Working from home working for this employee, but not for everyone

A federal worker who was on the verge of retirement now works from home, and says it's made all the difference. But new research shows such arrangements don't work for everyone.

'I don't see any reason to ever retire now,' says public servant Dwight Yachuk

Dwight Yachuk, a Public Works employee for the federal government, says working from home should be standard. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

It used to take Dwight Yachuk more than an hour to drive to his federal public service job in Ottawa from his home in Val-des-Monts, Que. But these days, he doesn't worry much about traffic. And when he looks out his office window, he mostly sees birds and pine trees.

Yachuk now works from home. He arrived at the arrangement with Public Works after he turned 60 and a supervisor asked him not to retire.

Now, Yachuk says he might never quit.

"I don't see any reason to ever retire now, because as far as I'm concerned I am retired. I'm working from home. So that's it," Yachuk told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning on Thursday.

As long as he's meeting his goals and deadlines — and since making the switch, he says he has — Yachuk sees no problem working from home. His clients aren't based in Ottawa, so there's no need for him to be sitting in an office. It doesn't matter where he sits.

'I'm on top of things'

Yachuk isn't afraid to admit that at some points during the day, he makes time to do other things. He knows he can make up the time later, a flexibility nine-to-fivers don't always share.

"Typically, as long as you're sitting at your desk in the government you can be doing nothing and it doesn't matter. It's just the way it is — I'm sorry to say that. But up here, if I have nothing to do, I will go and do something on my own," he says.

Yachuk says he has time throughout the day to do other things, but that he makes up for it by working at times of day his colleagues don't. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

"Well, that's heresy, you may say. But I meet all my deadlines, all my work is done. And on the other hand, in the evening ... what do you do? You watch TV? No. What I do is, I flip on my computer in the evening, I'll spend an hour, I'll work on some stuff ... and I'm on top of things."

Differing workplace requirements mean working from home can't work for everyone. But Yachuk says he'd like to see the public service make it the new standard unless the employer can prove they need to be in an office.

Won't work for everyone, research shows

Still, not everyone takes to working from home the way Yachuk has, according to research from the University of Ottawa and Utrecht University.

For more than a year, a team of researchers followed 251 financial salespeople who were forced to work from home as a cost-saving measure, and monitored their work-life balance.

They found that for most of the workers — and especially for the men — that balance actually suffered. It was "particularly severe" among people who had predicted they'd find it difficult to achieve work-life balance, says researcher Laurent Lapierre.

"It looks like a significant amount of stress, conflict with [their] family members, feelings of anxiety ... sometimes depression, frustration, anger towards the employer, and actually there was a number of employees who went and voiced complaints to their organization's ... health and well-being group."

After a two-year battle the company brought the employees back — after clients visiting the office started asking where all the salespeople were.

​Lapierre says the takeaway for researchers was that employees should be able to choose whether working from home suits their needs.

For Yachuk, that decision has been made. And he couldn't be happier.

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