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Does Working From Home Make You More, Or Less, Productive?

Meghan Neal

There's been a whole lot of chatter in the blogosphere lately about the pros and cons of working remotely—sparked of course by Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer banning employees from working from home. Everyone has a different opinion. I want to know yours. Do you think people should be able to work remotely? Are you yourself more, or less, productive when you work from home?

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  • JEinDC

    Differently productive at home. I've had my own biz since '81 and always worked at home - 5 places over those years, all in the same city. I'm an MBTI "I" and crave quiet and my own time. Taking a break to think or read something that I want to read to spark ideas makes me more productive. "Breaks" in an office (where I worked prior to '81) were frowned on..._look_ busy even if you weren't, ya know?! And now, compared to the years before wide-spread social media [I was in a number of great discussion groups on AOL in the early '90s] I don't now lack stimulation or a "water cooler" and the social aspects I sometimes need.

  • Jo ana Kubiak

    My workplace can be quite distracting. When I have to do a lot of intensive thinking/creating I'm much better at home. But working at home all the time isn't ideal either because despite how much work I may have, I get bummed out being alone and I feel disconnected to my team and become less productive.

    I think an ideal place to work is one that puts team first coupled with the understanding that a team is made up of individual member's 'ideal work environment mix', whether that is half the day around a big table, half in a soundproof room, and sometimes at home for people to get into their flow and do what they do best.

  • Arifah Rahaman-Aronson

    More productive at home. However it can be counterproductive because the office is always there and I tend to overwork. So it's important to turn it all off to maintain the levels of productivity.

  • Siobhán O'Keeffe

    More productive at home, but it depends on the office/people you work with.

  • Louise Le

    It generally depends on the project but normally if I'm home alone, I end up being more productive working remotely. But the instant someone comes home, productivity decreases tenfold.

  • nisha.radhakrishnan.125

    To have max productivity we can split the work hour like
    min 70% from office & 30% can be optional from home

  • Christina Vickers

    Working from home has its pros and cons. I certainly agree with others who have posted that it is necessary to get out of the house! It's necessary to interact with coworkers and/or clients in a personal way. The computer can not be your only means of doing so. But perhaps video calling and conferencing and bridge that gap?

  • Lauren Modery

    I've been working from home for the past two years. After dealing with a severe bout of anxiety recently, I've come to the conclusion (with the help of talking it out with several creative friends) that holing myself up at my house has not been good for my mental state. Though I dislike the 9 to 5 corporate setting I need to be around people. However, paying money for a co-working space seems silly when you can work from home for free (and make such little money as a writer). I have no problem with motivation- I just have difficulty blurring work and life under the same roof. I've been hitting up coffee shops more and trying to take frequent walks. Working from home is something I try not to complain about (it can be a luxury), but it has most definitely made me feel like I'm going a little insane. "All work and no play makes..."

    • Lauren Modery

      "Though I dislike the 9 to 5 corporate setting, I've realized that I need to be around people." - was what I meant to say.

  • Jeanne Kays

    I was glad to have a work-at-home option for those days when my kids were sick, etc., but I really preferred to be at work where there were fewer "domestic" distractions (I didn't have to see dirty dishes or laundry or a million other things that needed to be done!). Facetime for collaboration is invaluable--much harder to do over the phone when you can't see how others are reacting. Also, you still have to attend meetings, and folks on the phone can sometimes be forgotten or talked over by those at the worksite. Working from home isn't for everyone, but it's good to have that flexibility when you need it.

  • Heidi Ann

    I have a hard time working from home but starting in a few months I will be a full time work-from-homer so I better start getting good at it! When I am in my office I am there to work, what else would I be doing? When I am at home I get distracted with cleaning, laundry, working out, tv shows, playing with my dog, cooking.... the list goes on.

  • Shelley Luce

    I am more productive working from home but I know many who are not. it depends on a lot of things, from the home environment to the personality of the person working. As a nonprofit leader I want to give people the flexibility and i take the time to ask them about their work at home, and to check in with them on whether they are accomplishing what they expected to (and what I expected of them). If the answer is yes, then we're all happy.

  • Rob Rich

    I haven’t been following the Yahoo story closely, but it sounds like their CEO had employees that were hiding and not working. Personally, I find it near impossible to work, at work. There are too many distractions, faux emergencies and worthless meetings. Working from home or a coffee shop helps me focus and not get derailed. I think switching up your work environment helps your productivity too. I need to be in my office to collaborate with my team and co-workers. But when I need to come up with an idea and get something done I stay out of the office.

    • renee.casserly

      I totally agree, I find I work best in a coffee shop or a library. A foreign space helps me keep focused and to task strangely, and the perks of a new environment is that there is something to mull if the thoughts stop coming. But yes it totally depends on the work. I find that I end up with distraction of people asking for help or advice on other topics distracting.

  • c-side

    Yes, people who have the discipline, personality and work role for it, should be allowed to work at home if not all the time, then at least a few times each week. I am definitely more productive (and thus, happier) working from home, though I also know when it serves my work product and relationships to go into a client's office or meet up with teammates in person.

    I think, someone, somewhere, has come to the scientific conclusion that human beings can really only be optimally productive for 45 minutes at a time, then they need a 10-15 minute break. So, for me, the issue of productivity then also becomes about what I can achieve during my "breaks" (which should not be defined as "recreational", but simply a shift from doing one kind of task to doing another).

    I prefer being able to take my 15-minute breaks in my home office environment because it helps me maintain a healthier, on-going work-domestic balance. So, if I start working at 8/9am and end at 6pm, I get so much more done both in terms of income-generating work, as well as domestic work because 1. I have the option to do both and 2. I don't have to spend 1.5-2 hours commuting. This definitely makes me happier, which is the important bottom line.

    I also spend way less money because the "errands" I would do during office breaks almost always involved buying something, whether a cup of coffee or a new pair of shoes I "needed" for an event. (At least in an urban environment, this is a very tempting way to spend "escape"-from-the-office time.) So, in a sense, this behavioral difference adds even more to my productivity since I'm not subtracting $$ from my bank account during the work day.

  • David Yarde

    I work from home most days of the week, depending on how much of a project I'm working on needs me to be in the office. I've found the distractions of co-workers not being around allows me to focus and get things done more effectively.

  • Mike Kulick

    I work from home for my freelance work but go into an office for my part-time work. I like both, the human contact and discussions can definitely hamper productivity but is sometimes very necessary for ideas and team building. I do find that when working from home, a good album that you don't skip any songs and a very detailed to-do list gives me my best amount of productivity, and I get the most tasks actually finished as opposed to in the office when tasks can remain unfinished while you wait on others.

  • Ruksana Hussain

    I work from home full-time and I am most productive doing that than working in an office atmosphere or in a coffee shop where distractions are many and you could easily lose track of time. There are no unnecessary meeting to attend or no colleagues to head to the breakroom with so time is spent wisely on the projects I have to accomplish.

  • mojo706

    I personally cannot work at home. There are too many distractions and even if I am freelancing I would go to say a library or community building in order to minimize the distractions :). If there are people who can work from home well and good, I'm envious.

  • Doris Yee

    Recently working at GOOD, I've initiated something with members on its Product Team called Eastside Shop Days (since a majority of us live on the east side of town). We do this one day out of the week, hosted at the home of a team player. Whether we are working on the same problem/project, we find a focused setting makes us problem-solve and produce more efficiently (if not faster). Think "clubhouse" or "shop".

    We give ourselves a 1-hour lunch and a brief 15-minute break for coffee in the afternoon. Very rarely do I allow myself these breaks when I'm in-house (where I often feel confined and rushed).

    Another way of looking at it, our homespace typically has a designated work area. If we flip that, why can't our workplace have a "home area"? So what would a "home area" look like in the office - what's that checklist?

    - Quiet room(s) / Library
    - Eating area(s) (food smells can be as distracting as chatter)
    - Stretch area *

    * When I work from home, I stretch my legs and arms at least every 20 minutes. The body should never lock itself down because aches easily impact both your mental and physical efficiency.

    I recently gave a presentation that briefly commented on working remotely. My rule: If you do it, do it with at least one other person. Even if that person is not working on the same project, his or her presence will remind you that you're "at work".

    • theMrs_Smalls

      This was very helpful...and an encouraging way to look at collaboration and completing projects across members. I'm looking to start working from home, and this is definitely a suggestion I'm going to consider. THANKS!

  • Hillary Newman

    I find that switching up my work environment helps my productivity. It's helpful to work from the office where I can connect with my co-workers and be present for spontaneous meetings. But it's also helpful to get some quiet time at home to dig into work that requires a lot of time and attention.

  • Jen Chiou

    i think it's more productive but also more depressing. i always do a few hours of work at home / day but generally go into the office to get some human time

  • Keith Bormuth

    It always depends on the type of person and role within a company, but in general, I have always agreed with Jason Fried's thoughts: "My feeling is that the modern workplace is structured completely wrong. It’s really optimized for interruptions. And interruptions are the enemy of work. They are the enemy of productivity, they are the enemy of creativity, they are the enemy of everything .... And people go to work today, and then they end up doing most of their real work after work, or on the weekends. It’s not that there’s 50 or 60 hours worth of work to do, it’s because you don’t work at work anymore."

    • Meghan Neal

      That's an awesome article. I also agree. Meetings, email, chat have become out of control. I remember a study a while ago saying multitasking makes us less, not more productive. I can see that being true. I get much more done working at home, I turn NPR on to feed the multitasking urge a bit - editing, writing and listening to the radio - uninterrupted - seems to be the magic formula.

    • dwight

      I agree, and I think one of the best things a workplace can do for it's employees is make the time/space for people to work solo without interruption.

    • Lindsey Smith

      Super interesting conversation Keith! Thanks for sharing. As a college student, I'm not sure about the pros/cons of working from home v office. However, I think Jason's opinions make sense!