No, I’m not going to preach you about any get-rich-quick-work-from-home-and-make-1.000-euros-per-month.
This post is really about working from home, like in working in whatever your current job requires you to do, but doing it from home instead of the office. When I started working I did it out of my bedroom (also known as office or headquarters in some circles) because we were running a bootstrapped start-up so that was all we could afford.
Apart from that and even if like most of us I try to squeeze an extra hour or two in the wee hours of the night, just to get back on that urgent matter or to try to gain some leverage for the following day, I have been working most of my time in the office, at the companies I have founded or for the short time I have been someone’s employee.
In the most recent months, perhaps since one year ago, I have tried to skip the office every now and then, maybe for half a day or even for a full day if my schedule is clear of meetings and so I have been working from home maybe 1 or 2 days a month. And even if the reasons are way too obvious, I must say that it is a bit awkward to acknowledge that my productivity is in fact much higher for the periods I work from home (I’m not considering the extra push late night, because that is a whole different beast). I believe I could track the productivity increase anywhere between 50 and 100% depending on the task at hand.
With all the technology surrounding us nowadays, things like VPN’s, real good and cheap audio/video conferencing online services, IM, Dropbox, shared documents on Google Docs and the likes, you can easily co-work with your team, while maximizing productivity since you tend to stick to what is really important and cut to the chase to get work done. I can honestly say that I don’t feel so many handicaps working from home and that some hassles from the past (things like crappy audio/voice online, slow file transfer, emails with documents being reviewed via email sent back and forth, etc) are no more, creating yet a bigger upside for this work mode.
Of course that besides the peace to get in the zone and make things happen faster, there are other collateral benefits like for me saving a 30 minutes (x2) daily commute, eating a decent lunch at home, lowering my blood pressure, taking a break to walk the dog, among others.
But this is no news for anybody because I am sure we all read or listened to the pros and cons of working from home and from the office. Probably one of the most interesting point of views is from Jason Fried under the curious title of “Why work doesn’t happen at work” – watch the TED Talk here.
Anyway I have been thinking on whether this work from home thing should or should not be extended to more people and after giving some thought let me say that I don’t think working from home is for everybody. It isn’t. Some people just lack the discipline and self control needed not to spend the whole day watching TV or browsing Facebook. They need to feel some pressure from the guy on the next desk or cubicle, and those, should keep their daily commute to the office.
Then there are of course those kind of jobs that require you to be in the office or at least those where your productivity would be severely reduced if you are working remotely. I’m thinking, for instance, of the account managers at WayNext – they have to assure traffic and communication flows among different internal and external teams and they have to take lots of phone calls on which they need to act in real time and for that, many times email/IM is just a waste of time since it takes longer and sometimes information is lost between the communicator and the keyboard so the quickest and most reliable way is a tap in the shoulder of the one who might need it – yeah yeah the tap in the shoulder interruption problem – and making sure things are being done just like they should.
So I guess I don’t see myself working from home everyday, because I need to meet people and also because leadership, from my perspective, requires the leader to be visible, show up, interact, discuss and act as a role model. But I’ll keep saving a couple of days a month to work from home because I can really use the productivity boost to cut down on the average 10-12 daily work hours and the dog appreciates the extra walk in the park.
BTW, this info graphic just came in my way – check it out to see if you should let your employees work at home or not!