66
108
Gini Dietrich

Getting Things Done: Why Working at Home is Better

By: Gini Dietrich | January 24, 2013 | 
212

Yesterday, we spent a good hour with Sarah Evans talking about [Re]frame, her book of daily inspirations.

During the live Q&A (you can see the archive here), the topic of working at home came up (she works from home about 70 percent of the time and in the Tracky offices the rest).

Steven Coyle said he finds working at home really appealing, but a lot people feel they can’t stay focused. He asked, “Do you have advice on working from home and staying focused? Does having your husband and son there ever get in the way of work?”

Our own Lindsay Bell chimed in and said she has a harder time focusing when her son is home from school or her husband has a day off of work.

For me, it doesn’t matter. If we have company (which tends to happen several times a month) or Mr. D is at home, Jack Bauer and I just go into my office and close the door. My biggest distraction is email, not other people.

Working at Home

Sarah took it one step further. She recommended three things:

  1. Have a separate office with a door (I agree – the door is huge).
  2. Invest in some good headphones (I agree – my Bose noise canceling headphones aren’t only great for the plane, but they’re fantastic when other people are around).
  3. Have snacks (I disagree for two reasons – one, if I had snacks anywhere in my office, Jack Bauer could get to them and two, I’m a big advocate of getting up and away from your desk every couple of hours of so, which going to the kitchen for a snack allows you to do).

Because of the two reasons I listed about snacks, I’d replace it with water. I have a 32 ounce bottle that I fill with water and I have to refill it at least once – sometimes twice – a day. But I don’t have to get up and get more water every hour.

Those aren’t the only reasons working from home might be better than in an office.

Getting Things Done

Jennifer Gosse, the chief marketing officer at Tracky, chimed in with an interesting study about how many times we’re interrupted when we work in an open door (or cubicle) environment.

In the few minutes it takes to read this article, chances are you’ll pause to check your phone, answer a text, switch to your desktop to read an email from the boss’s assistant, or glance at the Facebook or Twitter messages popping up in the corner of your screen. Off-screen, in your open-plan office, crosstalk about a colleague’s preschooler might lure you away, or a co-worker may stop by your desk for a quick question.

Office workers are interrupted—or self-interrupt—roughly every three minutes, academic studies have found, with numerous distractions coming in both digital and human forms. Once thrown off track, it can take some 23 minutes for a worker to return to the original task, says Gloria Mark, a professor of informatics at the University of California, Irvine, who studies digital distraction.

We are interrupted every three minutes (sometimes by ourselves by checking email, social networks, text messages) and you wonder why it’s so hard to get things done?!

Books are written about how to get things done. Michael Schechter spent an entire month on Getting Big Things Done.

Focus and Expectations

The experts all say it comes down to focus.

How do you get focus? Have a door, invest in some headphones, make sure you have snacks (and/or water), and turn off the distractions.

In an office environment, it’s hard to turn off the people distractions, but I’d venture to guess your boss and your colleagues will respect your work time if it’s signalled by your wearing headphones.

And, at home, make it clear to any of the people in your home you are not to be interrupted if the door is closed or you’re wearing headphones.

For you, it’s about focus. For them, it’s about expectations.

What about you? Are you able to get more done when you work at home or in the office?

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She is the lead blogger here at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. She is the co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Her second book, Spin Sucks, is available now.

207 comments
Robinsh@digmlm.com
Robinsh@digmlm.com

I love to work from my own office that is upstairs and everyone knows that what is the time I don't want anybody to interrupt and distract me from my projects.

KateFinley
KateFinley

So, I am a major extrovert and I've had people ask me whether I'm worried about not getting to "see" people in the form of coworkers, a boss, etc. Between social media, phone calls, Skype, coffee shop visits and client interactions, I haven't noticed feeling like I need to talk to people. On the contrary, I've been really enjoying time to work uninterrupted as needed.

 

We are in the process of adding a door to my home office (!!!) and I already have headphones, although not as fancy as those. I agree with you on the snacks. I used to be a big snacker so aside from occasional fruit and nuts, H2O is my go-to. 

 

I love the flexibility that comes from working at home, too. I will say that my biggest challenge so far has been the noise, which is why I'm looking forward to the door. 

 

 

Tinu
Tinu

The door is Everything. And white noise in noise canceling headphones may have changed my life. Helps to enjoy and believe in your work too. I go to conferences, and coffee shops or visit peers in incubators or work dates to get the live social aspect. It matters too.

Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes
Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes

I had a remote office for seven years and loved it. Takes some getting used to at first, but when you adjust it really is easy to increase productivity.

 

The time I spent not commuting could be dedicated to work or other tasks.

 

But I have to concede that school holidays and vacations sometimes made life more challenging. Love having the kids around but there are those moments where it is hard to work because they need you.

hackmanj
hackmanj

I wouldn't know, I've never worked at an office. :) My work space is highly optimized as a result of my decision to NOT have an away from home office. I definitely get more done here than anywhere else, it's hard to beat my computer setup, abundant white board space and everything I need at my fingertips. The distractions are still here, though, namely of the son variety. When he gets home from school my days tend to slow down a lot. It's not so bad though because I get to watch him grow up closer than most would, for that I am grateful. It's only gotten easier too, 90% of what I do can be done from anywhere with a phone and an internet connection.

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

When I lived alone and worked from home I got 4x as much done as I did when I would be in an office. Too many people wanting to talk bs with me vs working. So I agree with you @ginidietrich  if the right home set up is there. Say a separate room as an office. A spouse or partner  who is away working or you live alone. No kids to deal with. No cat asking in and out all the time. I lack all fourso my time allocation right now is very erratic. And since we have just a small room for living space when Isadora is home and watching Lili I have people singing and dancing in front of me.

 

These are great tips for those set up properly.

 

I will add to your snack position. Removing the time wasted at the office + commute time? You can get 50% more done and have your house cleaned. Or work out. I would break up work that way. Instead of 10 mins walking to the office kitchen for more coffee and back I could put away dishes and do a set of pushups or dumb bell curls. I would walk to the dry cleaners. All that time I wasted going to and from and at the office increased my work production and increased my home free time.

penneyfox
penneyfox

I've been virtual since 2003. I did it when I was pregnant thinking I'd go back to an office when my son started daycare or school. He's now in 3rd grade and I still work from home. Like the others, I converted a third bedroom into my office so it helps to have that door to close. And not keep people out (my son knows when I'm working and he gives me my time) BUT to keep me out! Some days I just wander into the office to do 'one thing' and realize I've been in there for 2 hours.Those are the days I feel a bit guilty that I should be with my son instead of working.

 

I'm always amazed when people ask if I get distracted and wanting to do housework. No, not a problem at all. The biggest distractions are social media, checking emails and texts. I stopped answering the phone and check my messages at certain times a day. Just this month I started doing a work routine to help me stay focused. Some days its been working and other days, it's like what routine.

 

Mostly I like working from home but I miss being around people so some days I go out to someplace like Panera to work, just to be away from my desk.

polleydan
polleydan

I like your no snacks rule at your desk. It's the same principle that I use for water. I use a coffee mug instead of water bottle, and that forces me to get up from my monitor about once an hour to take a short break.

3HatsComm
3HatsComm

I don't have kids or pets to distract me, just my own procrastination devices and I can assure you, even with the evils of the Interwebs to tempt me, I get SO much done at home. Yes I miss the conversation, the energy of an office and other people - and @ginidietrich I too have to force myself out sometimes - but hey, that's what social is for right?

 

All the interruptions and breaks always drove me nuts when I was in an office, never you mind at an agency billing every 15 minutes. And that feeling of 'hurry up and wait' as I've done my to-dos for the week, can't proceed until others do their part - then forced to 'ride the clock' b/c no, the bosses didn't get that I'm done so I'm stuck waiting? then having to fight traffic?! No thanks. 

 

It's no secret I'm a multitasking advocate; if I'm at home working, odds are the dishwasher or laundry is going, I've got my appt. times conveniently booked, etc. etc. If I can get 2 things done at once, I do. Do it right - w/ doors and boundaries and rules -  so much you can do AND still get work done at home.  With the added bonus of 'extra' time b/c all those things that would have piled up for the evening or weekend, they're already crossed off the list. 

 

And FWIW, bummed I missed @Sevans chat yesterday; maybe next time. 

Culture_Content
Culture_Content

I am lucky to get to use an office at JAM a few days per week, which allows me to get to interact with people whom I do business with. That being said, I rely heavily on doing business from home the rest of the time. Being an extrovert, I am EASILY distracted! It's a lot easier for me to hunker down in my home office environment....especially when it's snowing and cold outside! Love the facts in this piece. Thanks @ginidietrich ! 

janbeery
janbeery

We are in the process of going completely virtual! (hands clapping) we found that with our business model, our team is now spread out across the country and out of the country. It makes sense for us. 

I do tend to get more done in my home office, and am more focused. If we hadn't had office space, I would have always wondered.....should we, would it make us more productive, etc. 

I'm a huge supporter of virtual offices!

PattiRoseKnight
PattiRoseKnight

I also don't turn my computer on during the weekends.  I'll check my email on the iPad a couple of times a day but if the computer is on I have access to my files and then before you know it I'm working.  It's taken me awhile but I've finally find the balance to get the most out of working remotely.

aimeelwest
aimeelwest

I would love to work from home...that is not an option where I currently work - he has had marketing people in the past who did not get work done so he wants me physically here so that he can tell that I'm working...

Hajra
Hajra

I am so terrible at working at home. Now I am not working and I am just focusing on college. Even then I go to the college library to get my work done. Because somehow I am better able to focus in the peace and quiet there! Also, when I am doing my freelance work, I go the college library. 

Latest blog post: I don't need you

mcahalane
mcahalane

I'm totally more efficient now at home than the office. The office is loud, cold, and there's always a question or a meeting to distract me. At home, I'm as effective as my focus allows. It really does come down to that!

stevenmcoyle
stevenmcoyle

I've been mentioned in a Spin Sucks post. My life is complete. 

 

I agree. I managed to get nearly 3 times more done when I work at home. There's something about being in your own space that allows you to really dive deep in work. Let me pass this along to my Director.  

Nate Towne
Nate Towne

I find I work more/longer hours when I work from home - likely because of the guilt I feel for not coming into the office, but also because instead of spending 2 hours commuting to and from the office, I can use that time to work instead.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @Tinu I think, because of my travel schedule, I get enough of that live aspect. I have zero desire to go work in a coffee shop. But I'm with you...the headphones are AWESOME!

Latest blog post: The End of Spin as We Know it?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @3HatsComm  OMG! The point you make about waiting for others is EXCELLENT! I wish I'd included that in my blog post. Now you can "leave" work at 2 p.m. if you're finished. Nothing wrong with that!

Latest blog post: The End of Spin as We Know it?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @janbeery You are?! YAY!! I knew you were thinking about doing it. There are so many other benefits you'll see about six months from now. Then you'll call me and say, "Why didn't you MAKE me do this?"

Latest blog post: The End of Spin as We Know it?

Keena Lykins
Keena Lykins

 @aimeelwest I've had bosses who had this same philosophy and it always confounded me. Do you really want employees whom you have to babysit? It's obvious whether or not someone gets the work done. If they don't do the work, then why does it matter where they are? Get rid of them. At least that's how I've always looked at it.

stevenmcoyle
stevenmcoyle

 @Hajra  I was the opposite in college. I had to be in my room to work, somehow the library would always turn into a distraction. 

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @Nate Towne Exactly! It's for that very reason that I stopped feeling guilty about riding my bike at lunchtime. Now I can work in the early morning hours (instead of ride) and still get my exercise in. I much prefer it.

Latest blog post: The End of Spin as We Know it?

Keena Lykins
Keena Lykins

 @ginidietrich  @Tinu What type of headphones do you use? I've never thought about them before, but now I'm wondering if they would be helpful.

hackmanj
hackmanj

 @ginidietrich Never! My first job (summer after high school) was at a Kawasaki shop, I didn't work in the back office (I was in sales). 2nd (and last) job was Sherwin Williams, I was in the field. I visited a branch now and then but I worked out of my house. Then I started my IT company, even when I had employees they came to my house and in later years my garage. :)

 

I totally don't get the working in an office thing. ;)

penneyfox
penneyfox

 @ginidietrich I did a bit of research to see what other business owners do and then pulled the parts that I liked to create my routine. I basically break down my day into 30 - 60 minute chunks of time. I pull together my schedule on Sun nights based on what I have to work on that week for my clients and the updates (FB, twitter, blogging, etc) for my company.

 

During these time chunks, I won't check email (unless emails are part of the designated project), answer calls or go on social networks. I check emails first thing in the morning, at lunchtime and at the end of the day. Emails and social media are my biggest distractions so I'm working on ways to control the time so I don't wander off somewhere reading an article or checking FB.

 

My goal was to keep my focus on what I'm doing. It's been working until this week when I had an unexpected project drop into my lap and I was on a quick deadline. I had to move the routine around so I could get the project done and honestly, I can feel that this week was not as productive as I have been the last few weeks.

janbeery
janbeery

@ginidietrich I can't wait! We're gonna have to do lunch!

PattiRoseKnight
PattiRoseKnight

 @ginidietrich but you know how long it took me to do that!  you'll get there...baby steps.  I really do try to have a life on the weekends but it wasn't always like that.  I love that you have created a culture that encourages a healthy life balance.  And you had me forever when I heard about wine:thirty :)

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

 @hackmanj  @ginidietrich biggest problem with working from home? Your work is ALWAYS there. Sometimes it is a huge oppressive feeling drawing you to do things (like Blog) when you should be driving drunk at high speeds on quaaludes in heavy pedestrian locations refusing to use your brakes.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Spin Sucks: Getting Things Done—Why Working At Home Is Better Between wandering co-workers, non-stop email alerts and constant ambient conversations, the average professional is interrupted every three minutes while in the office. One way to escape? Working from home, writes Gini Dietrich, can give professionals solace from the distractions of the modern office. While a knock at the door from the mailman may replace a gossipy office colleague, Dietrich suggests that careful planning and some smart precautions can help workers thrive without leaving the house. [...]

  2. [...] Last week, Spin Sucks published an article about working from home versus working at the office. The article cited pros and cons to each, but studies found it came down to the ability to focus. Whether my boss is sitting behind me or sitting in Chicago, I have to keep myself motivated and focused on the task at hand. Limiting distractions is the biggest factor into staying focused. For more tips, check out the Spin Sucks article here. [...]

  3. [...] I want to write anything that meets or exceeds my standards, I have to find a solitary place. I may allow a few people to populate that place, but those people usually respect my space. They [...]

  4. [...] know, I’m a big advocate for not only women’s equality in the business world, but also working from home, having run my organization remotely a little more than a [...]

  5. [...] sage piece of advice from Gini Dietrich out of Chicago, creator of the Spin Sucks blog. During a recent interview with Sarah Evans, she harvested some work-from-home gems like this one — and office with a door — to [...]