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Summary:

One thing that struck me while reading this interesting Guardian article by Phil Daoust about the rise in the number of people working from home were the figures claimed for the increases in productivity of organizations with telecommuting employees.

One thing that struck me while reading this interesting Guardian article by Phil Daoust about the rise in the number of people working from home were the figures claimed for the increases in productivity of organizations with telecommuting employees. Daoust cites BT’s claim that the productivity is on average 20 percent higher among its 10,000 employees working from home, while the AA (a British breakdown cover firm) says that when it decided to allow some of its call center staff to work from home, productivity rose by a third. The article also cites some (unnamed) American that studies claim that the productivity benefits of teleworking are between 30 and 40 percent. Impressive figures, but can all organizations implementing telework programs expect to see such productivity rises?

From my own perspective, I know that for certain tasks I am more productive working from home, as I find it easier to concentrate without the distractions present in an office: People interrupting you, office chit-chat, pointless meetings. Added to that is the fact that I don’t have to contend with a long, tiring commute. However, whenever I work from a coworking center — an office-like environment where I am frequently distracted by social interaction — I seem to be able to get through just as much work as I do from home. And for certain tasks (brainstorming, for example) I am much less productive working remotely. The claims of an up to 40 percent rise in productivity don’t really ring true from my experience. And for organizations that have seen such drastic increases in productivity, perhaps the figure indicates that there was something very wrong with the office environment or the management of those places.

I’m wondering if my experience is typical, and as many WWD readers work from home at least some of the time I was wondering what you thought: Have you seen drastic increases in productivity since you started working from home?

Photo by Flickr user mccun934, licensed under CC 2.0

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  1. One the one hand working from home makes me very productive some days and on others boi can I get sidetracked….

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  2. For what we call “maker time” (developers writing code, journalists writing stories, etc.), it is clearly more effective to work from home. We find that the times that are better to be together are when we are trying to solve larger, more abstract issues, like brainstorming or the initial design phase of a product idea.

    For the teams I work with, working remotely and from home is clearly a major benefit. When we are together, we know it is for a limited time so we work hard and have some fun time together. It is a great way to build an awesome team of talent that spans geographic boundaries and is the future of professional work, in my opinion.

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    1. I think the ideal would be a job where you can work at home or in the office as required, depending on the tasks you have to do that day — there aren’t too many employers that are keen in such arrangements, though.

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  3. I’m a web developer how works from home sometimes. I’m very productive at home. I’m also just as productive in the office. The main difference is that I work a longer day when I work from home. Mostly because I work during the hours I usually spend commuting, but also because since I’m at home I don’t stop working until late. Usually ill stop when my wife tells me to :-)

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  4. I can only work from home if it is late at night (after midnight) when it is very quiet. I cant work in one place for too long or I’ll get antsy, so I am constantly working from different locations (offices, coffeeshops, etc.)

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  5. I’ve been working exclusively from home (for a major corporation) for the past 4+ years, and I’ve definitely noticed my productivity increase tenfold since leaving the traditional office, and for all the reasons you mentioned – chatty co-workers, extended meetings (which were extended not because of the work-related topic at hand, but to discuss the status of a co-worker’s recent vacation or daycare issues), as well as the process of getting into the office in the morning and getting set up. And then in the evening backing up all my files, packing away my computer and making sure I’ve got everything I need to take home in the evening. Doesn’t sound like such a time-consuming process on the surface, but sorting through emails, turning on your computer(s), booting up everything you need to as well as general morning office pleasantries can eat up a lot of time. I’m a designer, so I do work independently most of the time. I’ll agree, brainstorming is the one area that really can be challenging if you’re not in the room. But I’ve successfully lead design reviews, attended QA sessions and delivered on all my work — with much less stress — than I ever did while sitting in an office — cube or table, it didn’t matter.

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    1. Agreed, the “startup time” in the morning at a trad. office can take a quite a while (making that first coffee, saying hi to coworrkers etc).

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  6. I only recently started working from home for my company, and it is true, my productivity has increased and I’ve become happier to boot.

    The only negative that I’ve come across (and this might only be true for my company) is that communication between employees (whom I need to communicate with) has slipped dramatically. It’s harder to get things approved through email and through phone calls then it is from barging into an office and “interrupting” someone.

    Pros
    no driving, better health, eating better, sleeping better, less stress

    cons
    harder work flow, no community support, easier to become disjointed and jaded.

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    1. Yep, I can relate to the jaded comment. That’s certainly a risk the longer you work remotely.

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  7. Actually it depends on the type of work you are involved. In case with a software development (IT) where intensive teamwork is used, it is better to be done in office anyway, because of frequent interactions between all members and brainstorming activities. Working at home also has some pitfalls like you always feel yourself relaxed in such environment, because it’s your home where you usually take a break. Anyway, the best thing would be to have a hybrid workplace, and this is where we all are leading to, especially with appearance of cloud computing.

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  8. I get LOTS more done when I work from home, although I certainly agree that it depends on the type of work to be done. A considerable portion of my work involves writing articles and creating videos, and I find that this work is far more productively undertaken at home. My commute is a particularly long one (2.5 hours door-to-door each way on average), so the time gained back from not getting in the car is huge — and almost always gets converted to more time spent working.

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  9. I love working from home and have been for years now. I think that I am more productive because I don’t get disturbed by co-workers, I can rest when I need it, workout when I’m feeling down, and can work whenever I want to throughout the day.

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  10. I think working in an office environment and remotely both help the workers become productive, depending on the level of motivation. At the end of the day, it’s all about how the worker/employee manages all sorts of distraction that matters

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