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Does working from home make you less productive?


The Facts on Telecommuting

It's 6 a.m. and Sophie, my chocolate Lab, is staring at me with her marble eyes, while Ivy Sue, the Great Dane, snoozes. Sophie sees me stir. She yelps, a high-pitched yelp that means "Dad, get your lazy butt up and take me out." Ivy rubs her meaty head against her oversized bed, groans, and slowly begins her day. I shove my partner Karen awake and take the dogs out. Within the hour, my belly is full of coffee. Karen is on her way to work, and I amble upstairs to my writer's garret. My day ends when I say it ends. Sometimes it's 4 p.m., other times earlier. Still other times, like tonight, around 9 p.m. (OK, I didn't work all day, but you get the idea.)

Home has been my only office for more than four years. I've learned a few things by working at home. It is my belief that, on average, I am more productive working from home than I ever was at the office. For one thing, there's no commute (I once traveled three hours a day). I'm not being called into senseless meetings, and no one is trying to sell me Girl Scout cookies. Lunch hours are now lunch 15 minutes. Watercooler gossip is gone. Distractions are nonexistent, unless Sophie and Ivy need to go outside or the cats are clawing one another's eyes out.

I'm not the only person who works this way. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of workers who telecommute has doubled in the past 30 years. In 1980, the percentage of people working from home primarily was 2.3 percent. In 2010, it was 4.2 percent. Census officials found that 10 percent of American workers labor from home at least one day a week. Just as many men work from home as women [source: Fottrell].

What's the reason? For one thing, many more jobs can be done from home. Those working as salespeople, IT workers, and yes, writers and editors are among the top telecommuters [source: San Francisco Chronicle]. That's because technology has made working at home easy. I can write upstairs on the PC or downstairs on the laptop. Broadband, wireless, instant messaging, texting, Skype and a host of other high-tech programs and innovations make a brick-and-mortar office obsolete for many of us. We can attend meetings virtually, converse with bosses and clients, and send files from one corner of the globe to the other [source: Kensing]. I don't even have to leave the house to send packages. Delivery and pickup is a computer mouse click away.

Many companies understand the positive benefits of allowing workers to telecommute. In fact, 90 percent of Cisco employees work from home, as do 81 percent of Accenture workers and 80 percent of Intel employees [source: CNN Money]. In all three instances, those employees were allowed to telecommute at least 20 percent of the time.


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