Does working from home actually work?

Q Crew / Posted 9.27.2011

Does working from home actually work?

Telecommuting has recently come under scrutiny as a recent survey from CareerBuilder and an article from Inc. Magazine suggest that working from home often translates into hardly working.

We think that's hardly the full picture.

We decided to jump into the great telecommute debate. Because when we're not writing for Meta Q, we're mild-mannered web workers at Q Digital Studio. We're also mild-mannered telecommuters, splitting our time between the office and home office, depending on our preferences. 

We wanted to dispel the myth of the telecommute; productivity (or lack thereof) can happen anywhere. We wanted to share how we make working work, wherever we are.

Clinton Reeves, back-end developer:
Home is where the office is

Over the past couple of years, I have worked for several different companies, each with a different "office attendance" requirements. At one company, I worked the standard 8-5 shift in the office, and I wasn't allowed to bring work home with me at all. At another company, I worked remotely 100% of the time. Most recently, I've been working for Q Digital Studio, which allows me to do about 50% of my work in the office and 50% remotely, and we're allowed to adjust this according to what we find works best for us.

“I believe that different people work better in different environments and it would be impossible for one company to be able to create an environment best suited for all employees.”

Overall, I have found that I am far more productive working in my home office than I am in the office. I believe that different people work better in different environments and it would be impossible for one company to be able to create an environment best suited for all employees. The ability to work at home gives me the opportunity to create an atmosphere that I find most appropriate for my work habits.

A home office allows me to do what I need to do in order to tackle the tasks at hand, without disturbing others around me. Sometimes I need loud music, and sometimes I need it to be dead quiet. There are also times when I need to talk through a problem out loud and times when I need to pace back and forth. The benefit of the home office is that I can do this privately and not have to worry about bothering the people around me.

That said, working from home does have several drawbacks. I find it very hard to separate personal time (when I am off the clock) from work time. With a home office, it's very easy to slip into the other room and crank out a" few hours of work," but often, those "few hours" can become a full day without me realizing it.

It's important to realize that human beings are social creatures. Working without human interaction, day in and day out, can quickly become exhausting and in some cases, stressful. The time spent at the office allows me to interact with my coworkers on a more personal level, and ultimately, build stronger bonds with them.

All in all, I would say that my preference would be to work from my home office the majority of the time, because that is where I am most productive. But, working in the office a few days a week isn't bad either and, in my case, it helps me quite a bit to get out of the house.

Susan Snipes, owner and principal:
It's all about finding a work/life balance

I love working! And that's a good thing: as a business owner there is always plenty of work to be done.

Because it's easy to work from home with a laptop and WiFi, I can work pretty much all day, every day. Recently I've been forced into a better work/life balance since having a baby. Currently Amelie is 3-months-old. While taking care of my baby girl is a major adjustment, the change is a good thing. I now relish the time when I go into the office (half days Mondays through Thursdays).

It's great for me to truly detach from my home life and to put a laser focus on my work. The rest of the time, I work from home during whatever hours I can squeeze in while baby is napping or hanging with daddy. While I am productive at home, the level of productivity varies depending on the time of day and where in the house I'm working.

“I work from home during whatever hours I can squeeze in while baby is napping or hanging with daddy.”

My home office has a fancy external monitor, elevated laptop stand, keyboard and mouse, all situated in a nice room with a view. It's away from all the action, so to speak. When I'm working in the home office, it's much easier to concentrate, than when I'm chilling on the sofa in the living room, sorting emails on my laptop.

Working at home still isn't the same for me as working in the office. At home, I'm more likely to tool around on social media or check in on Google Analytics -- work related yes, but is it really the best use of my time? No. Working in the office for me then, is a must. I like getting away from home and interacting with the world. It's nice to have face time with my coworkers. But it's all about finding balance. My life is way better because I am able to work from home part-time.

Laura Riegel, designer:
It's all about spicing it up

For the past three and a half years, my workweek has been split into two days at home and two days in the office.

When I work at home, I get off my seat more—whether to heat up some tea, raid the pantry or to throw some clothes in the washer. Amidst all the ups and downs, I find that my focus is better at home due to the lack of distractions. Because of this my days at home are more productive.

I find that working from home deprives me of much-needed social interaction, and it makes troubleshooting projects with co-workers more difficult. Skype does help to bridge the gap though, in both instances. My coworkers and I keep in touch by messaging each other throughout the day with random thoughts and chitchat. And when it comes time to discuss a particular project, nothing compares to Skype's screen-sharing feature – a feature I'm practically addicted to.

“If someone were to ask me, ‘Do you prefer working at home or in the office?’ I would have to say both.”

Working in the office helps get me out of the house and puts me in an environment where I feel more like a young professional. Having my coworkers around and spending the day with them definitely creates better team mojo.

The only down side I find to working in the office is the social distraction. Even when my coworkers and I aren't talking, I feel like subconsciously my social self knows they're there and a little voice inside of me keeps saying, "Talk to them." I end up expending energy just to stay focused. And thus my productivity wanes.

If someone were to ask me, "Do you prefer working at home or in the office?" I would have to say both. I love spicing work up by being in a different location every other day and still getting the much-needed social interaction of being in an office.

Lindsay McComb, writer and content specialist:
It all depends on the distractions

I like routines, but only to the extent that I like finding ways to break them. Variety is the spice of life, and I live for finding slight variations in my daily routine.

Take caffeinated beverages for example: Sometimes I'll have coffee every day for three months without a single thought of tea. Other times I'll only have eyes for a cuppa English breakfast tea. Some days I want them both. I know what I like, I just don't know when I'll like it.

The same principle applies to my work environment: in the office or in my home office. It's hard for me to say that I like one or the other more in general. But just as my caffeinated beverage whims change at will, at certain times I prefer one over the other. Right now I feel like I need to spend the majority of my work week in the office. But that could change.

“Variety is the spice of life, and I live for finding slight variations in my daily routine.”

A few months ago, I would have felt more productive at home. I love coming into the studio, even if it means rolling out of bed at 6:30 in the morning. I love the feeling of having somewhere to go, somewhere to be. I love coming in, setting up, having that first cup of coffee and settling in for the day. I love knowing that there are other people in the office. I'm a person who appreciates solitude yes, but I admit that I have a social side. I worry that I'm a bother my coworkers when they all seem so focused, but sometimes it's just nice to chat. It inspires me to keep on task, just by the mere fact that we're all here together, all working. I like feeling like I'm part of something bigger than myself.

However, I happily admit that I also love the flexibility of working from home, of staying in bed an extra hour or so, savoring that cup of coffee, and (occasionally) staying in my PJs all day. I love being able to put the TV on in the background or listen to music. Loudly. I like being able to sit at the kitchen table or move over to the couch when my desk just isn't working.

But where I find myself distracted by wanting to socialize in the office, I find myself distracted at home by the lack thereof. No one's around working hard, spurning me on, inspiring me to stay focused. TV can quickly evolve from background noise to the forefront of my attention. Suddenly the dishes that have been in the sink for three days seem urgent.

I'm generally a very conscientious worker, no matter where I am. I work hard, no matter how inconsistent my routines are or how capricious I'm feeling. It's hard not to let my mind wander or to stop myself every time an intriguing link or Tweet comes my way. Whether I'm in the studio or my home office, I'm always fighting distractions. Which distractions I want tackle more – well, that all depends.

Terris Kremer, front-end developer:
The office is where it happens

My thoughts on working from home have changed quite a bit since I was welcomed to Q Digital Studio about 20 months ago. I was a freelancer before then and working from home was a must, so that forced me to adapt. However, now that I have been working in the Q Digital Studio office on a regular basis, working from home has proven to be a struggle for me: I'm far less productive at home than I am at the office.

What makes working at home more difficult for me is that there are too many distractions – and I love distractions. When my bed is no more than a few feet away, for example, it's just too easy for me to go and lie in it. Then there's all the food. Oh, and the beer. Can you tell I'm a glutton?

“When my bed is no more than a few feet away it's just too easy for me to go and lie in it.”

Perhaps the issue with working at home isn't such a bad thing; I feel that the home ought to be a place of relaxation, a refuge from the stresses of the workplace. When I work at home I'm bringing things in that don't always belong there.

Of course, there are advantages to working from home instead of the office. For instance, I find that there are fewer social interruptions at home. At home I can do a little singing and dancing, and there's no one around to call me a weirdo. And who doesn't like working in their pajamas?

It all comes down to this: if I really want to get things done then, the office is where it happens for me.

Photo Credit: georgivar

Q Crew

The Q Crew consists of the talented folks at Q Digital Studio, who happily bring you essays and insights every week. We’re passionate about all things web and digital. We love ExpressionEngine. And of course, we love you.