I recently attended a networking and discussion group focused on working from home. I was surprised to find myself sitting around a circle with a group of non-believers. I was advocating for working from home while the other ten attendees (some of whom had personally worked from home and some of whom hadn’t) argued that an office environment was better for “business”.
Frankly, I was pretty shocked to find myself in an overwhelming minority, especially within a group of pretty progressive women. I know the type of work we do at Thought Ensemble is even more conducive than other types of work to a remote situation, but I believe there’s more opportunity for working from home than many believe.
It seems clear to me that any self-motivated knowledge worker would (or at least could) optimize productivity working from home. I find distractions much fewer and more manageable at home than in an office environment. I’m also able to go with my energy flow when working at home, taking a break when I’m stuck and cranking away when I’m in the flow. I do my best work right after my morning coffee, but I notice some of my coworkers peak around 11 PM or 4 AM, and working from home allows them to go with that flow. Working from home opens up more hours for flexibility in scheduling, which helps us at Thought Ensemble because we work with clients across many different time zones. Then add to all that an extra 1-3 hours of time every day saved by not commuting or driving between meetings, and voila, I’ve made a business case for 30-50% higher productivity when working from home.
It’s easy to make a case that productivity can skyrocket while working from home. The tougher case to make, and the good argument that was had at this networking group, was about the impact of remote work on collaboration. Personally, I still think I may be a better collaborator while working remotely, but that may have something to do with my personality type. I’d much rather have “thought” time scheduled, so that I can get in the right frame of mind for it. At Thought Ensemble, we block time to work together in addition to just picking up the phone and/or Skyping our colleagues. We also block time for major thinking with our clients (in the form of in person workshops), so that they can clear their schedule to think about more strategic topics. It works great for the type of work we do, but I can see with some types of jobs that require interaction throughout the day, collaboration would be harder.
For the right type of work, and the right type of worker (self motivated, somewhat autonomous), working from home makes a ton of sense. We are now five years into a company entirely built on working from home and it is working great so far!