent stuck in a traffic jam can be outweighed by this. On the flip side, if you’re just as, or even more happy working from home, then the commute isn’t worthwhile.

Exactly where this ‘value at home’ vs ‘value on site’ ratio sits is very individual. Perhaps your time has more value at home when replying to emails or finishing off a report, but much more value in the office when you are exchanging ideas with your colleagues at the start of a project. Perhaps leaving thirty minutes earlier to avoid rush hour will have a huge impact on your work satisfaction. Perhaps you like being in the office on a Tuesday but not on a Friday. The value of your time can be improved, particularly ‘value at home’ since remote working is still fresh territory. Certain measures can make big differences, such as creating handbooks for protocol/processes to setting up spaces for informal communication.

So the question we really need to ask is not “should we work from home?” but “when and how much should we work from home?”.

Freedom makes us more productive. Trusting employees to make their own decisions about where and how they work best is not only easier for the manager but also more productive for the team. The best work systems support and encourage employees’ independence, rather than forcing them on a schedule that doesn’t fit them on an individual level. For example, Visitor Express asks employees whether they are on-site and allows them to request desk space, allocating them depending on availability. This gives employees control over their own work environment while keeping managers informed of where everyone is.

The restrictions on the number of employees that can return safely to workspaces opens up new opportunities to be smart about how we work. Both working from home and working on site has it’s pros and cons, with the most productive schedules being those that are adapted to individual requirements. It is more important than ever to implement systems that support this kind of flexibility.

Are you working from home today?

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