The benefits of working from home

December 4th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

writes at The Press:

Recently due to health hiccups I have started working from home a couple of days a week and it has been a bit of a revelation.

The first great advantage is not needing to get ready for work and be presentable. You can slob around unshaven and unwashed in your dressing gown all day and no-one is the wiser.

You can bet most home workers will be resisting getting caller video on their cellphones.

The ability to go from bed and straight to work is a huge time saver. No mucking about with ablutions and ironing that shirt or polishing the shoes.

No complicated transport arrangements and no time wasted commuting and getting stuck in traffic jams. No worries about whether it will be flat white or a latte today. I reckon I save two hours a day at least thanks to the simplicities of working from home.

Choosing your own hours is also a blessing. The work can be done in bursts over the 16 hours of waking time unless you sleep in, which someone as disciplined as me would, of course, never do.

I work from home primarily and it is great, for the reasons above. However I am now in the habit of always showering, shaving and changing before 7 am, as I found if you don’t do it when you first get up – then it is all too easy to just keep putting it off.

As more and more people work partially or fully from home, the economic impact could be significant. The productivity gains from not having to commute to work are significant. Also in some cases, you also save on reduced office rent.

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15 Responses to “The benefits of working from home”

  1. seanmaitland (500 comments) says:

    I’m a software developer and have worked from home since early 2009, and absolutely love it to bits.

    I get to spend time with my son in the morning and walk him to daycare at 930, I get to go running in the hills at lunchtime, keep on top of the washing, shopping and do gardening in the afternoons when I can also.

    On top of that, I save loads of money not commuting, and I don’t get continually interrupted by workmates asking the same technical questions that they asked me the week before. When I was working in an office I would get interrupted on average every 15-30 minutes without fail.

    Having said that, it takes a lot of self discipline and motivation – as it is easy to slack off. My motivation is that I’m a contractor and if I slacked off, within a week I would be out of a job.

    All up, I reckon working from home is worth about $30,000 extra on my salary in terms of savings of money, time and benefits its brings to me.

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  2. Ryan Sproull (7,109 comments) says:

    Yep, I work from home a lot, and most of this rings true. (I actually find it helps a lot to try to keep to the same work hours each day where possible, and definitely shower/shave/dress before working.)

    Scheduling as many meetings on the same days as possible becomes necessary.

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  3. PaulL (5,981 comments) says:

    It’s a mix for me. I sometimes work from home, my observations are:
    – I have to be very disciplined. Which isn’t always me. I think with practice it gets easier
    – It can make my colleagues less productive – a number of people depend on me for info. I’m more efficient when I don’t talk to them, they’re less efficient
    – I eat more. I eat when I’m bored. It’s worse at home
    – It’s lonely
    – It gives more flexible working arrangements – washing and the like can fit into “micro breaks”. Flipside, these can also be excuses for not working at all

    Overall I think it’s mixed. For some roles and for some people, it’s brilliant. For other roles it limits interaction (and productivity), for some people it can be lonely/boring, for others it leads to slacking off.

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  4. nonpartisan (41 comments) says:

    I was able to work from home at my last place of employment (software development) and really enjoyed it. Specifically, I was saving two hours per day by avoiding the commute and could space the work out in blocks of 2-3 hours with a good break in-between. And my time was more productive as there were a lot less interruptions and pointless meetings.

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  5. Martin Gibson (246 comments) says:

    I work from home and find there are moments of joy when it’s Monday morning and I’m out in my garden loving life as a thumbed nose to convention. If I start work at 4am it liberates so much day. Easy to do at home, but hard or impossible to get dressed and into an outside office for that time. Am going to get a proper job though; PaulL spot on.

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  6. PaulL (5,981 comments) says:

    I suspect some of the trick is how much you like your work. If you enjoy it (say, you’re running your own business) you are probably pretty good at staying focused. If you dislike your job, the chances of you working well from home are quite low.

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  7. seanmaitland (500 comments) says:

    I hired a contractor to work with me last year, from home with me, a new, fresh faced 25 year old just out of Auckland University with a BSc in computer science. He worked from my home with me for about 6 months getting up to speed, and everything was going fine and he was starting to be very productive and a good investment.

    At that point, he switched to working from his home (also in Auckland) and within 2 weeks he was doing about 8 hours of work a week, and I could never get hold of him on Skype, and the work he was handing in (after taking 5 times as long to get through it) was full of bugs and didn’t work and wasn’t tested at all.

    He started acting like he was a rockstar or something, and after 2 months of absolute crap work from him I called him over to my place and asked why he had dropped off since working from home, and he literally said “I don’t need to be treated like this, with you questioning me” and resigned on the spot – WTF? After that, I refused to give him an employment reference. In the job interview process he made out that he loved working from home, had done so before and was looking forwards to his opportunity to do it with our company. Straight out of uni he was on a 65k contract rate plus 4 weeks annual leave with us – and I suspect he would have struggled to get such a deal as a junior developer again.

    Alternately, the Belarussian 26-year old programmer who was working from home also in Auckland over the same period was brilliant, and the only reason we couldn’t keep him was he didn’t have a NZ work visa (and we were not an NZ company so couldnt sponsor him). Not once over the whole 5 months he was with us did he not deliver work on time, and it was always of a very high standard).

    From that experience I learned two things – working from home is only for a select few people who are very self-driven, and secondly, in the future I will not hire NZ graduates when international ones are also applying for jobs.

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  8. Rex Widerstrom (5,354 comments) says:

    I’ve been an advocate of teleworking since the 90s, when it became theoretically possible (provided you could get on withsomething else while your dial-up downloaded the file you needed to work on at 29.9kbps!).

    The lack of a commute not only lowers my stress levels immensely it means there’s one less vehicle on the road holding up everyone else. It burns less fuel and turns what used to be 90 minutes of frustration a day into productive time.

    The cost of traffic congestion in Australia has been estimated to cost $20 billion by 2020. I imagine New Zealand would have a similar, though proportionally smaller, figure.

    Yet the response of policy-makers isn’t to incentivise employers to consider telework (there’s a whole host of reasons they don’t but mostly because they believe workers will slack off and have an outdated Vistorian attitude that they must be able to stride about t’ factory floor watching worker at t’ mill). Instead it’s to introduce congestion charges, as if people will then magically opt to ride on already overcrowded trains. Perhaps they’re expecting us, Indian-style, to ride on the roofs and hanging on to the outsides of carriages.

    Australia, with state payroll taxes, has an easy mechanism available – differing rates of tax for workers who commute versus those who don’t, or commute less. New Zealand would need to be slightly more creative, but where there’s a will…

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  9. voice of reason (490 comments) says:

    Sean – Re your 25 year old working from “home”. do you what his home environment was actually like?, Still at home or flatting?
    I find your statement that you will now only hire international grads over NZ ones disturbing. Surely you are not judging all NZ grads on your one bad experience?

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  10. Auberon (873 comments) says:

    “polishing your shoes…” Yeah right. Who polishes Roman sandals?

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  11. seanmaitland (500 comments) says:

    He was living with his wife in a flat – no other flatmates. We paid for his internet and power usage and supplied a brand new desktop machine. The problem was he took the fact he was working from home as an opportunity to completely slack off – most days I would barely even see him around on Skype, when I was trying to get hold of him for work purposes.

    Re the hiring issue that is also based on an accumulation of 15 years in the industry working with domestic and international graduates, and sadly in the last 7-8 years the quality of graduates coming from NZ universities has been going down hell rapidly. When I interviewed for this particular position last year, of the 30 who went through the interviewing process, the ones who interviewed the worst were far and away the NZ applicants. Basic things like communication skills and ability to think creatively about problems were pretty poor for most of the NZ graduates I interviewed.

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  12. Rex Widerstrom (5,354 comments) says:

    seanmaitland writes:

    …in the last 7-8 years the quality of graduates coming from NZ universities has been going down hell rapidly. When I interviewed for this particular position last year, of the 30 who went through the interviewing process, the ones who interviewed the worst were far and away the NZ applicants.

    I regularly hear this from NZ employers (and indeed recall hearing it from Bob Jones 20 or 30 years ago). And I must admit I haven’t been that impressed by the quality of graduates from most (though not all) NZ journalism courses, though these are usually at polytechs.

    But then I’m told by people in the recruitment industry that my hopes of landing a decent job is NZ are minimal (I’d like to come back to take care of my parents, but don’t have the luxury of the time needed to try and rebuild my business if I shifted it from Australia) because “employers don’t want older employees”.

    By the sounds of things your graduate’s problem was that he was a knob, not that he worked from home per se – working from home just magnified his knobbishness. I’ve seen similar people in an office environment, where not only do they not produce but they reduce everyone else’s productivity by either distracting them or annoying them, depending on how they respond.

    That tends to wane with maturity (and a few sackings and periods learning that life on the dole doesn’t give much scope to live the Bohemian life you’d always fancied for yourself) so even the former knob makes a reasonable employee by the time they hit middle age.

    Yet so many employers seem to equate youth with energy, or creativity, or… something… and thus stack their office with young people, a fair proportion of whom turn out to be knobs (including female knobs) and then bemoan the consequences.

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  13. PaulL (5,981 comments) says:

    Rex, there are plenty of middle aged knobs. You can carve out a career in working for companies for two years, and leaving just about when everyone in the company has worked out you’re a knob. Move on to the next place, another line on your CV. Knobs are knobs, age has little to do with it. Some people start out reasonable and become knobs with age, some people start our knobs and mellow with age. This is why we have trial periods….

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  14. noskire (842 comments) says:

    Working from home is generally great, and yes you do have to be disciplined. Not ideal for procrastinators. Downside is that there are no hot receptionists to flirt with.

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  15. voice of reason (490 comments) says:

    Rex – “Yet so many employers seem to equate youth with energy, or creativity, or… something”

    In my experience it is also the recruitment companies that perpetuate this cult of youth. A large part of the issue is that the recruiting consultants working to their client’s brief are too scared to go outside their remit and invariably offer candidates to a formula.
    The days of a manager interviewing for his own vacancy seem to be long gone and with it also the manager with character judgement and proper man management skills.

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