On “Work from Home” Days

Happy Monday, y’all! For many of us, Mondays mean a return to the office. Today, I want to talk about what I believe is an unnecessarily controversial topic: taking a day to work from home.

Now I’m not talking about all of the mom-trepreneurs and #girlbosses out here making a living from the comfort of their own living room (who, by the way, I have tremendous respect for). I’m talking about your average office worker trying to get things done for their larger organization. In a world of increasingly online collaborations–via Google Docs, Skype, Slack, etc.–why is there still such a stigma around a work from home (WFH) day?

Take my job, for example. My primary duties are to draft, edit, and submit grant proposals and reports; research foundations; make contacts via phone calls and emails; and digitally file my work. I can certainly do all of those things in my office, and having in-person collaborations with my co-workers can be extremely helpful when I’m searching for that perfect word or need help with some data, but my job essentially lives online.

Last Thursday, I woke up in with a sore throat that I knew would become a full-on cold if I didn’t force fluids, inhale some Vicks VapoRub, and sit next to my humidifier for 10 hours. I was constantly sick in college, in part because of my “just push through it” attitude. Now, I try to recognize early symptoms as a time to take a step back and super-charge my care routine instead of “pushing through it.” So, I listened to my body and took a WFH day. I edited drafts, asked co-workers for data via email, drafted proposals, and checked out some potential funders–it was a very productive day! Additionally, I was able to take care of myself and go back to work on Friday feeling healthy and ready to finish the week strong.

To me, this shouldn’t be a controversial topic. I know friends who have taken WFH days to protect their mental health, or to care for their families when something pops up, or to really just crack down and focus on work in a different environment. It’s not that the work isn’t getting done–it’s just getting done out of the office. While I get that many jobs require being in the space full-time, I just don’t understand why it’s still the model for most workplaces.

Fostering a work culture that is supportive of parents, young people, people with chronic illnesses or disabilities, caretakers for elderly family members, etc., means dismantling outdated, ableist, and fundamentally sexist policies on offices. The ability to commute to work, to have childcare or elderly care, to be physically well enough to not worry about getting care… all of these are privileges that cannot be ignored. We, as a culture, need to stop heralding the employees who work extra hours, or never miss a shift, and instead start celebrating the employees with healthy work-life balance. Busy does not mean productive, and productive does not mean glued to your desk!

So what can organizations and supervisors do to support productive WFH days? Here are a few ideas:

  • Have a clear work-from-home policy in the employee handbook and post the policy where it will likely be seen by employees (break rooms, restrooms, eating spaces, etc.)
  • Lead by example. My supervisor works from home every Monday. It’s a clear example to my team on proper out-of-the-office workflow.
  • Give employees tips for getting the most out of their WFH days. There’s a ton of resources online to help you out!

…And here’s some further reading about working from home:

How do you feel about WFH days? Does your office offer them? Let me know in the comments below!

P.S. If you’re interested in more work culture discussions, I highly recommend checking out the TED Podcast WorkLife with Adam Grant!

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