Does working from home make you more productive? Yes (with data)!Posted: November 18, 2009
[note: some data in this post is missing– given that we work on and troubleshoot our own software, sometimes we don’t get to log ALL of our time in a week, but it’s consistent enough that I don’t think it skews these results in a big way. We also had a vacation in each of the months in question for 1 team member]
So about a month ago, the RescueTime product team decided to experiment with working from home to see how it would effect how we spend our time. The initial plan was to run the experiment for a week, but we realized that we were paying too close attention to the affects of the experiment and would let it “bake” for a few more weeks to get some better data. The data (4 weeks of it) is in, and there are a few surprises.
The control – Team of 5 Working from Work (in the office!)
Total computer time logged: 582h 20m
Dev, Design, or writing time: 224h 20m
Communication/meetings: 225h 10m
Efficiency Score: 1.33 (RescueTime calculates this score based on the ratio of self-identified productive activities versus distracting ones)
Productive apps/sites: 504h 50m
Distracting apps/sites: 61h 15m
Neutral apps/sites: 16h 15m
The experiment – Team of 5 Working from Home
Total computer time logged: 657h 50m
Dev, Design, or writing time: 287h 20m
Communication/meetings: 223h 20m
Efficiency Score: 1.30 (RescueTime calculates this score based on the ratio of self-identified productive activities versus distracting ones)
Productive apps/sites: 543h 20m
Distracting apps/sites: 72h 28m
Neutral apps/sites: 42h 02m (much of this is Google Chrome for the Mac, which RescueTime currently doesn’t track sites for– likely split between productive and distracting)
So the ratio of activities doesn’t seem to be meaningfully different. There are less meetings (“drive by” meetings and formal ones are both tracked) but there’s a lot more IM and email. That’s not what we could’ve expected.
But what seems to be hugely different are the totals. Take out the commutes and the longer lunches, and the totals are quit different.
Here’s a chart:
It doesn’t look like much, but 5 people logged an extra 75 hours in a month, with the vast majority of those extra hours being productive development or design hours (about 63 extra dev/design hours were logged in the working from home month).
How we FELT
Obviously, working from home isn’t just about the hours logged. When talking to the team, feelings on the experiment were pretty mixed:
- Most people felt like we weren’t working as hard from home and it felt like a better work/life balance. Turns out we were working a fair bit harder, but the time reclaimed made it feel more relaxing.
- The team felt a bit less energized… The synergy that you get when people are bouncing around ideas is pretty cool– we had a bit less of that (though we had wednesday lunches that helped a bit here).
- People worked odd hours. Working from the office forces you into the 8-6 mode and makes it awkward to tune out in the afternoon if your heart just isn’t in it. Conversely, when you put in your 9+ hours at work, you’re a lot less inclined to work in the evening (even if you were spinning your wheels all day). I think it’s better to work when you feel like it than to force an artificial schedule.
- People were lonely, but dealt with it. We all joked how excited we were to see our wives when they got home. I personally made a much greater effort to be social with friends. This was a lot better than the “I just want to get home and veg out” instinct that I tend to have after a long day at work.
Working from home gives folks a lot more time in front of a computer, if that’s what they are after. With commutes, associated setup/teardown time, getting coffee from starbucks, lunches, and people dropping into the office, we’re all losing hours. To be clear, all work and no play is a bad idea… The really interesting thing about working from home is that we felt like we weren’t working as hard, but were actually logging about 22% more development and design hours.
What we’re going to do Next
A lot of us have expressed that, despite all of this, we kinda miss the office. We’re talking about next steps. I’m personally interested to try a hybrid approach.