Are home workers more productive than office workers?

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Written by Alex Beynon on 29 February 2016

A lot of modern companies are looking to increase workplace flexibility by allowing their workforce to work from home occasionally if they need to.  While this may seem like a great idea at first, many people still have their reservations regarding how productive people are when they work from home.

If you listen around the workplace, a lot of people will claim that they are in fact more productive at home because they think they need to work harder to prove they aren’t slacking off. But could there be some truth to this? Is working from home more productive than working in an office?

The pros and cons of working from home

If you have pressing deadlines, or a major project that you are working on and need a distraction-free area then many people will turn to a home office to get the work finished. Here you can control noise and other disturbances more easily, allowing yourself to sit down and get on with what you need to without constant interruptions.

Working from home also gives you flexibility when it comes to the hours you work. For example, if you are more of a morning person then you could get up earlier and power through your most productive time, and then finish mid-afternoon.  

Many companies will want you to be contactable during normal working hours if you are working from home, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t work the hours that suit you and just be available for the ones that don’t.

However, anyone working from home needs to be able to motivate themselves to get the work done.  To successfully work from home, you will need to be a self-starter and extremely organised. Distractions aren’t only present in the workplace either, without a designated area to work from at home motivation can be low.  You can find yourself getting distracted by pets, household noises, or even the TV if you aren’t strict with yourself about break times.

The pros and cons of working in an office

One of the main advantages of working in an office is that everyone is there for the same reason – to work.  With more people around you in the same position, collaboration and innovation is more likely to happen, according to Yahoo boss Marissa Mayer. If you are in a role where collaboration is important and a necessary part of your day-to-day routine, then an office with that culture can help.

If you find yourself needing supervision to ensure the work is done, or need to communicate with people frequently throughout the day, then an office is more likely to aid your productivity.  Working in an office also gives management a chance to see how much effort you put into your work so that they can easily measure your performance.

Working from home, management can’t see what you are doing making it harder to measure performance, so they might overlook some key achievements.

Of course, the distractions in an office are mainly to do with the noise and interruptions from other people, which can be very detrimental to productivity levels. It can be very difficult to focus on one thing in the office, which can lead to a lot of people multitasking.

Multitasking is a highly inefficient way of completing tasks and getting work done to deadlines, and costs marketing professionals alone 44 million working days due to lost time. It takes us on average 20 minutes to get back to a task after being interrupted according to a University of California-Irvine study, which means that if you are constantly interrupted in the office you are probably not being as productive as you could be.

The truth is, there is no right answer about whether home workers are more productive than office workers as it depends on the individual. CV-Library suggested that home workers are happier and believe they have a better work-life balance than office workers.

However, Hewlett-Packard CEO, Meg Whitman, believes an office environment is better for collaboration and higher productivity. There is truth in both statements, so perhaps a mix of office and home-based work is best for productivity dependant on the situation you are in at the time.

About the author

Alex Beynon is an online administrator for Hunts Office, a leading supplier of office furniture and consultants on office interior design. ​