Lifehacker posted an interesting take on working from home: The assumption that productivity is all that matters. The point being that if productivity were all that matters, there’s a drug we can take to be more productive, just like athletes can take steroids. It’s illegal, but the drug exists. It doesn’t make taking that drug right.
It’s an interesting discussion. Part of it is also moot.
I go out of my way to save certain types of work for my telework day. I can edit a security document much faster and do a much better job at home than in the office, where the chatterboxes are running. Yes, every office has at least one person deserving of the nickname “The Mouth from the South.” You know who I’m talking about. Every office has one. Except for the offices that have more than one, that is.
So, depending on the work, you can be more productive at home. The key is finding which work that is, and finding a way to balance your schedule so that you favor work-friendly work on telework days, and office-friendly work on days at the office. There’s no way I could do my Tuesday work from home, for example. It would take me all week working from home to do what I do on Tuesdays in the office. But it would take me at least two days in the office to accomplish what I accomplish on Wednesdays at home. I know, because for my first three months I wasn’t eligible to work from home.
But there’s also an upside to office time. Certain sidebar conversations are beneficial. Gossip is counterproductive and even destructive, but in computer-related jobs, just talking technology is very productive. You learn about what your teammates are interested in and what they can do, they learn the same about you, and you learn from each other by talking about it. In other industries, talking shop that isn’t directly related to what was going on that morning would be equally beneficial. It builds mentorship, which leads to increased skills, teambuilding, and respect.
The Program Management Institute, which issues the PMI certification, talks about four stages of teambuilding: forming, storming, norming, and performing. Storming is bad–it’s conflict as the team adjusts to each other. Those not-quite-on-topic sidebars help to reduce the storming stage, which is important, because it reduces conflict, and gets you to the performing stage more quickly.
I’m not an advocate of working from home all the time for exactly that reason. But if you want to increase productivity, trusting your employees to work from home a day or so per week is a good way to get more productivity while also getting more goodwill.