As more and more companies move to a “work from home” policy in reaction to the coronavirus crisis, there is a concomitant lift in stories from journalists who “road test” working from home, then write about their experiences.
Most are delusional quasi-philosophical stemwinders by folks trying desperately to file 1,000 words worth reading. If you were to believe them, Newton would have never deduced gravity because he wasn’t chatting in the company kitchen or caught up in a foosball game.
That's because if you have spent most of your career in offices, the solitude of working alone (which is pretty hard to achieve with all the social media ways someone can annoyingly interrupt your life) comes as a bit of a shock.
So as they scramble to file those 1,000 words, some decide that most of the great ideas in Western Thought are a function of a chance meeting in a hallway, bathroom or conference room. Toss in some quotes from business luminaries who staunchly believed in “open office” (something most people HATE), and you get to spend the rest of your day walking the dog or washing the car.
I have yet to read a “stay-at-home” account that reveals it is not about resisting the temptation to watch TV instead of working, or feeling lonely in a big empty house. Instead, it’s about the profound lift in productivity you can achieve if you are not surrounded by a bunch of dimwits who want to talk about the latest Netflix offering or where to have lunch today. Or spend their waking hours ranting about those who do not clean up after themselves in the kitchen space.
I spent 15 years in corporate offices and many more working in a private office or from home, and I can assure you that working from home is vastly more productive (and ultimately, enjoyable). Yes, it takes a little discipline and allegiance to daily routines to assure you are not distracted (or well on your way to gaining 15 pounds because you simply can’t walk through the kitchen without snacking). But if you are successful, your life is largely taken out of the hands of your employer and returned to you.
This is a true story: Years ago, my wife called me from her corporate office and asked what I was up to. I said, “Done for the day, heading for a long run in Central Park.” To which she said, “Done for the day?? it’s only noon!!” “Yeah, and I am done working today.”
Later we revisited that conversation, and she was deeply offended when I said I was more productive in three hours than she was all day. That REALLY set her off — especially since she routinely worked 12-hour days. “OK, pick any day last week and tell me how much of your time was spent actually moving the ball,” I said. I was pleasantly surprised when she came back with “maybe an hour.”
By contrast, I can routinely put in three to four hours of sheer output because I don’t have to “have lunch,” listen to some stupid pitch from HR about my department participating in this year’s United Way campaign, or attend eight time-killing “meetings” in which almost nothing productive gets accomplished. If something is not productive, I don’t do it.
All of that was before Google Meet Up, Skype, and other ways to waste time in virtual “meetings” — for which, oddly, I always have conflicts that don’t allow me to attend.
If you are the office social butterfly, or do not have the maturity or discipline to set up a schedule and stick to it, you will hate working at home. If you’re successful making the adjustment, I will see you at the gym at noon — until they close that, too.