Are You More Productive at the Office, or at Home?

The latest Freakonomics podcast tackles the question of whether or not we’re more productive working at the office, or working from home, and as someone who finds himself more productive in an office environment, I was surprised to learn that case studies have shown that people who work at home are often more productive than when they’re at the office.

The main reason people are less productive at the office is the “there’s cake in the breakroom!” argument—there are a lot of distractions. You get pulled away from your work by coworkers for small talk or gossip. Not having to go to the office also means you’re cutting the commute to and from work out of your day, and you don’t have to worry about traffic or train delays. You’re not rushing in late because you had to wait for the repairman, or find someone to watch your sick cat. You can cut the time it takes you to buy and eat lunch, and just grab something from your fridge.

Of course, you can only be productive at home if your work is mostly solitary. The office is great for collaborating on projects, meeting with clients and troubleshooting problems (here, let me show you the problem I’m having vs. let me try to describe what I’m experiencing over instant messenger or email). The solitude of working from home can also get to you.

I may be an outlier because I really have no major reason to need to show up at the office on a daily basis. But I love going to the office, and get a lot more done when I’m there. It has a lot to do with my need for a routine. I like knowing that I can leave my apartment and go somewhere to do work, and then come back at the end of the day and not think about work anymore (although, yes, I often continue working from home in the evening, but it’s part of the routine). I like to think of it as trying to have balance—otherwise, I’d just be at home and thinking about work all the time.

Given the option, would your prefer working at home? Or do you prefer going to the office?

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19 Comments / Post A Comment

AnnieNilsson (#406)

I’ve spent the past year working from home. I go back and forth on whether I prefer it or not. It’s tough to stay focused/motivated sometimes. I have found that the key for someone like me is to set up a lot of boundaries so that my entire existence doesn’t feel like my job.
Here are some tips I have learned along the way if anyone is interested.

AnnieNilsson (#406)

Actually, the most productive I’ve ever been as a writer was on a ranch in the middle of Wyoming with very limited internet. One of these days I am gonna get myself an actual cave somewhere, then I’ll be all LOOK OUT WORLD!

HannibalV (#1,803)

I’m absolutely an office person. My level of distractability at the office is high enough as it is (case in point: writing this comment); if I were to add the 1,001 other options for splitting my attention that are at home, I’d never get anything done ever.

Megano! (#124)

I like going to an office for much the same reasons, but I think ideally I would do like half the week at the office, half the week at home, cuz my doggy misses me like what.

Kate (#1,408)

I’m way way WAY more productive in the office. At home I do a lot of laundry and snacking.

arrr starr (#69)

It depends what I have to do – project-based stuff (running reports and the like) I am far more productive at home. For phone calls, little tasks, things that go in the mail, having the resources at the office help.

I find that I am at my most productive when I work remotely while visiting family, which I do a couple of times a year. Basically because I realize that I’m a little bit more on my own reconnaissance and instead of screwing around, I get everything done as efficiently as possible so I can spend more time not working. When I’m in the same time zone as work, the work expands so I spend 8+ hours a day on it.

MuffyStJohn (#280)

I am much more productive in the office, and I also hate the idea of mixing my work life with my home life. I’ll take the commute.

Orangina19 (#925)

I sometimes get one work from home day a week (don’t ask it gets weird when we ask for a set schedule…bosses). Anyway I would love a set Monday and Friday work from home. Two days would be great. I am more productive because I have to stay on top of everything. I had to work from home for two weeks due to an injury and I was more productive then than at any other point in my employment at my company.

Dancercise (#94)

A mixture of both is my favorite.

LHOOQ (#1,634)

My preferred way of working is to be at an office when no one else is, but in terms of methods of working that are marriage-friendly, I get more done at the office during normal hours than I do working from home during normal hours. I also like working from home late at night.

I must come by it naturally; my father used to come home from work at about 7.30 or 8 pm, take a 3 hour nap after dinner, and then go back to the office at 1 or 2 am for a few more hours.

kellyography (#250)

Like arr starr, I like having the resources of the office, but would like to be able to stay home a day or two per week on the days when it’s pretty much all about sending/responding to emails. I would probably also like working from home a lot more if I had a dedicated office space.

moreteawesley (#545)

I am so much more productive at home and would be a million times happier if I could do it.

I tried working from home for about two weeks and realized it was the worst idea ever. While it undeniably has its perks (calling into staff meetings while pantsless), I found myself justifying behavior that I would’ve never contemplated while in the office. “Oh, its 2pm. I should take the dog for an hour long walk,” or “It’s totally acceptable to nap in the middle of the work day.” Also, my interns would keep transferring calls to my cell phone without announcing who was on the line so I had several rage moments when I thought they were giving out my cell number to clients. Long story short- working from home is for people with far more discipline and less paranoia than me.

sony_b (#225)

Work from home. It depends a lot on the job, and the personality of the worker. I love working from home and am definitely more productive here.

selenana (#673)

I prefer “working” from home, but I am much more productive in an office setting. I’m a horrible freelancer because I’m not a great self starter. It’s hard for me to stick to a work routine at home. But I am a really great employee. Ugh, just stick it to me already, The Man.

ImASadGiraffe (#982)

I would love to work from home. My dogs would also love it. They’re trying to make our jobs work from home, and that would make doing this job a zillion times more enjoyable.

JitterBug (#1,972)

I would like to work in the office but with NO OTHER PEOPLE. Between people coming up to your desk to say hi or all the small talk you have to get through on the phone before you can get to the actual thing that the person wants to get from you plus being distracted by the calls and visits of other people in their adjacent cubicles, it’s really hard to stay focused on work.

Seriously, open-plan offices are the worst and they should be banned forever.

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