The Shocking Truth About Working From Home

Here’s pretty amazing secret: people who work from home do all kinds of terribly non-productive things. But the net result of this is even more surprising: despite wasting all this time, they actually get more done.

That’s the topic of an article from Bloomberg Businessweek, which carries the rather ominous title “What People Really Do When They’re ‘Working From Home“:

“43 percent watch TV or a movie and 20 percent play video games while officially working from home. Parents are more likely than those without children to partake in these two activities, which aren’t work-related.

“Employees might not even be sober: 24 percent admit to having a drink. Twenty-six percent say they take naps. Others are distracted by housekeeping: 35 percent do household chores; 28 percent cook dinner. Yet despite all the distractions, telecommuters are actually more productive than their peers in the office.”

This data should be absolutely shocking. If you don’t have your mouth open right now, allow us to break it down into two steps:

  • People who work from home self-report that they spend lots of time screwing around
  • Despite that, these folks still get more done than their office-bound colleagues

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you might not be completely stunned by this news. I’ve reported before that taking breaks at work actually improves productivity. And of course, the place to look to understand this increased employee productivity is not at the home-based worker, but at those stuck in the office. The modern office is an interruption factory.

So what should you do? Send all your employees home? Shut down the office?

It’s actually more complicated than that. Certain kinds of work and certain personalities respond better to telecommuting policies. But ultimately, if you are most interested in ensuring that people can get a lot done, the worst thing you can do is insist on face time. Almost anything is better than mandating when and where employees get their work done.

The process by which you generate results is what matters most. Isn’t that what matters to you.

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About the Speaker: Robby Slaughter is the founder of Slaughter Development, a workflow and productivity consulting company. After an extensive career in IT systems development, Robby realised that the principal challenges affecting individual workers are not technological in nature, but psychological. He discovered that to become more effective and efficient at work, we need to empower individuals with authority and responsibility. His consulting practice now focuses exclusively on assessing workflow challenges, helping stakeholders to design and develop new business processes, and implement systematic, stakeholder-driven changes throughout the organisation. Robby is also the author of a new book: Failure: The Secret to Success.

  • debra wilkins

    An interesting article but I think the point that is made in the last paragraph is the most important. Some people can work from home and are productive, good at time organising and produce results. Others may find it impossible to work at home and need an office environment to be productive. So I think it boils down to who the person is and where they are most productive. maybe a psychological profile would be useful. I speak as someone who worked in an office for many years and for the past five years I have worked from home and know the pros and cons of both environments – it doesn’t work for all!

  • Data that analyzed is absolutely shocking.But I think office environment and home environment are different from each other.In office there are some rules and regulations but whenever we are at home then we are free from rules.We do the work as we think.