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Are We More Productive if We Work From Home?
More and more companies are facilitating flexible working, allowing employees to work from home when they need to.
While this can sound like a great perk, is it actually helping people to be more productive during working hours?
According to CV-Library’s recent data (August 18, 2015), people who work from home are happier and more productive.
The data also suggested that 83% of people who work from home find it easier to successfully manage a work-life balance, which in the past has been linked to higher productivity levels. Having a good work-life balance is something that many people work towards but often cannot achieve for one reason or another, primarily the increasing number of hours that they are working.
Having a good work-life balance can leave people feeling less pressured, happier, and ultimately more productive than those with a poor work-life balance.
Working from home doesn’t come without its distractions.
Poor self-discipline is amongst the top reasons why people working from home are not productive.
Getting up at a different time, taking irregular breaks, or even getting distracted by browsing the internet because you aren’t in a working environment can all contribute to poor self-discipline.
There are ways to minimise the risk of this, however, one of which being to ensure you have a designated home-office or working space away from your usual relaxing areas. This will help ensure that you remain in a working mind-set, and also helps to keep your relaxing space free from work for breaks throughout the day to help you stay in the routine of leaving your desk occasionally.
Other distractions when working from home come in the form of children, pets, household noises, and household chores. If you are working from home and notice that the kitchen hasn’t been cleaned, for example, then you might decide to do this during the day which will take up your break times, giving you no time to relax. Not giving yourself breaks can be detrimental to productivity. Even if it is a 15 minute break while you have a cup of tea, it is important to make sure you can get your mind off work for a short period of time to allow it to reboot.
Even with all of the possible distractions at home, Nicholas Bloom, professor of Economics at Stanford University, thinks that offices are far more distracting places than homes.
Nicholas Bloom claims that people working from home are generally more productive, with one-third of this increase being attributed to a quieter environment. The other two-thirds could be attributed to the hours that the people worked, with many of them starting earlier because they didn’t need to commute and still working until the end of the day to ensure they were still contactable if needed.
The distractions in the office are not too dissimilar to those you find at home, but the volume is much larger.
Instead of having one or two people in the house to cater for, you could have 50 people in the office to talk to on a daily basis, with some of them just popping over to your desk and interrupting you, while others will email you.
These constant distractions from co-workers means that there is a very stop-start approach to work in the office, and if you are taken out of your rhythm it can take a long time to get back into what you were doing, at which point you might be distracted again.
This stop-start approach and constant distractions can also lead to multitasking in the office, which is a highly inefficient way of working. A recent survey by Randstad found that 44 million working days each year are lost due to multitasking by marketing professionals alone. Allowing more people to work from home where they can combat distractions and focus solidly on one piece of work at a time could be the key to decreasing the figure.
Working from home is not suitable for everyone or every business.
Some businesses require employees to be in the office during working hours so that they are contactable by clients and colleagues at all times. Other businesses are more flexible, but the people are perhaps not suited to it.
Nicholas Bloom also addressed this point, stating that he and his colleagues think that the more robotic the work is, the greater the benefits of from working from home.
This correlates with Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman’s belief that an office environment encourages better collaboration between teams, which can also lead to higher productivity.
What both of these opinions seem to suggest is that for more creative roles and tasks, being in the office may lead to higher productivity levels as you are able to bounce ideas off like-minded people.
Similarly, more linear tasks such as reporting or audits, which require a lot of attention and focus, might be suited to a home environment, where the employee can sit and focus on one task at a time.
More research needs to be conducted into whether working from home is more productive than working in an office, but current findings suggest that a lot of it is down to the person and the role they are in.
If you are a self-starter, have good self-discipline, and work on large projects primarily independently, then working from home could be a more productive environment than an office. However, if you need people to collaborate on ideas, or require a lot of interaction with co-workers in your day-to-day business, then you may be more productive in an office environment.
If your company does not allow you to work from home, or is unsure about doing so, then find a quiet area in the office – perhaps an unused meeting room – and then work there to complete any pressing deadlines.
This can show your managers that you are capable of working productively on your own, and they may be more inclined to allow you to work from home and see if that delivers the same results.
About the Author
Alex Beynon is an online administrator for Hunts Office, a leading supplier of office furniture and consultants on office interior design.
Alex’s interest and knowledge of well-being lends itself towards helping businesses understand the benefits of quality office furnishings and modern ways of working.