- Posted February 26, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Telecommuting: Your productivity tips
Happiness On The Home (Office) Front
- PM91, CNN iReport producer
Can you find happiness at home? Now I am not talking about domestic bliss, but rather working from home. Happiness is a rather subjective subject, but I contend the answer is yes. Happiness and productivity can both be found on the home (office) front. And the two may be related.
For starters, let's acknowledge two things. One, that the grass is always greener for the other half, and two, that there are inherent - and obvious - upsides and downsides to both working from home and working in a traditional office.
For me, a solopreneur consultant and professional speaker, I don't have any built-in colleagues like a virtual employee working from home for a larger company does.
My colleagues are somewhat transient in nature, since many of my engagements are short-term. That impacts the dynamic and working relationship for sure. When I am in a client's physical space, it's typically not for long. Just time enough for a meeting, a presentation, training, and then I'm gone.
I wouldn't say I am a super social person. In an office environment I never felt compelled particularly to stand around and small talk at co-workers' desks.
However, I am a highly collaborative person, and a perpetually curious one, so the boredom of often working alone is my biggest enemy at home.
It's not the television, or the laundry, or the refrigerator, though those things do beckon at times. It's just the sheer loneliness.
Often times I seek refuge in surfing the Internet, which is just one giant bright shiny object always waiting to distract.
So just plain old discipline is required there. I know no one - but me - is tracking my time and/or keystrokes, so there is no built-in big brother watching over me.
Of course for my colleagues in an office setting, that independence, the quiet, the solitude, are all things they yearn for, and I get that.
We both can benefit, in small doses, from things the others enjoy, take for granted, or even complain about.
My wife works for a Fortune 50 company and she is in endless meetings, all day, M - F, then comes home to answer 60 or 70 emails from her laptop at 8 o'clock at night. I don't have to contend with that issue.
For the most part, I know I am definitely more productive at home than I would be in an office environment, even when I have my favorite Los Angeles radio station streaming some background "noise" from my computer.
It's hardly just me though. Researchers at Stanford recently reported the results of the first randomized experiment on working from home, run in a 16,000-employee, NASDAQ-listed Chinese firm, CTrip. Here is some of what they found.
A 13% ("highly significant" in their words) increase in performance from home-working.
Higher job satisfaction.
$2,000 reduction in costs per employee.
At the end of the study, the researchers said much of the writing for their paper was done from home.
As far as my productivity goes, on those days when I can feel I'm having a hard time getting going, or I need people around me if I don't have any client meetings or engagements scheduled, I will often times grab my laptop and get thee to a coffee house, with caffeine and a bunch of strangers as my colleagues.
Yahoo, and other companies like it, can reel in their home office workers, but this phenomenon is not going away. It's only increasing.
The research firm IDC estimates that the number of non-traditional workers worldwide will reach 1.3 billion by 2015.
Some analysts even predict that by 2020 independent entrepreneurs could become a majority of the American workforce.
According to Aimee Groth and Max Nisen, the authors of a Future of Business series sponsored by SAP, the workplace of the future is going to be less centralized, more mobile, and more flexible than anything most people outside the startup and freelance economy have experienced before. And the trend’s going to be accelerated by rapid uptake of mobile technology, economic volatility, and the global war for top talent.
Here are some specific reasons they are predicting the death of the office:
The fast-rising upward trend line of global Internet adoption is changing our concept of what work is.
In a flat world with a knowledge economy, information is the currency, and it matters little whether the “source” of that information emanates from a Fortune 50 enterprise network or a smartphone in a coffee shop.
Distance means less, or nothing at all, in an increasingly virtual world.
As our workforce becomes more fragmented, and mobile (smartphones and tablets) adoption rates rise, the office won’t necessarily be a fixed location.
Tools such as Evernote, Dropbox and other file-sharing platforms are making it easier not to have to come to the office to do the work.
“Work will happen anywhere, anytime, 24/7, and we will work from home, cafés, airports, or while commuting, as long as we have the technology available,” says Luc Kamperman from Veldhoen + Company, one of the world’s leading consulting firms in activity-based work styles. “When we do come to the office, it will be because we want to learn from each other, to connect with each other, and to feel part of a community."
Offices, as we know them today, were initially created as support for manufacturing sites.
Eventually, offices moved to cities and suburbs, and turned into places to actually do work, to have meetings, to create and store documents and so on.
Mattias Hällström, Director of Research & Development at the UK-based online collaboration tool company Projectplace, says in the future, it is very unlikely there will be a dedicated place for work. And that the concept of a workplace will change or disappear altogether.
“Technically speaking, we have the tools we need to do our jobs virtually anywhere we choose. But that’s not the end of the story. Humans are a very social species and interaction with others is an important part of going to work. Research has shown that significant parts of our brain are devoted to social interaction and thrive when we are finding, creating and sustaining human relationships.”
There is more to this issue than just simple questions of productivity, and tools and technology.
I think we are in the process of redefining what work is, as well as simply where we engage in it. And that has ramifications for us all.
The biggest question is, are we culturally ready for this?