Not All Telecommuters Are Getting The Job Done
September 26, 2011 Jenny Thomas
I must be doing something wrong. I have been working from home for eight-plus years, and I can easily spend an entire day at my desk trying to get everything done. I find myself coming back into the office in the evenings, and even wandering in on weekends to try to get a jump on the upcoming week. I habitually check my email to make sure nothing’s come up that requires my attention.
Or maybe it’s just that I like, and value, my job.
But not all telecommuters are quite as fired up to get things done at home, at least according to a new survey by CareerBuilder.
The national survey was conducted with nearly 5,300 employees from May 19 to June 8 of this year. It reveals that Americans are able to work from home on a more regular basis post-recession (it doesn’t say who declared the recession over…). Today, 10 percent telecommute at least once a week, which is up from 8 percent in 2007.
Let’s start off on the right foot. First of all, the results don’t completely discredit all telecommuters. Of those surveyed, 35 percent work eight or more hours a day. (I feel it’s safe to say the crew at IT Jungle, who have always worked from home offices, would be in that category.) This finding is also a major increase from a 2007 CareerBuilder study in which only 18 percent of telecommuters said they worked eight or more hours.
Things start to slide from there. Nearly one-in-five (17 percent) of Americans who telecommute at least part of the time admitted to spending one hour or less per day on work. Yikes. Another 40 percent of telecommuters said they work between four and seven hours per day. It makes me wonder what kinds of jobs they have and why no one is holding them accountable.
“With mass adoption of smart phones and advanced network technologies, telecommuters are connected to their offices like never before. As a result, we’re seeing more companies embrace the work-from-home option and more workers putting in full-time hours while at home,” said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. “However, to avoid situations where telecommuters aren’t putting in the necessary time, managers need to be clear about expectations and establish daily objectives. The autonomy of working from home can be very rewarding so long as it doesn’t diminish productivity.”
Of the telecommuters who are actually doing some work at home, there is little consensus on whether time spent at home or at the office is more conducive to high-quality work. A slight majority of 37 percent say they are more productive at the office, while 29 percent report they are more productive at home. The remaining 34 percent do not see a difference, stating they are equally productive regardless of where they are working.
So what are the non-productive telecommuters blaming for their inability to focus? The list is not too surprising: chores, TV, pets, kids. All the usual suspects.
Clearly, being a telecommuter requires discipline, and maybe a boss who expects to see some results from your work at home. Haefner did offer a few, somewhat obvious (to me at least) recommendations to help telecommuters get focused on their jobs.
Keep a normal morning routine. The survey found that 30 percent of telecommuters tend to work in pajamas; 41 percent of females and 22 percent of males. You have a better chance of success of getting some work done at home if you treat your mornings as if you were going to the office. So get dressed, and don’t forget to brush your teeth!
Find a spot to work. Even if you don’t have a dedicated home office, it’s important that you find the least distracting place in your home. No TVs nearby, and if you don’t have one, try to create a makeshift desk–the dining room table will do.
Stay connected to colleagues. When the cat’s away, the mice will play. It’s easy to become distracted when no one’s watching. If you’re struggling to stay motivated at home, schedule an update meeting or call and talk shop with an office peer to get your mind back on work. At IT Jungle, we use Instant Messenger throughout the day to check in with each other or ask quick questions.
Plan your breaks. Telecommuters do still get breaks and it’s important to take them. Don’t skip lunch, and get up and stretch your legs every now and then. You’ll be less likely to duck out early if you structure the perks of being at home appropriately into your schedule.
Take your work to a coffee shop. Working at home can be lonely, unless your cat or your kids are bothering you. If your job allows it, try spending an afternoon in a coffee shop or library. Just being around other workers may help you get focused.
In this economy and with the unemployment rate continuing to hang out around 9 percent, I’m pretty surprised anyone would admit to not taking their job seriously. To my way of thinking, not joining the ranks of the unemployed would be the biggest incentive to getting to work at home or in the office.