Those hoping to gain the privilege of working from home might do well to hope their management doesn't see the findings of a new survey about the habits of those working remotely.
Citrix, a company that makes products that enable employees to work remotely, recently commissioned a survey of more than 1,000 workers and found that a large number of those working from home tended to squeeze several activities that are not work-related into their days, Businessweek is reporting.
According to the Citrix survey, 43 percent of respondents admitted to having watched TV or a movie while working from home. Of that same group, some 20 percent said they had played video games while on the job.
But not everything employees confessed to fitting into their workday involved entertainment: 26 percent of survey respondents confessed to taking naps, 35 percent said they took care of chores around the house and 28 percent said they had cooked dinner.
Though activities like grocery shopping or laundry might sound like just as much of a time suck for an employee as spending part of the day playing video games, Matthew Yglesias of Slate argued that they can actually make for a more efficient workday.
If you just start working a bit earlier (no commute, after all) and pop by the store during a lull when lines are short, you can get both more work and more shopping done in a fixed amount of time," he wrote. "Watching laundry spin in your washer or dryer is perfectly compatible with productive work...no matter how much technology advances or society’s wealth improves, we don’t add more hours to the day and we still need to sleep...tactics that help people save time are not only valuable but increasingly so with every passing year.
Recent research seems to back up the notion that working from home does not result in unproductive employees. Nicholas Bloom, a professor of economics at Stanford, recently completed a nine month study that evaluated how working from home affects productivity. The experiment looked at telephone customer service representatives working for a Chinese company with some 13,000 employees.
Employees were given the choice of whether or not to work from home, but of those who wanted to, only half were allowed. Bloom and his colleagues found that those who worked remotely -- as compared to those who wanted to but we're stuck in the office -- were 12 percent more productive.
"Working from home, you might you might nap, look after your kids, or order stuff online, but there's other stuff you don't do, like chat with your colleague about the breakup with her boyfriend, which takes 4 hours," Bloom told The Huffington Post. "People working from don't spend an hour talking about last night's football match with their colleagues ... they don't go out and have a boozy lunch."
Not only did the customer service representatives working from home make more calls per hour during their shift, they also took less sick days and reported being significantly happier than their office-bound counterparts.
"The reason for that is, it's just quiet, and there's no distraction," Bloom said. "[People working from home] turn up on time and they leave on time ... They dont leave early to pick up shopping. They take shorter lunch breaks. They eat faster and they take far fewer sick days."
Still, as the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month, workers might still be at risk of other negative effects that can come with working remotely. A recent report by a group called The Conference Board found that employees can experience burnout from not having a distinct line drawn between work and home.
Nevertheless, working remotely has seen an increase in popularity in recent years, with that same report finding that the number of people working from home has doubled in the last decade. But that doesn't mean being out of the office is right for all employees. As it turned out, Bloom's study also found that after nine months, half of those who worked from home decided they wanted to return to the office.
"They were lonely," Bloom said.
So lonely it turns out, that they were willing to go back to having a 40 minute commute, just to be back working alongside their colleagues.
"Working from home is on average good, but it's not for everyone," Bloom said. "The message is that it's a good thing to do but you want to let people chose. When you have working from home plus choice, you get the best benefits of all."