post

Working from Home vs the Office

The internet has been up in arms since a memo revealed Yahoo employees will no longer be allowed to work from home. That includes those who may have arranged to work from home 1-2 days a week as well as remote workers.

I spent several years working in an office, including a period split between office and remote working, before finally starting my own business, which has run from my dining room both as an advantage for clients (no office means lower costs), and a necessity when I started out bootstrapping my company.

Working from home

Having looked at various studies, and the experiences of friends alongside myself, I’m a big believer in being able to work flexibly, whether or not that includes working remotely. And here are some reasons why:

  • Social Interaction is important to humans: But who says that all the great insights into work come from social interactions with colleagues? And not family, friends, meeting random strangers etc? Not to mention events like #DPIP, or being able to chat whilst out during a walk rather than in a meeting room.
  • It’s not Either/Or: In an average week of ‘working from home’ I spent 2 days working alone by myself, 1 day in a client office, and 2 days with one of my colleagues from TheWayoftheWeb sharing my home office. That’s a pretty healthy mixture between social interaction and the ability to concentrate. And not wear trousers if I don’t want to.
  • I can still have meetings: Expanding on the above – where suitable I’ll happily attend any meeting/brainstorm/planning session etc. All it means is that I’ll not be around beforehand or afterwards, unless there’s a beer involved.
  • Getting more from breaks: Working in an office means that breaks tends to involve smoking, grabbing a snack or sitting around, and aren’t always the amazing watercooler moments of insight you might imagine. Whereas working from home means breaks can include putting washing in the machine, doing the washing up whilst listening to a podcast and other manual tasks which mean I can let my mind relax as recommended in every guide to creativity, but also avoid spending all my nights cleaning up. Which means I can work later if required, or spend time learning something new.
  • Getting more from me: There’s no shortage of time tracking and project management tools to show whether I’m working or idly surfing cat videos on Youtube. And at the end of the day it’s very simple – I don’t deliver the agreed work, and I don’t get paid.
  • Memory Bias: It’s great to remember that evening before launch when the whole team was in the office, hopped up on pizza and caffeine to meet a big deadline. Or that time someone had an amazing insight in a meeting and we all added more to it until it became the most awesome solution to a problem ever invented.
    Because why would you want to remember the other 300+ days of the year spent sat in a meeting room because everyone else was late, or spent trapped in a pointless debate about something irrelevant. Or spent sat in a queue in a car park to get in for 9am and out for 5.30pm, after standing in a line at 1pm to grab a sandwich to eat alone at your desk?

I’m not suggesting everyone should work from home. Or in an office. But it’s hard to rationally understand why I’m going to be more productive or creative in a room full of people away from a comfortable chair, my favourite music, my choice of food etc? Or why it’s better for me to be in rush hour traffic, standing on a commuter train, or trapped in a packed shop at lunchtime?

I like offices. I actively look forward to those days when I’m meeting or working with clients. But I appreciate it more when it’s not something enforced on me every day.