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Are you more productive at home?

by John Coates  |  December 11/2010  |  , , ,

Jason Fried gave an interesting talk at Tedx Midwest, discussing how real work gets done at home. How so? It’s all about distractions. At home, people only have distractions that they choose to give into: TV, checking email, cooking elaborate lunches etc. At work, employees get distracted by M&Ms – managers and meetings. For example, managers can come by and completely disrupt a thought process. To really get something done, workers need a few hours of uninterrupted thought (about three). If not, employees are limited to a bunch of working moments until their next scheduled and unscheduled interruption.

But is home the perfect solution? According to The New York Times, in the article “Laptopistan”:

“At home, the slightest change in light is enough of an excuse to get up, walk around, clip my nails or head into the kitchen. Though home offices seem like the perfect work environment, their unrestricted silence, uninterrupted solitude and creature comforts breed distraction.”

What do you think? Where’s the best place to get work done?

At FreshBooks, employees need to be present in office so we can collaborate and create the best work we can as a team. We’re expected to be in the office almost all days as it’s key to FreshBooks’ culture and success. However, if we need to get something done, people may work at home to avoid the distractions of the office.

Bonus: If you’re looking for strategies on how to be more productive at home, watch Workday Nirvana by FreshBooks CEO Mike McDerment, who used to be a freelancer working from home. For Mike, it comes down to routine, discipline, and self-respect. The video was originally shown at International Freelancers Day.


  • http://homestars.com Brian

    About a month ago we went all virtual at HomeStars. We have an office downtown where the mail goes, and where we have regular meetings. While we always have been somewhat virtual with our CTO in Peterborough and our senior sales rep working from home in North York it was a change. We keep in touch by skype where we have a ‘water cooler’ chat room, and collaborate regular in many smaller chat rooms. Now that we are up around 14 people our meetings get more complex. We have people in Ottawa, Vancouver and El Salvador who all join us regularly on voice calls via skype too.
    It’s a challenge, but everyone seems productive. Yes, there’s probably a camaraderie that’s lots, but we do have fun when we get together.

  • http://www.thatbookkeeper.com Eric Matthews

    In my case, the difference working from home is night and day from being in an office. What I used to get done in a full day in an office, I have done by lunch time at home.

    Sure, there are lots of potential distractions at home. In my experience, though, nothing is more distracting than a coworker who thinks their time is more valuable than yours.

    Since I’m not much of a social butterfly, I really don’t miss the human interactions. But, if I do, I’ve got more time for it, since I’m getting my work done so much faster now.

  • Hilary

    I think it depends just a bit on your environment, collaboration tools and more. I have a desk at home but I also work almost paperless now so where I work isn’t as important. Getting up and switching chairs or places in the house or even switching at the coffee shop helps reduce stress on my back so this tends to affect my opinion on this.

    I honestly find that I’m most productive at coffee shops … mostly because at this exact moment there are too many house projects. For example at this exact moment half of my kitchen is strewn about the dining room because I need to knock out a cabinet and get the portable dishwasher converted to an under counter dishwasher because it broke another faucet. This is part of the downfall of living in a house that was built in the 1950′s. When I worked in an apartment where I could call maintenance when something broke I was much more focused at home. It’s probably more problematic that I tend to try and do these house projects by myself.

    Not everyone is the same however and some people need the structure and other people need to be organized but with a less structured day. My focus is on being location independent with my business because I want to eventually travel more.

    My book recommendation would be the 4 Hour Work Week which isn’t just about working less but working more efficiently.

  • Justin

    I’m most productive at home, but only because my most productive hours are usually between 11p and 4a and being at the office so late is something I am not interested in.

  • http://www.ecommercecircle.com Michael

    If you have young children at home, it becomes much harder to focus and then you need an (outside) office..

  • http://www.eagleeyewebservices@gmail.com Charity Van Vleet

    Going virtual for me has been the best thing I ever could have done. I’ve grown more in my business than I ever had an opportunity to in a “job” – my time management, my professional skills, my presentation and communication skills have all drastically improved. My emotional satisfaction plus the schedule flexibility have made me a happier more driven and ambitious person. Did I have to develop more self-discipline? Sure. But I realized quickly that dirty dishes and laundry don’t pay the bills. So I hired someone I pay $50 a week to clean and organize for me which frees me up for other things. Considering she’s half of my billing rate, I still come out ahead. In addition it’s given me the opportunity to become more active in my community – I’m on a chamber committee and two boards, both nonprofits. The satisfaction of giving to others, something I couldn’t have even dreamed of doing in “Corporate America” is something I treasure. So for the right person, it can be an excellent fit. But I have met some people who have zero business working for themselves so it’s definitely something to look at carefully. Great article!


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