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Productivity Consultants Share The Truth About Telecommuting

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Here’s pretty amazing secret: people who work from home do all kinds of terribly non-productive things. But the net result of this is even more surprising: despite wasting all this time, they actually get more done.

That’s the topic of an article from Bloomberg Businessweek, which carries the rather ominous title What People Really Do When They’re ‘Working From Home’:

43 percent watch TV or a movie and 20 percent play video games while officially working from home. Parents are more likely than those without children to partake in these two activities, which aren’t work-related.

Employees might not even be sober: 24 percent admit to having a drink. Twenty-six percent say they take naps. Others are distracted by housekeeping: 35 percent do household chores; 28 percent cook dinner.

Yet despite all the distractions, telecommuters are actually more productive than their peers in the office.

consultants discuss telecommuting

© Flickr user DavidMartynHunt

This data should be absolutely shocking. If you don’t have your mouth open right now, allow us to break it down into two steps:

  1. People who work from home self-report that they spend lots of time screwing around
  2. Despite that, these folks still get more done than their office-bound colleagues

If you’ve been reading The Methodology Blog for a while, you might not be completely stunned by this news. We’ve reported before that taking breaks at work actually improves productivity and employee satisfaction. And of course, the place to look to understand this increased employee productivity is not at the home-based worker, but at those stuck in the office. The modern office is an interruption factory for organizational productivity.

So what should you do? Send all your employees home? Shut down the office?

It’s actually more complicated than that. Certain kinds of work and certain personalities respond better to telecommuting policies for worker productivity. But ultimately, if you are most interested in ensuring that people can get a lot done, the worst thing you can do is insist on face time. Almost anything is better than mandating when and where employees get their work done.

The process by which you generate results is what matters most. Isn’t that what matters to you?

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