Open floor plans were thought to inspire collaboration and communication, however, companies are learning what employees have known for a long time — open floor plans actually reduce productivity. Meaningful work requires focus and concentration.

Distractions Derail Productivity

Knowledge work, such as writing or software coding, requires deep concentration. Years ago, a small startup company I worked for would ring a cow bell to celebrate every time it secured a big order. It was a great team motivator, until our website developer pointed out that it disturbed his concentration. He said it took him about 30 minutes to refocus after the interruption.

Research from the University of California, Irvine backs this up. The study showed it takes an average of 25 minutes to return to a task after a distraction. Take a moment to think about how many distractions you face a day. And then consider how many people are wearing headphones in the office — there goes collaboration and communication.

Working away from the office, whether at home or in a quiet place, is becoming the norm for many. In fact, many companies and individuals are participating in a Global Work From Home day on April 10. 

Related Article: Designing a Smarter Workplace: Blend Online and Offline Work

How to Convince Your Manager Remote Work Is Necessary and Better

Sometimes the benefits of remote work aren't immediately apparent to managers or the organization. Here's how to make the case.

  1. Frame the conversation with the benefit in mind. You want to provide quality work and need quiet space to do your best work.
  2. Offer to work remotely on a trial basis, one or two days a week. The trial period is to prove you can be more productive than your peers by working from home. Set evaluation dates and define what success should look like.
  3. Discuss the collaboration tools you will use to stay in touch with your manager, the team and others.
  4. Expect to prove that you can be trusted to do the work. Communicate what you have accomplished. It could be helpful to have similar projects that were completed in the office as examples to compare to.
  5. Establish the hours you will be working if different than normal office hours.
  6. Explain your remote office situation. Is it at home or at a co-shared space? Discuss how you will handle company materials and assets in a responsible and secure way. Share a picture of what your work space would look like.

Related Article: Information Overload Comes in 3 Flavors: Here's How to Combat It

Learning Opportunities

Remote Working Isn't Right for Everyone, But When it Is Everyone Wins

Most managers will wonder if allowing remote work for one person means it should be allowed for everyone. This is a valid concern because there are a number of reasons why working from home is not a good idea for everyone.

As today’s graduates enter the workforce they are looking for alternative work styles. At the same time, retaining talent and hiring the best talent is a concern for companies which means they are looking at ways to change the office workplace. This provides a good opportunity to suggest alternative ways that work can get done outside of the office environment.

For older companies, accommodating work from home requests can be a major shift. A manager may not have the discretion to say yes even to a trial. It may be helpful to discuss your proposal with HR and other managers. It also is helpful if your company views you as a valued employee who contributes in a professional way. For companies where remote working is a new concept, it sometimes comes down to a matter of trust. Consider when needing to take time off for a doctor’s appointment, for example. Do so near the end of the day and work from home instead of returning to the office. Talk about what you were able to accomplish during that time at home and suggest doing it more often.

If your manager is the kind who wants to see hard data, show them the research mentioned above. You can also share the results of a 2-year Stanford study by professor Nicholas Bloom in this 2017 TEDx talk. His research showed that remote workers were more productive and they worked longer. Their employee attrition was 50 percent less than telecommuters. In addition, the company benefited from needing less office space.

Who wouldn’t want an employee who worked longer, was more productive and was less likely to leave? Luckily, remote working is becoming the norm and these kinds of requests will no longer require negotiating with such lengthy detail.

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