Is working from home an efficient alternative to the traditional office job or a productivity killer? The results of a CareerBuilder survey on telecommuting might bolster the arguments for both sides.
While nearly one in five (17 percent) of Americans who telecommute at least part of the time spend one hour or less per day working out of the office, 35 percent work eight or more hours out of the office—a major increase from a 2007 CareerBuilder study in which only 18 percent of telecommuters said they worked eight or more hours out of the office. Forty percent of telecommuters work between four and seven hours per day out of the office.
The national survey—conducted May 19-June 8, 2011, among nearly 5,300 U.S. private-sector workers employed full time—reveals that Americans are working from home on a more regular basis: Ten percent telecommute at least once a week, up from 8 percent in 2007.
“With mass adoption of smart phones and advanced network technologies, telecommuters are connected to their offices like never before. As a result, we’re seeing more companies embrace the work-from-home option and more workers putting in full-time hours while at home,” said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of HR at CareerBuilder. “However, to avoid situations where telecommuters aren’t putting in the necessary time, managers need to be clear about expectations and establish daily objectives. The autonomy of working from home can be very rewarding so long as it doesn’t diminish productivity.”
Productivity: Home vs. Office
Telecommuters are largely split as to whether time spent at home or at the office is more conducive to high-quality work. Thirty-seven percent say they are more productive at the office, while 29 percent report they are more productive at home. Thirty-four percent state that they are equally productive at home and the office.
While most offices have their fair share of productivity roadblocks, home is hardly a disturbance-free zone. Telecommuters say the following are the biggest distractions:
• Household chores—31 percent.
• TV—26 percent.
• Pets—23 percent.
• Errands—19 percent.
• Internet—18 percent.
• Children—15 percent.
Effective Work Habits
Haefner offers the following tips to help telecommuters work as efficiently as possible:
• Keep a normal morning routine. The survey found that 30 percent of telecommuters tend to work in pajamas—41 percent of females and 22 percent of males. The truth is that telecommuters probably work better if they treat their mornings as if they were going to the office. If there’s one good thing about a commute, it’s that it provides a mental transition between home and work life. Telecommuters should get out of bed, dress up, grab breakfast—do anything that will get their mind in the right place.
• Find the best spot to work. Even if they don’t have a dedicated home office, it’s important that telecommuters find the least distracting place in their home, where they won't be tempted by the entertainment system or the recliner.
• Stay connected to colleagues. It’s easier to slack off when you know that your colleagues or managers aren’t watching. If telecommuters are struggling to stay motivated at home, they should schedule an update meeting or call and talk shop with an office peer to get their mind back on work.
• Plan breaks. Telecommuters should never feel like a prisoner in their home. Advise them to plan short breaks to take care of chores, play with pets, exercise or run a brief errand. They'll be less likely to succumb to quitting work early if they structure the perks of being at home into their schedule appropriately.
• Take their work to a coffee shop. Many workers don’t like telecommuting because they’re accustomed to working around others. Working at home can be lonely. If their job allows it, they should try spending an afternoon in a coffee shop or library. At many spots, they'll likely find contract workers or other telecommuters toiling away.
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