What’s it like to work from home? Distracting

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For a nearly two years I worked from home in Chicago while everyone else in an office in Dallas. Before that I held jobs where employees could work from home if they needed to. Inevitably the questions I received from friends and family fell into two categories:

1. “How lucky! It must be nice to work in your pajamas and not have to get up extra early.”

2. “Do you actually get any work done or do you just watch TV all day?”

How I responded changed over time. At first it was easy to get distracted, but soon enough I found myself logging on to work as soon as I woke up, eating lunch at my kitchen able while I worked, and not realizing that I was working at 6 p.m. when everybody back in Dallas probably left the office at 5. I originally viewed working from home as a novel way to avoid a commute to a dangerous trap that often resulted in me working much longer than my boss expected of me. A new CareerBuilder survey suggests the workforce is experiencing a similar shift.

When CareerBuilder surveyed workers in 2007, 18 percent of telecommuters said they spent eight hours or more working on the average day. In the 2011 survey, nearly twice as many telecommuters (35 percent) say they work eight hours or more each day.

Meanwhile, 17 percent of telecommuters spend one hour or less per day on work. Perhaps they’re part-time or contract workers who don’t necessarily need to put in an eight-hour workday, or maybe they’re a little distracted, like so many work-at-home employees are.

A day in the life of a telecommuter

Yet, while the number of daily telecommuting hours has increased over time, workers don’t necessarily consider their home office to be the most productive work environment.

When asked where they feel most productive:
-37 percent of workers feel most productive at the office
-29 percent of workers feel most productive at home
-34 percent find productivity the same at the office and at home

When asked to list the biggest distractions of working from home:
-31 percent say household chores
-26 percent say TV
-23 percent say pets
-19 percent say errands
-18 percent say the Internet
-15 percent say children

Who’s actually wearing their pajamas to work?
-41 percent of females wear pajamas when telecommuting
-22 percent of males wear pajamas when telecommuting

Decades ago, working from home wasn’t really a possibility unless you were a telemarketer or caretaker. Thanks to the Internet – oh, how we love you, Internet – more jobs than ever can be done from home, a café, an airport or anywhere that has wifi.  Of course not all jobs have this flexibility. If you’re a surgeon, a construction worker or police officer, chances are you need to be on site. (Though, if there are exceptions to this rule, do share.) Expect the amount of telecommuters and their behavior to continue to evolve in the coming years.

If you’ve worked from home, were you more or less productive at home? Did you miss the camaraderie of a workplace or did you like working alone? Let us know.

Check out the infographic here for more survey results.

48 Comments
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  4. I got a lot more work done at home because there were far fewer interruptions than in my office and I could very easily work on projects far into the night..it wasn’t long before my work had taken over my family room and most of my life..my girlfriend finally said, “go back to the office” I did.

  5. I’ve worked from home for 8 years now, and it’s been the most productive time of my career. Our insurance agency has most all “remote” workers as we call them. I do log on first thing-usually 630am-7am…work through lunch or take a break, work weekends if I need to…I don’t have to deal w/office politics, annoying colleagues, wasted time in useless meetings…our agency owner is very forward thinking; he worked from home as well. I think it’s the wave of the future.

    • i am retired and interested in working at home. i have a degree in accounting with experience working in an office. any directions you can give me as to finding a work-at-home job that fits my personna, interests and training/

      thank you.

      jim

  6. I own my own medical billing business. I am my only employee. I enjoy working from home. I use to be a Office Manager and I had to wear 5 different hats at different times (multi-task). I think the biggest interuption was the office phone. I would no sooner get involved with work that needed to be done, then the phone would ring or a client/patient would walk through the door and I would be distracted from the job at hand. I enjoyed the interaction with other people but quite honestly, working from home, I can now concentrate on the main core of my business, processing medical claims and geting paid for them. I do not miss the phone calls at all and although I enjoyed the people, I can concentrate more at home. The only thing I found with working at home is having to get myself on a scheduled regement and convincing my husband and family that I was not just sitting and palying on my computer but I was in fact working and making money!

    • Can you tell me more about this as I would love to work at home. Please let me know how you got started, the pay and what is expected of you….please!

    • I have been thinking about training for medical billing for a long time. Could you give me some insight as to whether it is a good job and can you really make a decent living at it?

  7. I live in a remote area. My job involves being on the computer and telephone. I love telecommuting, but I have no distractions at home. The time and money saved on commuting has freed me to be a lot more productive, and certainly happy. My company is happy because I never have to stay home sick, and I can log on if there is a snowstorm (this is Minnesota) or if a lot of people call in sick. Someone with distractions at home would not be able to do this.

      • Judy,

        The first thing to know about working at home is that it requires serious discipline. This includes friends and family being disciplined to leave you alone – and it’s up to you to teach them this.

        Second – never pay to work. I worked at home for 25 years and never paid someone to give me work.

        Third – Medical billing is basically being in collections. So if you pursue that, make sure you have the personality for it.

        Good luck!

  8. The comment about work-from-home being impossible “decades ago” is nonsense. Many professionals did exactly that. Insurance, journalism, accountancy..

  9. I’ve been working from home for 5 years now and could not imagine going back to an office. I don’t miss the office politics or the different and sometimes difficult personalities. The first year was an adjustment, but soon I realized that I work much better alone. I start early and finish late and seem to be in a better mood at the end of the day – at least that what my spouse says.

    • Our workplace transitioned to telecommuting 2 years ago. At one time we were all in one call room, sharing information, brainstorming on issues at hand. Now we are all remote, with our main source of communication through a chat room box on the lower left hand side of the computer screen. In my opinion, the feeling of camaraderie and a “team atmosphere” has taken a nose dive. With the convenience of technology, the feeling of “being a part of”, which once made our work place environment vibrant, has been lost.

  10. I have worked from home for the last 3 years. At first this was a novelty and I did staggered hours, completing my tasks and doing personal errands in between. After about 6 months I realised that inadvertently all this had changed. I had become more focused, was putting in longer hours than I used to spend at the office, sometimes working 12 hour work days and that there were actually less distractions around that allowed me to focus and deliver better quality work. In the end therefore, my employer has derived greater productivity, better quality work and reduced some office costs. Who gains more?

  11. I have worked from home for 7 years. I did not like it at first because I missed the contact with other people now I hate it when I go back in to the office. I keep a formal routine in the morning, showering and dressing before going to my office which I think helps to keep me focused on work and not get distracted. However, I do find that I work longer hours than I would in an office. It is too easy to just finish one last task before quitting for the day.

  12. I love working from home. I’m so much more productive here than I am when I go into the office. Yes, I work with the tv on, but that’s not a distraction to me. Housework doesn’t get in the way – I can throw laundry in on breaks, and fold it quickly. I eat lunch at my desk more often than not.

    I definitely log more hours now than I did when I worked in the office. I’d say I probably work an extra 10-15 hours from home each week, just because it’s so easy to grab my laptop, watch some tv and answer emails, update a spreadsheet, etc…

  13. I have worked from home since 1998. I have never looked back. I live in the Atlanta area and don’t miss the traffic one bit! Don’ spend near as much on gasoline anymore, which is a plus! I am also at home when my children get home from school. I agree chores are the most distracting. I do work too many hours though, I own my own business and find myself working weekends, nights, and VERY early in the morning before my daughter gets up for school.

  14. For ten years, I ran my own commercial training business from my home. Yes, I traveled coast to coast to teach classes but all course and curriculum development was done at home. I had kids at home and an office by the front door. It was wonderful, profitable, and fun. I was happy. Best of all, my wife was there with me. Now, I work for someone else and I like the association with other professionals, but I miss having my wife there with me during the work day.

  15. What does this sentence mean? “I originally viewed working from home as a novel way to avoid a commute to a dangerous trap that often resulted in me working much longer than my boss expected of me.” Lousy editing…

  16. I worked at home for 25 years and got more done than if I were in an office. I found it to be a much more productive environment than working in a corporate setting.

  17. I have worked on and off from home over the last 25 years. Seven years of that was my own business. I find I can do it for a time then have to do something else, like go into an office. Right now I am in my 3rd year of working from home for a local hospital doing medical transcription. I would not go into that place to work for any amount of money in the world! I work in my pajamas probably 90% of the time. I never call in sick and can work during snowstorms (unless the power goes out). My s/o had a stroke right after I started doing this 3 years ago so I was here when he needed an ambulance called instead of out at my job in an office, and I was able to make up my work after seeing him in the hospital during the day, at night. Sometimes it feels like I am always at work but at least I have a separate home office so can just shut the door. I definitely do NOT miss the BS in the office I would be working in, if I did not work at home! Too much estrogen in the office (and they act like a high-school clique). So for now I’m doing well at home although sometimes its hard to get family members outside my house to realize that just because I am home does not mean I can talk to them whenever they call and I don’t answer personal calls when I am working.

  18. I’ve worked from home for 6 years and love it. For 3 of those years my wife was home and that was really nice.
    To be successfull at this you have to be a self starter and have some disipline. Like the other comments, distractions are low and one can concentrate for long periods. I am way more productive but also find myself working to 6 or 7:00. The big problem is the office is always there, so this is mainly where the disipline comes in.

  19. I quit working at an office 3+ years ago after being a part of the daily transit and office grind for 20+ years. I found myself struggling with staying focused and creating a “schedule” to follow. Since then I’ve settled into a schedule and love what I do. I get to travel sometimes to other people’s homes or offices however, I never have to deal with traffic when I do so!!! I am always looking for people interested in learning more about my business and sharing both the freedom and challenge of working your own business and working from home.

  20. I’ve had the same job for over 12 years. Working from home calls for discipline. Creating “artificial noise” helps wih the lack of human contact associated with working in an office. I spend less than $20 a month on gas, can’t remember the last time I had a cleaner’s bill, work for a great company with a wonderful boss. The only “downside” is the lack of stimulus associated with conversing with people face to face.

  21. I worked from home for 14 years as a Verizon employee. I worked more hours than people in the office, got more done but was appreciated less. Verizon promotes telecommuting to its customers but doesn’t really want it own employees to do it. I was no longer promotion eligible and it hurt my career. I made the decision to telework and decided to live with the consequences but the statistics show that most companies do not promote teleworkers and do not consider them their best workers.

  22. I have been working remotely for nearly 9 years – and wouldn’t have it any other way. At first I was concerned that my self-discipline would wane, but that issue has never been a problem. I put in an average of 10-12 hrs daily. My job requires working with teams nationwide, and no one cares what time zone you live in. I start my day between 5-6 am, and end when the work is done, which often may extend to nearly midnight. The perks are great – working from home is a much less stressful environment, far more productive with fewer distractions, the ability to play my music whenever I want, reach down and pet my dog whenever she wants it, save on commuting costs and wardrobe, etc, etc. I would not trade this for anything!

  23. I originally started working from home due to a knee injury. After I started pumping out 55 – 60 hour weeks consistently, and getting rave reviews from my customers, my management team decided to leave well enough alone. I received my best review ever with my company, and have increased my bonus structure. Now, if I could only convince my wife that I “work” from home and I’m not sitting here waiting to run errands for her…

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  25. Hi.  I am a former college professor and have been working at home for the past 12 years and love it.  As Anthony as well as the many commentors below state, working at home does take a tremendous amount of discipline.  Just sitting down in front of the TV for lunch, “just for a minute” can easily results in hours of wasted time.  However, once you have a routine established, its a wonderful way to work.  Contrary to popular believe, there are thousands of legitimate, scam free, non-mlm telecommuting jobs out there.   Many large companies such as American Express, Google and Dell Computer Corporation hire workers from home in all types of specialities.  (Did you know  that Dell computer hires telecommuting medical billers and coders?  Yes!)  For more information on legitimate, 100% scam free companies that hire online workers, check out http://www.legitimateonlinejobdirectory (dot) com.   I created this 100% free website simply to quell the notion that all home based work is scam.  If you are looking for a way to make some extra money online but do not want a full time job, this directory also gives you some “micro job” and piece work companies as well.  I personally do data entry work for http://www.keyforcash (dot) com and get paid an average of about $10 an hour.  I also complete paid surveys.  However, I typically only complete surveys that pay me the equivalent of $10 an hour such as a $5 survey that takes 20 minutes.  My favorite legitimate, free paid survey sites are http://www.onlycashsurveys (dot) com and http://www.surveyhead (dot) com.  In addition, I like to perform very small 5 minute “micro jobs” at http://www.microworkers (dot) com.  If I am looking for other freelance work, I typically check out Careerbuilder here.   Careerbuilder is an excellent database.  Simply do a search using keywords “work from home” or telecomute.  I also tend to search for freelance work at http://www.virtualassistantjobs (dot)com, http://www.elance (dot) com and http://www.odesk (dot) com.  For example, I recently did a freelance job where I worte an indepth classified ad description for a medical billing position and was paid $100.  I also write short articles for http://www.textbroker (dot) com and http://www.associatecontent (dot) com.    You see?  The legitimate opportunities are endless!   HOWEVER, ONE THING TO KEEP IN MIND…….NEVER EVER PAY ANY FEE WHATSOEVER FOR A JOB!!!!    If you are asked for a dime, it is a scam or a muli-level-marketing scheme and you will not make money!   Companies should pay you, not the other way around!  I hope this helps everyone!   Just a disclaimer:    I own the Legitimate Online Job Directory but am not affiliated whatsoever with the other sites listed above.  I just work for these and get paid.  They are legit. 

  26. Working from home has many advantages for the employee and employer, assuming the work is done with consciousness. I was once left alone at the lab work place till 2 AM the next day in morning, because I enjoy doing what I do. If you have a work environment setup at home and you enjoy what you do then the employer will be at a bliss, and the opposite is true. Employers should be able to tell who will be trusted to work from home and who will not. The key point is that not all people are same, as not all doors can open with the same key. If you enjoy what you do and care about your work then propose to your employer to work at home, this will save all time and money. The BIG IF – if you enjoy what you do then it is time for you to start your own business – if your efforts are not appreciated at work. Remember that even your boss can become jealous of you if you enjoy what you do, sometimes being good can back fire against you. Think it over and take advantage of this and slowly start your own business.

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