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If implemented properly, working from home can be a boon to both employers and working women in India.
By Unmana Datta
Yahoo’s recent decision to ban employees from working from home received a lot of attention. While some people defended the decision, most lambasted it (rightly, in my opinion).
I loved tech writer Farhad Manjoo’s take on the issue, and tweeted a few quotes:
As the tweets above point out, Yahoo’s decision is short-sighted. Here’s why working from home can be a good idea, both for employers and for working women in India.
How many of us haven’t seen workers slack off in office, whether by going for long lunch breaks, spending hours on Facebook or chat for personal use, or just not paying attention to their work? By shifting the focus from the number of hours clocked in to the actual amount of work done, employers can judge – and reward – work more fairly.
Some people are more productive in an office, whether it’s because of the nature of their work or because of their personalities. Some aren’t. Pushing everyone to work the same way might actually diminish productivity. Banning working from home is an easier – and much more short-sighted – measure than taking steps to increase the productivity of both kinds of workers.
Some people like their commute time, using it to catch up on their reading or music or because they find it relaxing. But most of us hate it, and it’s a waste of time. With the noise and air pollution in most cities, a long commute is exhausting. I used to have a two-hour commute one way: when I switched to working from home, I had more time to myself, and I could work better because I wasn’t tired by noon.
If the daily commute is difficult to face for most of us, it can be impossible for people with disabilities or health issues. Like @HimawariChibi said above, such people can still make great workers (depending on their role). I am healthy enough most of the time, but I have had recurring health issues in the last few years that made it extremely difficult for me to face a long commute or to spend ten hours in office. By having the option of working from home, I was still a happy and productive worker.
Without the option of working from home, parents – and in practice, it’s almost always mothers – have to choose between not working at all and placing the children in day care or hiring a nanny (and the latter option is often expensive, unreliable, and sometimes even impossible). Even if you have childcare, there are pick-ups and drop-offs and childcare timings to coordinate. But mothers too can be – and often are! – productive workers, and employers would be wise to find ways to support them.
Thankfully, it looks like Yahoo’s decision isn’t setting a trend. Employers in India are apparently not hurriedly reviewing their work-from-home policies. But how many companies in India offer work-from-home opportunities at all? It’s become more common in recent years, but it’s definitely not the norm.
Two of my friends are mothers of young babies: both are considering going back to work soon. The first talked about how her employer had (foreshadowing Yahoo) stopped supporting working from home. She found it too difficult to go back to work after a three-month leave, and had to jump through hoops to get her employer agree to an extension (unpaid, of course).
My other friend started working from home a couple of months before her due date, and was planning to work from home for a few months after her maternity leave. Which of these two people, do you think, is happier and more loyal towards her employer?
*Photo credit: Victor1558 (Used under the Creative Commons Attribution License.)