Slate recently reported on a new study that shows what people "really do" when they work from home: 43 percent said they have watched a television show while on the clock, 35 percent have done household chores and 28 percent have cooked dinner. My reaction: big deal! Let's turn the tables and look at what really happens in the office!
The deep-seated corporate prejudice against telecommuting is based in the belief that people in an office work at (say) a 95 percent efficiency. And there is some truth to the belief that all your coworkers serve as eyes peering over your shoulder, keeping you honest. Few people would feel free to bust out a television and watch a "House, M.D." re-run in the middle of the work day if they were at the office.
But having worked in corporate office environments for about 20 years, and having worked from home for the last 6-7, I can tell you: it's a lot more efficient to work from home.
A huge percentage of office time is taken up by chatting with coworkers. Whether they are at the coffee machine, walking down the hall, standing at your desk or sitting in the cubicle next to you, all of your coworkers want to chat, all the time. Not about anything work-related, either: heaven forbid.
I am reminded of a strategy Scott Adams espoused in one of his Dilbert books: to avoid getting caught up in these endless hallway bull sessions, he would walk around carrying a handful of melting ice. "Can't talk, my ice is melting!" No one ever questioned WHY he was holding a handful of ice, mind you. That is what office life is like.
When you're not being endlessly distracted by your coworkers, you're distracting yourself by reading and replying to e-mail, checking Facebook, doing today's Sudoku puzzle or even just staring into space while ostensibly looking over a spreadsheet.
Meanwhile, those of us who work at home know that if we can get all our work done, we can watch TV! And lo: the work gets done faster, and it gets done better, due to the lack of distractions. It's funny how, if you treat a person like an adult, they start to behave like an adult. They make decisions about how to spend their time, and those decisions - more often than not - are valid and reasonable.
The fact that the corporate world hasn't embraced telecommuting is just another example of how America's corporate culture is as toxic as it is doomed.