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?