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June 9, 2015

Working From Home: Does it Help or Hinder?

Caroline Smith

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We recently asked on social media whether working from home helps or hinders you, and the response was really interesting.

Quite a few of you said it was fine occasionally, but any more than once a week might have a negative impact on your productivity.

Usha Niranjan on Facebook said you get easily distracted if you work from home, and that [face-to-face] collaboration is always best when you're involved in complex and intense projects. On Twitter, @Morgan_Wake posted that it "hinders you, in my opinion. When I work from home I tend to find myself more distracted and off task."

This subject interests me because I work from home three days a week, with two days in the office. And I absolutely love it! I'm with @IsmailKamdar, who said: "I'll never want to work in an office again!"

I save at least two hours a day by not commuting. When I worked in London, I would set off early to avoid the rush-hour crush on the trains, but public transport would be busy even at 6:30am. I don't miss people's glum faces, as they wait on the platform, or the regular delays and train cancellations, either.

Because I don't have the commute, I feel so much more relaxed. I can grab my breakfast when I want – either first thing, or after I've eased myself into the day – I can play music, and I have my cats to keep me company. (Although Glen Jack posted about his cats, saying: "Definitely hinder at the moment, with two cats vying for attention. One is very poorly, so I feel guilty if l don't let her on my lap when I'm trying to work.")

I also find I get so much done at home. In the office, there are loads of meetings, different people walking in and out, and discussions going on in the background. And while I enjoy the camaraderie that comes with being there, I always enjoy driving back home for some peace and quiet!

Jane Kerrigan said working from home can be useful if you need to concentrate on a single subject because you can control interruptions, such as phone calls. She also said: "I like to move around more at home... working at the ironing board, standing up for example, and walking around while on the phone." I agree with Jane, as you can't always do things like that in the office. For example, I often read information out loud to make sure text reads fluidly, which I don't in the office. This is when being at home is helpful.

But I think you've got to be a certain type of person to get the most from working at home. One of my co-workers found three days at home isolating, so she now goes into the office an extra day. And I've spoken with others who are in the office all week, and they said they'd hate to work from home because they'd feel like they would be missing out.

We use instant messaging at Mind Tools, as well as email, to communicate with one another. I think it's because of this that I don't ever feel "out of it," because I know I can get hold of people when I want. I can also see when people are online, and this helps me feel like I'm part of something.

I asked my co-workers in the editorial team if they had any top tips to make homeworking a success. @SarahPaveyMT said: "I'm all for the Pomodoro Technique! As long as you keep to the timer and don't feel guilty about taking the five-minute breaks, it works really well."

@KeithJacksonMT suggested writing a properly prioritized To-Do List and taking regular screen breaks. He also said: "Try to ignore the full laundry basket or the sink full of dishes! You wouldn't worry about them if you were at the office." That's another thing I find great about working from home: you can do these chores in your lunch break, which frees up more of your time in the evening!

Finally, @ElizabethEyreMT said: "Try to avoid working in the kitchen/living room, if you can. Go somewhere (spare room, shed, wherever) that you can designate as your work room, shut the door, and focus. That way, you actually feel like you're going to work and it's easier to avoid all the distractions that are in the kitchen, and switch off at the end of the day."

Thanks again for all your contributions to the #mindtoolstips. And if anyone has any further suggestions on how they make working from home a success, we'd love to hear from you!

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4 comments on “Working From Home: Does it Help or Hinder?”

  1. I like working at night and that doesn't typically go well with 'normal' employment. Working from home some days allows me flexibility to work when I'm most productive (after dark), go to gym when the gym isn't busy (11h00 am) and arrange my schedule the way I like it. The downside is people (friend and family) who think because you work from home some days you're available to do them all kinds of favours. You need to set your boundaries firmly from the onset.

    1. Thanks Rebel for sharing your experience of working from home. I also love the flexibility and I agree that having firm boundaries is important of when you will and will not work in addition to when you do social stuff or errands.

  2. I love working from home. I gain two hours from traveling in and out. It's flexible and so much more productive for me. I have a study next to my utility room so can keep an eye on my washing whilst being around for the kids if they need me. Best of all worlds.

    1. Thanks Margaret for sharing. I believe that when you can actually see how you will benefit from having those extra hours, it provides the incentive and motivation to get focused and productive working from home.

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