Superstorm Sandy shut down public transportation, closed highways and flooded tunnels, forcing thousands of people in the New York/New Jersey area to work from home. During that period, they joined the 10 percent of U.S. workers—approximately 13.4 million people—who work from home at least some of the time, according to Census Bureau data. According to a 2012 survey by flexible workspace provider Regus, however, almost half of American professionals admit that they have difficulty maintaining productivity when working from a home office.
The survey canvassed the opinions of business professionals across the U.S. and identified their top distractions when working from home:
• Children and family wanting attention (cited by 58 percent of respondents nationally).
• Children, family and pets disturbing work telephone calls (44 percent).
• Difficulties accessing office equipment, such as printer, fax and photocopier (27 percent).
• Household noises, such as bell ringing, washing machine or dishwasher (25 percent).
• Temptation to keep the television on as company (23 percent).
Despite this unique set of challenges, a combination of advancements in mobile technology and many employers looking to reduce real estate costs means more people will find themselves calling their home their office.
Guillermo Rotman, CEO Regus Americas, offered several tips in a media release that home workers should consider to improve the work-at-home experience:
• Create parameters. Set rules with family and friends, and let them know when you are not available. Most importantly, ensure that they are aware of any scheduled conference calls in order to limit background noises or interruptions, so colleagues or clients don’t feel that you’re working in an unprofessional environment.
• Establish a routine. Working from home can lead to working around the clock. Set blocks of time for work and stick to them. Following a schedule will reduce the chances of burnout. Do not turn on the television during your working hours, and laundry can wait until after 5 p.m.
• Keep lines of communication open. Maintaining regular contact with colleagues and managers will ensure that the status of projects and upcoming deadlines are understood by all. Use technology, such as videoconferencing and instant messaging, to remain in constant contact.
• Avoid isolation. Feeling out of touch? Leave your home office and drop in to a collaborative work environment, attend networking events and plan business lunches. These are great places to connect with other professionals.
The polling data are the result of Regus’ latest biannual Business Confidence Index. The U.S. statistics are based on the results from 6,037 business professionals.
See and Say: Communication Is Critical to Workflex Success, SHRM Online Benefits, December 2012
Hurricane Sandy Forces Companies to Reconsider Telework, SHRM Online Benefits, November 2012
Workplace Flex Toolkit Launched, SHRM Online Benefits, October 2012
Future Workplace: More Teleworkers, Fewer Desks, SHRM Online Benefits, October 2012
Telework Far from Being Embraced, SHRM Online Benefits, October 2012
SHRM Online Benefits Page
SHRM Online Workplace Flexibility Resource Page