Could Some Of Your Office Staff Work From Home?
Dr. Donna’s billing person, Marilyn, has been with the practice for about eight years. Marilyn is a hard worker and has never given the doctor any reason to think she slouches on the job. Her job description is limited to billing and she does her work efficiently, in a timely manner and without complaints.
Lately, however, Marilyn has had to deal with some family difficulties that require her to be more present at home. She immediately went to Dr. Donna to explain her predicament and said although she would like to continue working for her, spending time away from her family would make that difficult. Marilyn wondered if the doctor would consider allowing her to continue working from home. She said if someone could make arrangements for her to access the billing software from her computer, she really did not need to be on site. All billing calls could be forwarded to her home and she would provide regular updated billing reports and check in regularly.
The doctor was initially conflicted and for the first time, her trust in this dedicated employee was tested. Dr. Donna did not feel threatened. She could have always looked for a new biller, but she did not want to lose a good employee. Accordingly, Dr. Donna agreed to the new arrangement.
If you were in her shoes, what would you do? It is not all that uncommon. A CareerBuilder.com survey indicated that 27 percent of employees telecommute at some point throughout the year.1 Here are some arguments for and against working from home.
Pros (working from home):
1. There are more flexible hours to be able to deal with family needs.
2. The employee can have a better balance between home and work. This is less stressful and may be more productive. (According to a Stanford University study of call center employees at a Chinese company, workers’ performance improved by 13 percent when they started working from home.)2
3. Telecommuting builds self-motivation and independence.
4. Telecommuting cuts back on travel/gas/car expenses.
5. There are no interruptions from yappy co-workers, “water cooler” chat or daily drama. Workers have better concentration.
6. Workers do not have to make excuses or “call in sick” if needed at home.
7. Working from home instills trust in employees and produces more dedicated, appreciative workers.
8. Working from home opens up the workforce to more talented, educated women who might not otherwise be available.
Cons (working from home):
1. To many, telecommuting is considered a step backwards in today’s workforce.
2. Trust issues exist for employers. Are employees truly working or just goofing off?
3. Home-based employees have minimal interaction with coworkers. They do not meet new people. They miss out on the social life at “work.” They have no intellectual exchange outside of the home.
4. Employers may have a smaller pool of applicants to choose from and lose (or lose out on) good talent.
5. With workspace and home as one, it’s hard to separate when to stop working. Home workers may actually end up putting in more hours than they would with a regimented 9 to 5 job, adding stress.
6. Distractions at home prevent full concentration on work.
7. Working at home requires greater time management and self-discipline skills.
Other Key Considerations
Would employees “goof off” or procrastinate with no supervision at home? Would they waste time on Facebook or the Internet instead of doing their work? Yes, I believe some will. (But don’t kid yourself. That happens in the office too.)
On the other hand, keep an open mind that there are some who will be more productive in a home environment. For those who have children in school, there is adequate quiet time of uninterrupted work as well as all of the benefits of being there when their children get home.
Let’s face it. There are job descriptions that simply cannot convert to a “work-from-home” option. Obviously, the clinical assistant needs to be present but allowing a biller (who finds it necessary to work from home) this type of flexibility is like hiring a billing service, only better. You know your employee’s capabilities and you are really not “outsourcing,” so you are not giving up control.
In the end, it all comes down to the individual employee and some admit, “It’s just not my cup of tea.” This arrangement also requires a doctor seeing the benefits of this and mutual cooperation on the “rules” of the new arrangement. That said, if the employee who suggests that working from home will make her life easier is also the type of person who truly enjoys her work, is good at it, has an excellent work ethic and is fully committed to the practice, she will be productive regardless of where she sits. So why not consider her needs and make her happy?
2. Bloom N, Liang J, Roberts J, Ying, ZJ. Does working from home work? Evidence from a Chinese experiment. Available at http://www.stanford.edu/~nbloom/WFH.pdf . Published Feb. 22, 2013. Accessed March 11, 2013.