Jared Turner: Working from home is Utah’s smartest move

(Brian Peterson | Star Tribune via AP) In an Aug. 28, 2017 photo, Michele Tafoya, sideline reporter for NBC Sunday Night Football, brushes her daughter Olivia's hair while working the morning radio show in Minneapolis.

This week, Twitter announced its employees would be given the option to work from home forever.

I have personally never been a believer in working from home. Like many other leaders, I saw the articles published about how it would be beneficial to employees’ mental health and to families and, ultimately, to the bottom line, but I just didn’t believe that it could replace in-person collaboration.

I felt employees needed to be in the office to create vital personal connections with their coworkers. But with COVID-19, we were suddenly forced to participate in the grand global experiment of working from home, and I braced myself for the fallout.

It didn’t come.

In fact, after weeks of observing my company working remotely, I am proud to say I’m a working-from-home convert, and I’ll be pushing to keep more employees at home moving forward.

Young Living has seen productivity increases across the board, from 25% in IT teams to 13% in sales teams. My employees exhibit the same proactiveness and creativity they always have; they’re just doing it at a distance (and in boxers). They don’t take naps during meetings or spend their days playing video games — they’re engaged, available and building business value.

The truth is that allowing employees to work from home is not just sound business practice; it’s also reflective of Utah’s values and top priorities — family, health, work/life balance and autonomy. Without requiring employees to come into the office, they’re spending less time commuting and they’re helping alleviate Utah’s poor air quality.

That last point is especially important. With traffic down by over 40% in Utah since the beginning of the pandemic, nitrogen oxide levels have plummeted. That’s important not just for the environment, but for our health. There’s a link between elevated COVID-19 death risks and pollution, and poor air quality contributes to birth defects and cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses. Working from home can literally make us healthier and help protect the outdoors that are so central to our way of life.

It also makes us happier and brings us closer to our families. It means having lunch with your wife or taking a walk around the block between meetings. I’ve spent more time with my kids than I ever have before the pandemic, and I’m just not willing to go back to not seeing them as often. After all, even something as simple as eating together as a family can positively impact kids’ grades, health and their relationship with their family. We shouldn’t sacrifice time with our families for the false metric of optics. Instead, we should focus on building businesses that bolster Utah’s ideals.

Too often, leaders mistake visibility for productivity, but that’s playing into the idea that employees can’t function without being micromanaged. If you can’t trust your employees, they shouldn’t be working for you.

I fear that, even after the data proves productivity only increases when working from home, employers will still demand employees return to the office. Let’s not go back to that. Let’s not go back to commuting and endless sitting and hasty lunches eaten at our desks.

Let’s keep working from home as much as we can — let’s create stronger families and healthier communities. I can promise the results will benefit employees and businesses alike.

Jared Turner

Jared Turner is president and COO of Young Living, Lehi.