We live in a hyper-connected world. Technology enables us to work from anywhere. I am writing this article from my laptop from a public library. A friend of mine Rob is a programmer- he works for a Canadian Tech company but he lives & works in Thailand (Yes I am jealous… aren’t you?).
With smartphones, laptops, and collaborative technologies like Lync, Skype, Webex, etc. – you do not have to work from the office. You can get your work done from anywhere (even Thailand).
However, I believe that in order to be most productive- it is imperative to work from the office (most of the time).
A Gallup study found that people who work remotely are more engaged and productive, but only if they worked from home 20% of the time, i.e work from the office the rest 80%.
I personally have worked both from the office and from home. I find myself more engaged and productive when I am working from the office. My productivity skyrockets when I work from the office. If given the choice I would always choose an office environment over my den at my home.
Here are the benefits of working at the office rather than Telecommuting.
1. Teamwork & Camaraderie
One thing the office guarantees is Camaraderie. Unless you are the select few who have pigheaded determination & discipline, it is hard not to get distracted at the home. Yes, there are distractions at the office too – annoying co-workers, useless fire drills, etc. However, when the office is generally buzzing with constant activity – it is hard not to focus and get back to work.
Most of the very good friendships I have created have come from the places I have worked. We spend most of our waking hours in the office, and over time we create a bond with some of the people we work with. I can’t remember how many friends I have made working from home (maybe the mailman).
If you work for a bigger company – staying in the office means you are always staying on top of what’s happening in the company. If you are a startup this interaction is paramount- mingling with your co-workers helps your company be more productive.
There are days at the office when I don’t feel like working (lack of sleep, not enough coffee, dark rainy days), and there are moments I want to slack. But when I see my colleagues next to me all working on their projects – it puts a fire under my butt to get back to work.
Let’s say the same thing happens to you when you work from home. You are only accountable to yourself. If you don’t feel like working – there is a good chance you will not work. Trust me, I have done it myself.
All the resources you need to do your job – technology and people will be at the office. Your employer provides you with a desk, a computer, a stationary, a kitchen. On the contrary, working from home means you are responsible for setting up your own office.
If you live in a metro like Toronto or New York – good luck renting an apartment with an additional den (the rents are crazy). In other words, it might end up costing you more to have a home office.
The most important resource I find is people. It is easier & much more effective to walk down to someone’s desk to ask a question, rather than sending an email and waiting for an answer. It is hard to do that working from home.
I find it easier to also learn more at the office. This goes back to the concept of having strong discipline. If you are that hyper-disciplined person then you have the will-power to take care of your learning from home. But at the office, it is easier to learn- group discussions, lunch & learns, or even asking your peers questions.
3. Using Commuting to Your Advantage
I have never heard anyone who has told me that they love to commute. If you live in North America, the ordeal can be very frustrating. I once spent two hours getting back from the office in a snowstorm in a commute that would usually have taken me only 20 minutes. Yes, it sucks!!
But if you are a productive person (If you are reading this, chances are you are a go-getter and someone who is productive) then you know how to make the best use of that time.
If you are using Public Transit – then use that time to read a book. I commute 2 hours a day – and I read 1 to 2 books a week. The knowledge I have gained in the book has definitely enhanced my productivity. And I am using that knowledge to propel my career.
If you drive – then use audio programs, audible, podcasts, etc. to learn new things. When I was driving 45 minutes a day to work, I used to listen to recorded podcasts – I have learned about marketing, languages, intellectual discussions, etc in that time.
Now you can argue with me “But I do the same at home. I carve out 2 hours a day to learn new things”. My response to that is “Ya right!!”. Trust me, it is hard to do additional things when working from home.
As teenagers, we hated routine and we absolutely hated structure. We didn’t like to be told what to do & we didn’t like to conform. However, things change as we get older and we enter the workforce.
We need structure in order to do our jobs properly. Having to go to an office gives you a pre-packaged structure. You get a sense of order in an otherwise chaotic world. You go to the office at a certain time and you leave at a certain time. I like a sense of structure in my days.
In Feb 2013 Marrisa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo made headlines by banning Telecommuting at the company, asking employees to work from the office. In the memo, she argues that in order to boost productivity, the employees need to work side-by-side. This sparked a lot of controversy in the days that followed. Almost, every article you read around that time was a criticism to that decision. Some even accused her of taking things back to the Stoneage. Seriously?
A year after CNBC published an article about the merits of her decision. Numerous studies have shown that it takes enormous discipline to work effectively from home. And employees are more productive when they spend most of their time working at the office.
In the vast majority of cases,(unless you are super-disciplined) the merits of working from the office outweigh working from home.
What are your thoughts?