When people hear that I work from home as a software developer, 9 out of 10 times the next comment is: “I could never do that; don’t you get distracted?” Truthfully, the question has always bothered me. It highlights a flawed expectation that there are no distractions in an office when we know there are plenty (just try to get a cup of coffee in less than a minute or two). Or perhaps, the perception is that someone in an office is more likely to stay on task because the boss can see you. This question makes me wonder:
Why is it that people see themselves operating differently from home than in an office?
There are many ways to break down this question because it underlines many facets of telework. For teleworking to be a success, a shift in mindset needs to happen with the employer and employee in that your team is as visible and accessible ‘virtually’ as they are ‘in an office’.
Some managers prescribe to the philosophy of “management by walking around.” You see your team; they see you. The walk around isn’t occurring all day, every day, but it does occur. To some, this feels like a head count and to others it’s a way to quickly touch base.
Can this be achieved with teleworkers? Absolutely. Working from home with a company that has invested in communication tools has made it simple for teams, managers and clients to stay connected. Instant Messaging (IM) tools make the ‘walk around’ virtual and instantaneous. At a glance you can see everyone on the team, if they are available, on a call, in a meeting, or away. Technology has made teams more accessible to each other than they ever were in an office.
In an office scenario, you get up from your desk, walk to the other person’s desk to find them there, or not. Along the way, you run into other officemates and many times you stop to visit. This doesn’t happen at home. At home, when you need someone, you find them in IM, ask your question, and you’re back to work in minutes. Ironically, office workers, today, find themselves using IM to talk to others in the same office versus going to them. It’s simply a more efficient use of time and whether they realize it or not, they are functioning the same as a teleworker.
Having worked from home for many years, I can honestly answer this question, “No, I do not get distracted at home.” At home, I find myself more focused and in full control of my surroundings. I can make it as quiet as I need; the lighting can be as light or dark as I prefer; and as for the temperature: no more drawing straws to see who gets to pick the setting for the room. It’s all my choice and makes for a near perfect work environment.
For those who ask this of me, a teleworker, I ask of you: “When you’re at the office, do you only work when your boss is watching you?” The answer is, of course not, and it’s no different at home. If you plan to work from home, and you’re set up well, you will be successful. It’s not the space from which you are working that dictates success – it’s your work ethic. You either have a good one, or, you don’t and that comes through no matter where you sit down for work.