The recent ‘working from home’ kerfuffle that sprang from Yahoo’s decision to end all remote working arrangements and Best Buy’s move to end their ROWE program at their corporate HQ, (while technically not a ‘remote work’ program, certainly resulted in lots of people working remotely), has seemed to die down for the moment, seemingly drowned out by a combination of March Madness, Spring Break and tax season. And quite honestly it seems to me that all the debate and gnashing of teeth that commenced from these high-profile cases didn’t really do anything to sway anyone’s opinion either way regarding the merits, effectiveness, or value to employees and organizations that may or may not stem from remote working arrangements. Both the ‘pro’ and ‘con’ forces are heavily armed with their own statistics, studies, and anecdotes, and both have dug in to their positions on the matter. It’s sort of like politics or baseball or ice cream preference – 99% of the energy and time spent on trying to get someone to change their views on the subject is wasted, and the other 1% is usually not very effective. For the record, the correct answers are ‘moderate’, ‘New York Mets’, and ‘Mint Chip’.
So rather than another boring reset of the remote working issue, I wanted to check FOT Nation’s opinion on one organization’s slightly different approach to the entire workplace, home, and the space between them – a program that pays people to live near the office. The company is the small Bay Area tech firm Imo and the details of their scheme were described recently in Fast Company – but for you busy FOT reader the essential details are these:
What if you could get that (commuting) time back? That’s what Ralph and Georges Harik, the brothers who run the Palo Alto-based messaging company Imo, came to wonder. A few years ago, reading that another Palo Alto company (Facebook) had flirted with a similar policy, they began offering a $500 monthly housing stipend to employees who chose to live within five miles of Imo’s office. Today, of Imo’s roughly 20 employees, all but one or two have taken up the Hariks on their offer.
The principal benefits of living near where you work are almost too obvious to mention; the time that would have spent commuting simply goes back to things you love: family, friends, hobbies, sleep. But Imo has found there are secondary benefits, too. A five-mile radius (plus Palo Alto’s climate) makes active commutes, via bike or foot, more likely. Employees find they’re able to pop home during their lunch break to take care of a few quick chores. Those who have dogs are saving on doggy day care or dog-walker fees, since they can run home to let Fido out for a spell. There are family-related perks, too: Ralph Harik goes home around lunchtime these days to visit his 9-month-old daughter.
It’s an interesting approach that takes on not just on the issue of Work/Life balance – but also has elements of sustainability, community, and for anyone that is reading this post after a grinding hour-plus commute this morning – employee sanity. If you are one of those people that have to trek a long distance to the workplace each day you probably seethe when one of your work-from-home friends brags about their twenty-foot ‘commute’ down the hall to their home office. But I imagine it’s not just the ‘home’ part of the equation that bugs you – it’s the sheer time and effort expended (dealing with traffic, weather, an army of equally ticked-off commuters fighting with you for space on the freeway), to get yourself from Point A to Point B each day.
If you lived closer to where you work you’d be happier, more productive, would have a better work/life balance, and do a tiny bit to help preserve the environment. At least that is the theory being tested over at Imo, and for them it seems to be working.
What’s your take FOT readers – would living closer, say within an easy bicycle ride to work make your life easier?
Would you or could you make that kind of a change?
Should your company follow the lead of Imo and offer folks some kind of ‘proximity stipend?’
I have to sign off now, I’ve wrapped up the day, need to commute the 14 steps back ‘home’, (and change out of my PJs).