Once a week, Dave Brady sets aside an entire day so he can concentrate on work with few interruptions. Mondays are his most productive days, as Brady, president of Chicago-based Oak Design and Construction, works from home, focusing his concentration while enjoying the nearby presence of his family. Brady is one of three office employees at Oak Design who work from home each week, a benefit that allows him to not only keep good help, but also allows those same employees to be more productive.
"I think it's something you have to look at on a case-by-case basis," he says. "You have to have the right employees, who know how to use their time wisely. If their job is not so integrated with the day-to-day office operations, then it's a win-win situation for all involved, as long as the employee's home environment is conducive for productivity."
Pam Strening, administrative coordinator for Oak Design, has worked part time for the remodeling business for more than eight years. In the beginning, she came into the office only two days a week, spending the rest of her time caring for her three children. But as the remodeling business grew, so did Strening''s role, and balancing her time became an issue.
Her duties include managing all the marketing for Oak Design as well as purchasing and several assorted administrative tasks. Because her job often included a great deal of creative work and writing, Strening found herself taking a laptop computer to a nearby café and working outside the office to avoid distraction. Moving this work to her home was a logical step, both for Strening and Oak Design.
"I do a lot of work at home at night after the kids are in bed," says Strening. "My boss doesn't care as long as I'm getting my work done. I work on anything that is mostly writing, whether it's administrative or marketing. It's a creative process, and the office atmosphere just isn't conducive to getting that done."
The office environment is still important for Strening's workweek, however. She does purchasing orders and makes phone calls in the professional office atmosphere. But she still says that working at home has helped her stay involved with her job at Oak Design.
"I have three kids, and it's hard to juggle all that with working, even part time," she says. "I've had many crises over the last few years, and it's hard for me to maintain a steady work schedule. My boss is great about being flexible."
The open and trusting relationship with her boss has been key for Strening's work at home. On an hourly wage, she keeps careful track of her hours and doesn't allow herself to fall behind. "Not everyone is cut out to work at home," she says. "The employer has to know the person and be comfortable with the arrangement. This aspect is necessary, and it has to be mutual."
Open communication helps maintain this trust between Strening and all her co-workers. She carries a cellular phone with her at all times, and co-workers call Strening with questions often, receiving immediate answers. "It's a trade-off. I really like my freedom and the ability to come and go," she says. "If there's a question, anyone is free to call me. It's a very minor trade for the flexibility of my schedule."