To work or not to work from home

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On the weekend, I read an article in the German FAZ ( ‘Der Unsinn des Home Office’) about the pro and cons of working from home versus working at the office.

It describes a study with which researchers wanted to find out who worked more efficiently: someone working alone, or people working in a team. They gave a group of students the task of enveloping letters. Some of them were paired up, others worked alone. Those in the team enveloped more letters than those who worked alone. In the pairs, those who were quicker led the slower ones to work faster and, in general, the speed of the two working together synchronized after a while.

In another study conducted in supermarkets, researchers similarly found that slower cashiers worked quicker if they sat in the vicinity of faster ones. However, they also wanted to find out why the slower workers worked faster when working with someone quicker and found that the motivation for speeding up was basically extrinsic: It was driven by the feeling of standing under observation, not because they had any intrinsic motivation, encouraged by the faster colleague, to improve their skills. Once the faster or more efficient cashier was moved further away and the slower cashiers did not feel observed any longer they slowed down again, and returned back to their former, most likely more comfortable pace (Working quicker for purely extrinsic reasons is too stressful in the long run, and the rewards for improving ones cash register work may not be that enticing, or enough to create a satisfying sense of achievement.)

The pros and cons of teleworking I believe to be an interesting topic in companies that encourage employees to work at home. I searched for an equivalent article in English and found one on the BBC: Teleworking: The myth of working from home. This article discusses the topic from different perspectives and lists reader’s comments at the end. I intend to summarize the main points and distribute some of the comments after discussing the pros and cons in the group, finding out who teleworks, what their personal experiences are, if they have any, and find out who would like to telework if they don’t already do so.



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