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To Raise Productivity, Let More Employees Work from Home (2014) (hbr.org)
543 points by edward on Apr 13, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 225 comments



The problem with working for home is that the person who gets half of what you do done, but stays in the office, is more visible to the higher ups. So you want everyone to work from home and meet when needed, rather than half and half.

In 2011-2012 I had one guy actually consistently take credit for what I was doing because I would work at my place and show up once a week with deliverables (there was a hardware part to the job, and I'd rather use my small workshop built next to my home if I can).

Essentially he told everyone that he was the team leader for the project, and people started to believe him. All he did was walk around the offices and make powerpoints.

He kept telling people that he needed more men and resources to complete the project... all the while, me and another guy were doing good on the project (about on budget, a little ahead of schedule).

Eventually this guy's whining, intended to give him a little empire, is heard by one of the actual bosses. We get called in to explain why we're behind and need more people.

And that's where the crazy thing happens. We show up with the first batch of production devices -- not even prototypes -- and do a full demo, and say "this has actually been ready to field test for a couple weeks now". Great, right? Except... everyone was so used to talking with the douche guy that they didn't really pay attention to us. So we got a dressing down for being late (douche said "it'll take two months for this to be ready to go unless I get two more guys on it"), with the finished product happily beeping and logging data on the conference table!

I felt like Galileo before the Conclave. These were scientists and scientific administrators, believing some twerp's word over their own eyes.

And that's the story of why I quit NASA.


I work from home and it's less than half and half for our team. But working from home doesn't mean you don't communicate. Email, Document collaboration, Regular VC all contribute to the visibility of your work. No one can take credit for my work because I'm extremely visible through multiple channels. I don't even show up at the office more than once every few months.

Visibility doesn't have anything to do with being in the office. It has everything to do with communication and you can do that with a VC pretty much as easily as you can face to face.


It's worth noting that, in a lot of companies without an established work-from-home culture, you need to over-communicate in order to compensate for the lack of physical presence in the office. As the saying goes, when you're out of sight, you tend to be out of mind. Therefore you always have to remind people that you're in front of your computer or on the phone busting your ass, instead of watching TV or taking a nap, which is what people assume you're doing by default because that's what they would be doing if they were at home.


Github checkins, Hipchat comments, JIRA tickets opening and closing, emails, texts, etc. If you work from home I recommend :

1. Overcommunicating, which also creates documentation 2. Leaving an audit record, like a time log 3. Going to as many office social functions as possible. You can up your visibility as much with one party as you can with ten days in a cube.


This is exactly right. When someone asks the question what was "Joe" doing yesterday there should be at least one person who can say "I was working with him via {email,chat,phone,VC} on that thing we had discussed earlier." Or... "Oh, didn't you see his email? He sent out that design doc for further discussion" or some other variant. Even in companies with an established work from culture it's important to communicate frequently and with detail.


This is probably the best piece of advice I've ever read on HN about working from home.

Especially the part about what normal people do when working from home. Very important to take that into account.


That requires the other parties to realize this, too. You can send all the emails you want, have all the video chats you want, and IM to your heart's content, and it'll be worthless unless your boss is receptive to it.


And it works the other way. If you are in the office all the time, but no one knows about you or what you are doing or were you are at, the same thing can happen.

So being at home is completely irrelevant to this story, except that it may make it slightly easier.


To me, this speaks bigger to your work culture and processess es - what tools were you using to host meetings and have conversations verbally?

Assuming the right toolset, having a strong voice and impaact in a company is not impossible from a remote position.

Yes, there is real value to face time, and I agree with you on some level - but only given the proper tools and a company that respects them. Given your example, it sounds like you didn't get the attention you deserved.


If senior management are sufficiently preoccupied with other things and some Machiavellian schemer is sufficiently preoccupied with increasing their own influence over the organization, it's entirely possible that no level of detailed daily status updates and well-structured regular webconferences can undo the amount of FUD the schemer can spread by having water-cooler chats and asking "quick questions" of exactly the same members of management that don't read the status updates.

And at the risk of stating the obvious, watercooler chats can have non-negative outcomes in other situations too!


I generally call these guys "non producers". Not much value to add to a project yet always seem to be hanging around either taking credit, giving input where its not needed, and usually both.

I would throw most project managers in that lot as well as non hands-on middle managers. I'm finding there's an additional skill that engineers/programmers/producers need to obtain in dealing with these types and their politicking and not letting them run you over during tech projects. I believe it falls out of the normal realm of what we call "people skills".

I feel your pain


I have stopped calling them "non producers" and started using the term "counter producers". Not only do these types of people not help, they are almost always a hindrance to the completion of projects.


What I think is unique of the linked article (yup, I read it all and it was really interesting and related to my startup) is that the type of work being done by the telecommuters is easily measurable: they are telephone operators. So it is quite simple to compare the number of successful calls (depending on what the company is about) made by people both in site or telecommuting.


Be smart. Let others know your progress. Send emails (showing completed work) at 6:25 AM. Let others understand you can be productive while they're commuting. If they cannot understand, find someone who can, he/she will have the usual doubs, but will get it after a while.


I see how this could be a problem. Luckily where I work, everyone is a remote. And I think this is something to watch out for, make sure remote working is embedded in company culture before accepting the role.


Well, it sounds like it was embedded in NASA culture, but this guy was able to brainwash the bosses because he was nearby. It's political games like this that make remote work nearly impossible. Did you notice the brainwashed victims were actual scientists? Good luck with your better culture.


There've been a number of psychological studies that show that face-to-face interactions build trust, regardless of the contents of those interactions (unless they're emotionally negative). When you're facing different stories from two people, one of whom you trust and one of whom you don't, who do you think wins?

This is also why many startups insist on people not working remotely. Startups frequently need to make decisions on very low information, such that the only conceivable reason you'd have for following through on the decision is trust.


Office politics is always going to exist even if you're all in an office together, all remote or some combination.


But it's easier to "do" office politics if you can talk to someone over lunch, than if you only interact with someone by email.

The lesson for me there was to assume that not everyone has the mission's interest at heart.

My problem was that for me getting on base was a 2 hour commute, and I had 90% of the gear I needed to do my work rihgt at home -- it got more done to work from home and only show up to deliver prototypes for testing, or use the "big boy" machine tools.


Office politicians, like the Twerp of NASA (though he probably has a better title now), are most excited about some combination, I bet, as it leaves the culture more vulnerable to attack.


He did get a management job. At a Denny's. He didn't last very long in there. I will gladly admit to being very happy to see him in there. He must have recognized me because he sort of hid in the kitchen the whole time.


If you don't mind me asking, how did you find a remote position?


I found this particular one from LinkedIn of all places but some great websites for remote work:

http://careers.stackoverflow.com http://www.remoteworking.io https://weworkremotely.com


I found my remote job through my personal network. There's a great site recently launched called http://remoteok.io that may be helpful.


An excellent system: In my 50.000-people company, everyone was required to work 1 day per week from home. It ensures everyone is involved in finding good solutions for the VPN, the chat, VC and work visibility. It also shift the prejudice of "working less" away from the teammate. Of course it's not an immediate solution if some remote workers aren't in the same city, but it makes them more legitimate.


So was the guy your boss or not? What kind of organization lets someone promote themselves to project manager or the boss of other engineers?


He basically said "Of the five of us I know the least about the tech, so I'll talk to the people who need this widget built, and do the paperwork".

People just sort of assumed that he had been appointed project manager after that.


Sounds like a major lack of leadership - the kind of thing that happens in a college project.

This kind of behavior, to me, speaks to me of dysfunctional management and I think it's probably good in the long term to get out of that kind of situation.

Lesson to be learned: You can't ignore others on the team. You can't have clear separation of duties without strong management or a good working trust relationship. Both of these are weakened if you're remote most or all of the time and the culture doesn't reward/support remote workers.


If he's talking to the people, he IS the project manager.


This is exactly analogous to what has happened with the part of a hugely successful computer / cellphones / etc maker I work for in Cupertino, in engineering. 5 years ago it was a wonderfully productive environment; since, it has filled with do-nothing middle manager detritus, who deeply impede results, and quell enthusiasm, perhaps the most damaging detriment. Thankfully, this hasn't happened across the entire company.


Sounds like the bozo explosion that a late leader of another hugely successful Cupertino company warned about.


Honestly, I was not expecting that punchline. The story really sounded like you were working in a typical "change the world" startup with flexible hours and some just hired frat boy manager took credit for your work. This I could see happening in such an environment but not...NASA.


Awesome ending


Good point. It's always better to be there when decisions are made (unless you're important enough that people are scared to keep you out of the loop!).


I feel for you but may I dare say that some fault lies with you, for letting the douch take credit. You should've stopped him before he got out of control.


Maybe (probably) you're more skilled than I am at office politics but it's hard to find that point before "out of control" where you should say something. If you do it too early it comes off as petty; too late and it's already too ingrained.


Not skilled at office politics at all. Just hate to see douchebag taking credit for work of others.


Probably. Thing is, I was just elated at doing NASA stuff and just threw myself at the technical side of the project without paying attention to much else. I mostly only showed up on base when something cool was happening (In my defence, it was a 2 hour commute each way).


Didn't mean to really fault you. Just sucks that some douchebag caused you harm and ultimate NASA too.

Many many years ago I worked at a badly run startup. One dude was made a manager over us and started trying to shake things up. One thing he wanted was documentation (although mostly it was to prepare let go some people). So I wrote up one page document, really simple stuff (no formatting at all) and put up on fileserver.

Few days later I happened to see a printout of a documentation lying around. It had been printed to show higher up that IT was improving process. Content was what I had written. Word by word. It was in better formatting, with tables to separate creator, date etc. For the creator, the manager had put in his own name. There's no mention of my name AT ALL.

World is full of such douchebags.


ENCOM MX 16-923 USER #0176825 06:00 INFORMATION VIDEO GAME PROGRAM: SPACE PARANOIDS ANNEXED 9/22 BY E. DILLENGER ORIGINAL PROGRAM WRITTEN BY K. FLYNN THIS INFORMATION PRIORITY ONE END OF LINE

Add this to the printout? :)

But yeah, had that happened to me a few times too. One time it was at a conference (Open Science Summit), the same douche guy decided to do a presentation on my tech as if it had been developed under him. So I pushed past security, turned off the projector with the powerpoint, went on stage, slammed the microphone down, and did my presentation by shouting. Got a fair amount of applause.

And yes, I was wearing a Flynn's t-shirt.

And yes, I know this is a bit of a tall tale, so here's the video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RnRSu9LjV7E


Couldn't he have just done something similar as well if he worked remotely though? You always get e.g. people that are much more noisy about what they've achieved over email so everyone gets the impression they've achieved more that quieter ones. Isn't this more about him taken advantage of success being measured incorrectly?


It's much harder to pull off remotely. This is manipulation, and a physical presence with inflection, body language, and the ability to consistently inject into every open moment is very important to its success. While it'd be possible to pull such a con over IM, unless your bosses are complete morons, it's probably too difficult.


> While it'd be possible to pull such a con over IM, unless your bosses are complete morons, it's probably too difficult.

That's a pretty good argument to assign as much work as possible to remote workers.


People will often listen to the ones with higher perceived status often regardless of the facts.


To be fair, that sort of office politics / system gaming can exist in any environment.


Clearly you are terrible at communicating with other human beings or this story is fake.


This story is true, and I am indeed terrible at communicating with other human beings. :)


You're only as good at your job as your good a looking good.


bummer dude.


I think that this is a general problem with WFH. You'll get 3-5 times more done, because most office environments are horrible and anti-productive, but you're basically stepping out of the political fight. There's so much nonverbal subcommunication that you'll miss about who's viewed as a top performer, who's not, who's ascending and who's not.

The social environment of most workplaces is Meritocracy By Assertion. It has to conceive of itself as a meritocracy but the politically successful people are always most able to make themselves seem to have the most merit. No one ever said, "I'm promoting this guy because of his political success". And yet... over time, what we see is that non-WFHers rise up the ranks, because it's just such a political environment to be in the office during normal working hours, and, in general, when they get to the top, they're hostile to the whole concept. So then you have places like Yahoo where, even if you don't care about climbing the executive ladder, you have to adopt behaviors of those who do (namely, avoiding WFH).

The really depressing thing to learn about organizational politics is that, while they're a grind for hard-working, decent people, they're actually fun for psychopaths. About 95 percent of people will be utterly miserable if they have to spend 90 hours per week in a packed, open-plan environment. The other 5%, mostly psychopaths, thrive on that shit, like the creatures that live in deep-sea thermal vents (extremophiles). It energizes them.

You see this in The Wire. Stringer Bell doesn't love "The Game" (meaning criminal enterprise). He plays it because he's good at it and is trying to work his way out of it, but Marlo (and, to a lesser degree, Avon) is a natural gangster just as much as McNulty and Kima are natural cops. Natural office politicians are the 5% who don't start to fade and fail when subjected to 90-hour weeks in open-plan bullpens, for the same reason that polar bears don't mind ice. Eventually, though, an organization ends up full of natural politicians and has lost the whole "vision thing".

Most organizations think that it's valuable to "be tough" and schedule meetings during weird hours and cram developers together and set unrealistic deadlines. But the people who thrive in such environments aren't "the best" in terms of the ability to get work done. They're the natural politicians who thrive in that sort of environment.


Did you really just assert that the only people who thrive in "packed, open-plan environments" are psychopaths? What about extroverts, people who get energized by social contact? Are they all psychopaths?

Also, when you refer to how "most organizations" think it's valuable to be tough, you're going against the bulk of organizations I've worked with. I'm going on close to 50 organizations now that I've worked with in some capacity. I'd say less than 10 had that mentality.


No, he's focusing on the politics in that paragraph... extroverted people tend to be better at politics than the introverted.


I'd guess that extroverts are, on average, about neutrally buoyant in the open-plan environment. They don't get hit as hard as introverts but it doesn't energize them.

Introverts are drained by open-plan offices, extroverts learn to adapt and tolerate them, people in between the two extremes are slightly drained but blend in. No one really likes working in one, except for the psychopath (or the clueless 23-year-old who believes the hogwash about it being "collaborative").

The thing is that most decent extroverts still hate office politics. They have a greater need for social interaction than introverts, but they don't thrive on meaningless noise, environmental chaos, or a complete lack of privacy.

So while an extreme introvert is drained after 2 hours in an open-plan office, the extreme extrovert can spend 8 hours in one, no problem. He might be less productive but he doesn't go home exhausted. The psychopath, however, is energized by a politically intense environment. Most extroverts dislike office politics; psychopaths love that shit.


So your beliefs/guesses/hypotheses state here are that: 1. Open plan offices are damaging to all, except those: a. Who mistakenly believe in the collaborative nature of open plan environments. By believing they enjoy working in them. b. Are extroverted. They gain no benefit, but are not hurt. c. Are without sociopathic. (Stealing the corrected language choice from your comment below.) 2. Extroverts who tolerate office politics are indecent. (The inverse of the statement that starts the third paragraph.) 3. (Through inference via there connection in the third paragraph:) Politics is meaningless noise, environmental chaos, and/or a lack of privacy. 4. Sociopaths are energized by office politics.

I find most of these flawed in one way or another, but I'd like you to confirm that my reading is correct before I address each in detail. I find your perspective judgemental, somewhat narrow and (ironically) un-empathetic and I think a debate about it could be enlightening.


Maybe sociopath is a better label? Someone who doesn't waste energy on empathy, so can operate in situations that would cripple normals.


Point. I wouldn't use the word "sociopath" there, but it's possible to be low in empathy and still not a bad person.

That's actually a skill in the corporate environment because snooty clubs (like an executive suite) generally look for non-stickiness, i.e. "you get just me". People who communicate, "I'll leave my friends at the bottom unless you ask for them", tend to get promoted faster than those who are seen as a risk of bringing in less-wanted friends.


This is Michael O Church you are replying to here..


Can you please not do this? Michael is a valuable member of this community, and while he subscribes to a certain narrative, I for one find his comments to be intelligent and insightful. If you're going to disagree, do so respectfully without taking cheap potshots. Thanks.


Two inspirational quotes:

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." -- Gandhi

Each step, if you keep your integrity intact, is hard: probably a 90% cut. It's easy to be laughed-at or opposed by doing something wrong or stupid. It takes at least some charisma to get past "they ignore you" while doing what is right.

You can get to ridicule with a terrible Youtube video, and the next level (opposition) is easy if you're willing to do the wrong thing: just become a criminal. It takes work to get to the opposition level while remaining in the moral right.

That said, I think it's much more of a multi-level dynamic. You get one response from people in power and another from the rest.

I think the progress is more like this: Level 0, people just ignore you. Level 1, people in power ignore you but the hoi polloi/useful idiots (who support the people in power) ridicule you and a few intelligent people out of power realize that you might have something to say. Level 2: people in power recognize you as a threat, and try to magnify the ridicule among the hoipolloi (while appearing to "stay out of it") but this can also increase your support. Level 3: people in power try to mobilize the useful idiots to fight (rather than just ridicule) you. (They themselves don't fight.) Level 4: people in power recognize their deteriorating position as your popular support increases (i.e. their attempts to heap ridicule on you actually buy sympathy and publicity). They'll either try to buy you out, or fight bitterly in a last-ditch effort that may destroy them and may destroy you. Usually you get the former, and it's up to you whether you take a deal or keep fighting. Level 5: you win.

The adversity that I get from certain ex-Googlers and HN personalities is somewhere around Level 2.25, maybe 2.5. I've had people try to fuck with my employment in the past, but I've managed to succeed in spite of them.

Getting from 2 to 3 is a big jump, and it's slow to happen because the people in power are afraid that you might be right and turn the masses (i.e. get to level 4-5). It's easy to ask the masses to ridicule someone; asking them to fight that person is demanding a commitment, and if the person being opposed is actually right, the more intelligent people within the masses will turn... and the useful idiots, though late to follow, will either be isolated (and disempowered) or themselves turned. So the preference of power is, strongly, to ridicule rather than oppose. Opposition is admission that ridicule didn't work.

Second quote, the authorship of which will probably never be uncovered:

"Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people."

I'll just leave that here.


Tangentially related:

http://lesswrong.com/lw/58g/levels_of_action/

HPMOR also addresses it, in a more accessible way:

> Professor Quirrell had remarked over their lunch that Harry really needed to conceal his state of mind better than putting on a blank face when someone discussed a dangerous topic, and had explained about one-level deceptions, two-level deceptions, and so on. So either Severus was in fact modeling Harry as a one-level player, which made Severus himself two-level, and Harry's three-level move had been successful; or Severus was a four-level player and wanted Harry to think the deception had been successful. Harry, smiling, had asked Professor Quirrell what level he played at, and Professor Quirrell, also smiling, had responded, One level higher than you.

http://hpmor.com/chapter/27


3 years WFH - I could never go back. Flexible core hours make handling daily life chores a breeze (normal life stuff, doctors appointments, etc) and so long as you get your work done, the company doesn't bat an eye.

If I need to I split up the day and in many cases this ends up working out for the company, as I'll have done more work than I needed to even sometimes working the weekends (which most people say to avoid for obvious reasons, but it doesnt bother me).

It also helps when you love what you do - software is passion and career for me. The ability to work remotely allows me to explore things like programming in creative capacity , wfh provides distraction free environment which in the end leads to more creative well rounded employees.


This depends on the company, though. I worked from home for a while for a company that didn't have a culture of allowing it. I talked my way into it due to some unique circumstances. I found that I was actually chained to my desk more there than I've ever been for an office job, because I felt like I constantly had to "prove" that I was actually working and present. Any time I didn't answer an IM or phone call quickly could be spun into a discussion about me not being "available" because I was remote. And worse, they were in a different time zone, and expected me to be around from the time the work day started in their location, until the end of the work day in MY location. So it made for a long day. None of these things were outright stated, but certainly little comments or behaviors reinforced them. A healthy company wouldn't operate like that, but my point is just that you have to know what you're getting into if you're going to work from home.


> I felt like I constantly had to "prove" that I was actually working and present

But that's arguably your fault, not the company's.

> and expected me to be around from the time the work day started in their location, until the end of the work day in MY location

As you said, that wasn't a stated expectation.

> None of these things were outright stated, but certainly little comments or behaviors reinforced them.

Perceived behaviors.

Sounds like your own insecurities/paranoia made WFH a problem for you, not the company itself.


I'm not sure why you feel compelled to defend a company you don't know anything about, but suffice it to say that I've been in the workforce long enough to have plenty of perspective on this, and it was not paranoia.


How would you even know if it were paranoia or not?

The fact that you're not even willing to admit it could have possibly been on your end and not theirs is evidence to your inability to introspect...


Despite HN having a high ambient arrogance level, this comment and the one above it really stand out for me. The guy was there. He lived it. What possible basis do you have for judging his mind and his life based on one paragraph?


> What possible basis do you have for judging his mind and his life based on one paragraph?

The body of scientific work called human psychology.

I genuinely hope it's not news to you that people are terrible at accurately assessing their own mental state.


Of course that's not news to me. It's also not news to him. Which is why he came to conclusion about this gradually and based on a variety of experience. Which he stated.

But it is apparently news to you, which is why a) you act as if you're some sort of mega-genius, able to accurately assess people's lives based on a handful of words, and b) you haven't get gotten started on assessing the portions of your own mental state that drive you to act like this.


I am now very interested in why you've reacted so negatively to what I said. I get this kind of negative reaction most of the time on the Internet, and I'm not really sure why.

To be clear, I meant no harm, anger, or ill will.

What part(s) of the things I wrote here lead you to write "you act as if you're some sort of mega-genius"? Why do you think my own mental state is relevant to this discussion?


The problem isn't conscious ill will, it's arrogance and lack of respect. You have acted as if you completely understand something you couldn't possibly understand, which is years of this guy's work experience plus all his ideas and reactions to it.

Paranoia is a clinical judgment, one you aren't remotely qualified to make. And if you were qualified to make it, you would know that you can't do it from a 182 words of written prose.

Self-indulgent lack of consideration is a much bigger problem in the world than ill will. If you keep practicing that, you'll keep getting negative reactions.


You think what I wrote was designed or intended as a medical diagnosis? As in, I am pretending to be a clinical psychologist? I didn't think that was in any way remotely possible, based on what I wrote. Frankly, I still don't think it's possible, but I'm not sure why you would have said that's how I came across.

I have no idea what I said that caused you or anyone else to think I "completely understand" anything at all. I never claimed as such, to be sure.

If I'm being honest, I think you're reacting negatively because of some emotional trigger I've pulled of yours. I think this because of how contradictory what you wrote is when compared to how you're delivering it.

Specifically, you seem to be "diagnosing" me with self-indulgence and lack of consideration using the exact same behavior you claim to decry in what I've "done". With that in mind, I don't believe you're being all that objective or reasoned in your response.

I'm taking a stab in the dark here, but I'm guessing you agree with him? Are you then aware of how deceptive one's own mind can be to itself?

Oliver Sachs is a great author (one who is not long for this world, I'm afraid) who also happens to be a neurologist, and he's written extensively about stories involving patients of his exhibiting the most extreme forms of ailments illustrating this fundamental point. What he also talks about is the fact that everyone's minds are addled -- just not to the extent of his patients.

Knowing all this, might it then be possible that a man's "years of work experience" could possibly be, at least partially, and in this non-consequential way, invalid and/or fabricated? Why is this such an unacceptable idea to you, that you not only reject it, but do so with vitriol and anger?


Dude, I am not talking about your character, I'm talking about your behaviors. Your behaviors in this very thread.

I'm not interesting in being your free therapist, interlocutor, or internet chew-toy. If you would like someone to help you understand why you keep offending people, I suggest you find and pay a therapist.


I've noticed our employees who often work from home seem to work more hours in the end. For better or for worse. On the one hand, yay for me. On the other, I imagine it has serious implications for work/life balance when that dividing line isn't there.


I know I factor in the commute time saved, so the actual net balance might be the same for a lot of people (i.e. saved one hour of commute / work an extra hour).


I certainly worked more total hours when I was working from home. I think part of that was that I no longer got any of that "just showing up" credit - I actually had to make progress on projects to demonstrate that I was working. Despite that, the lack of a commute and the ease of doing errands (banks and grocery stores are often empty at 9am on a Wednesday) made up for that.


Yep - not always the case for me, and it changes quite frequently. Sometimes i'll have a heavy week sometimes not

its also worth considering that wfh also provides low pressure environment - slow and steady wins the race.


When I regularly work from home, I work more from lack of friction than poor work life balance. Commuting to the office causes friction. Getting up, walking to the bathroom, the kitchen (all of which are a lot farther away in my office) all cause friction. Dealing with noise, making sure I lock my computer, mute my music and generally act like a considerate coworker all cause friction. All of those things go away when I work from home. I crank up my stereo and pace around my home without worrying about bothering anyone.

I work more hours and am less tired (I my mind, that's the key - I'm less fatigued at home) because I'm not constantly dealing with interruptions, context switches, and noise.


To be fair, this is happening because of the wide spread "open office" movement ruined office work in the US. Who thought that putting 10-20+ people in the same space without boundaries is going to increase productivity when we know that humans are not good with context switching at all. Now, working in an open office environment is a series of continuous interruptions from different sources. I am not surprised that working form home fixes this. :)


Great point...

I have worked, in order, in a no WFH open office, yes WFH with private cubicles in the office, and yes WFH open office.

#1 was terrible. In the case of #2 while I could WFH, I would deliberately make it to the office at least 4 days a week because I was so much more productive. And #3 has me staying at home when I want to work, and showing up in the office when I want others to know that I am working.

Take away the nonsensical open office system (which may work great for jobs which are almost completely collaborative at all times, but are terrible for most jobs) and an office which provides some privacy is actually pretty awesome.

You get to control your interactions with coworkers, and are far more efficient interacting when you really need to.


Yeah, for me personally an office is better than working from home, if it's a real office. A cube may suffice, but walls and a door are even better. In my last university job, I went in to the office typically 4 days/week even though I strictly could've gotten away with only going in the two days I had classes, because I had a real office, and I liked the separation of my apartment not also being "at work". I'd take the 5th (and sometimes 6th) day to work in coffee shops or libraries as a change of pace. Interestingly those don't bother me the way open offices do. Libraries tend to have an explicit ethos of quietness, and coffee shops have noise but to me it's more of a background din that's not very distracting. Maybe because I don't know the people like I do in an office.

If it was a bad commute I probably wouldn't have gone in either, I'll admit. But for the me the commute was actually one of the reasons I went in; it was about a ~40 minute walk, which "forced" me to get some regular exercise and fresh air.


It may also have to do with wage depression. Why pay more out in salaries when things like WFH and pinball machines become employer bread and circuses?


Been working from home for a year now and I will never go back. My productivity has gone up 2X, mainly because I'm not physically present in an office pretending to work by just being there. I need to push code in to prove I've done work.

Once you're comfortable with your setup, you can pretty much work from anywhere. I've been travelling regularly lately. As long as I have my laptop and a decent internet connection, I'm good to go. Huge benefits for the business and for me.


Same. My job is fairly low-intensity and does not require a full work day. Honestly I could do my full days work in about 4-5 hours each day, but I have to spread it out over 8 hours. In an office I spent a lot of time looking busy. We certainly had crunch days that were more like 100% of the day's time investment, but those were not as common. It was very stressful being in the office, looking busy when there's no work is tough. When our startup was purchased and my new manager was now two states away, I decided to stop going in. I do like you now, I work from home, or anywhere I am traveling to. I enjoy my job more and feel more aware since I'm not dulling my senses with busy work. My productivity has risen as proven by my stats. Were I to suddenly have to go into an office tomorrow, it would force me to look for a new employer. I just don't think I could do it again.


>As long as I have my laptop and a decent internet connection, I'm good to go.

What about a chair? I've found a good chair is also essential


I had trouble finding a decent chair, so I switched to the IKEA Bekant sit/stand desk. I work standing for about half the day, so if I'm having issues with my chair at least it's not for the whole day.


Do you like the Bekant? I thought about getting one for my home office, but it seemed a bit expensive for IKEA furniture...


I really like it. It's a bit pricey for IKEA, but compared with other adjustable height desks, the price seemed quite good to me. Also, since it looks like what you would expect from an IKEA desk, it blends into the room nicely. It doesn't look as utilitarian as some other desks might.


It's super cheap compared to other sit/stand desks


If you're pushing code just to prove that you're getting something done, I'd suggest your management might be evaluating productivity in a short-sighted way. I encourage the guys on my team to work from home at least once or twice a week (and we have a couple permanently remote folks too) so they can avoid the inherent open floorplan distractions. By far the most important factor to me is that they're available online during normal office hours, actively responding to others and helping out with questions, offering suggestions, etc.

I'd much rather have someone who is communicating well with the rest of the team than someone I see a few commits from per day but isn't actively engaged with others. I don't mean to suggest this is you based on your brief comment - I just firmly believe that having a group that works well together is ultimately much more productive than isolated individual contributors.


Well this is true but ultimately the end result of my work is code and people tend to pay attention to that when you work remote. PS ping me if you need a new dev, my current contract is coming to an end :D


I've been working from home for the last three years and I can say that I'm far happier and more productive on a day to day basis. I worked in offices for about 10 years and just never felt comfortable in the cube life.

I think one of the biggest improvements is that when I need to take a break, my breaks feel productive. 20 minutes of cleaning the house, as an example, feels completely mind-clearing and, in some cases, actually helps me solve an issue I may have. I really enjoy my daily runs or bike rides, which help me feel like I'm more than just a developer, that I get to take advantage of the day.

That being said, I believe the biggest drawback is the monotony of the at-home routine. Some days and some weeks just feel like one large workday, and sometimes I can go for a day or two without saying a word to anyone other than my wife, or my cats. That's the greatest challenge for me. Working in a busy coffee shop probably appears like it would help the improve the feelings of isolation, but it oddly does the opposite. I see the same folks coming and going, day after day, and rarely do I get in conversations. And I'm actually quite social.

I don't think I'd go back to an office if given the choice, but I'm still working on the best way to feel less alone. I've been road bike racing on a team for the last few years and I believe having that constant outside-of-work social activity has helped quite a bit. For me, the cats are also huge! Plus, I just love cats. But there's certainly room for improvement and that's something I think about often.

I should note that I was hired to work remotely. My whole team is remote and spread out around the country.


Couldn't agree more about the breaks. I think I've come to the conclusion (as I've started to mature a bit more as an engineer/developer) that I'm almost never going to solve coding problems by writing code.

Breaking up my day whether it's with a walk to the park, a nap, a shower, or folding my laundry is usually when the real moments of inspiration come. These are the moments that I've solved some of the more challenging problems I've been faced with recently.


Believe it or not, I've found sitting at the bar at restaurants/pubs to be on of the best places to work when you're feeling that need for socialization. You don't have to consume any alcohol, just go for lunch, and a lot of places actually have coffee with free refills (tip your bartender well). This may vary depending on your city, but in Atlanta it's not uncommon to see 3-4 people on laptops at the bar working during the time between lunch and dinner rushes (1pm-4pmish) when restaurants are mostly quiet.


I had a similar setup at one point, and solved the social problem by taking a language class (I was living in a foreign country at the time). The point is I was in a group, and conversation was a built-in part of the interaction. Including the walking commute it was only about 1.5 hrs 3x per week and that made a huge difference.


I've been having similar difficulties lately. I've been thinking about shared workspaces. Have you given them a shot?


I actually have an office in town that I can go to (I work for a larger company that's in a lot of cities) so I try to go once or twice a week. I just have an open cube in a quiet corner. It does help, but I usually don't talk with anyone because it's both a very small office and the team there works on different web properties. I'm moving in a few months to a really small town so I imagine I'll checkout shared space there, if I can find it.


This is my first "work-from-home" job. Honestly, I don't see how I ever survived working in an office before this. Between massive gas expenditures, thousands of hours lost in commutes, and daily distractions, my productivity and happiness have increased 10-fold at least.

I can't go back to the office. I've been spoiled. :)


I worked from home for 4 years in my late 20s. It's brilliant. There's one thing I wish I'd been told at the beginning: You really have to strive to maintain your social life. Work hard at saying yes to going out and doing things. Do not make the mistake of believing that online chat, gaming, forums, and Facebook is the same as meeting people in the real world. If there's one thing that working from home does, especially if you have a job you really enjoy, it's that it makes it exceptionally easy and fun to just sit write code (or whatever you do) for 14 hours straight without actually talking to anyone face to face. That will absolutely destroy your social life.


I think that is good advice. What I don't understand is why does social life have to be tied to work? I mean, its quite clear this happens a lot, to the extend that the President and First Lady met while working (not to say dating is the only form of social life too, btw). Although I don't work from home, I do try to develop and maintain more friendships outside of work than from within it. It helps to keep "work" and "play" separate.


What I don't understand is why does social life have to be tied to work?

It doesn't. But as you get older there are fewer and fewer other avenues to meet people, unless you proactively join social clubs and the like.


Even if your friends aren't work friends, it can be more difficult to go out after work if you're working from home -- you're already comfortable and still in your pajamas. Whereas if you work in a city center and your friends do too it's a lot easier to make the effort to meet up on your way from the office to home.


"What I don't understand is why does social life have to be tied to work?"

I hate to think of it, but it could be that so many people are simply working so long, that the office is really the only social interaction they have the energy for.


I moved house partly because I could work from home and spent 8 years, in a new town, without socialising or having anyone close to really socialise with. It didn't help that my work colleagues were on two different continents.

Not having a social life eventually killed it for me. I loved the freedom of choosing my own hours and working in an office I built Just For Me. I loved being there for my family. But at the end of the day I just wanted human contact with the people I was working with. I needed those subtle levels of communication that you simply can not get on a video call with 1-3 second lag.

I finally called time on it and started working among people again. I still like to work from home every now and then but mostly I like knowing, immediately, how I am perceived amongst my co-workers and being able to gripe and moan about <insert office bug bear of the week> over a beer or ten after a hard weeks work with people who know me and can relate to my experience.


I've had a job where I can work from home whenever I'd like for about a year and a half now. This has also been my experience. I feel socially deprived when I work from home for more than two days in a row. After two days I want to go back to the office. There are just 3 of us here in the office, so we don't always say much, but still. Putting on real pants, walking up the block for some lunch, etc. works wonders.


> Do not make the mistake of believing that online chat, gaming, forums, and Facebook is the same as meeting people in the real world.

Who says it's the same? What you seem to be implying is that it's somehow worse. But that assertion needs to be justified.

> If there's one thing that working from home does, especially if you have a job you really enjoy, it's that it makes it exceptionally easy and fun to just sit write code (or whatever you do) for 14 hours straight without actually talking to anyone face to face.

What's wrong with that?

> That will absolutely destroy your social life.

I think you're projecting. Not everyone wants the same type of social life that you seem to enjoy. People can and do have social lives while working long hours.


Same experience here. On the other hand, I am not a particularly friendly person to be around, so that works out for everyone. Social interaction once or twice a week seems to work for me (YMMV).


That's good advice. Thanks for the tip. I'm only about a year into this, so my social life hasn't really degraded too much yet, but I'll keep it in mind going forward.


I also found that keeping weird hours / working weekends / moving shifts (not my choice, in my personal case) really messed with my social life and happiness. Not being able to hang out with people or do things because of having to stay up all night on a 12-hour shift on the weekends was pretty rough, and the constant rotation meant it was hard for others to remember when I'd be available. Lots of shift swapping on the team further confused the situation.


exactly this. I've been working from home for 7 years, and by the time Friday evening comes a long I'm desperate to go out and do things for the weekends. There are only so many conversations you can have with postal workers :)


One problem with working from home - being forgotten about.

I worked as a technology analyst for many years and when my kids were born opted to go part time, working from home. While the routine work came through, those 'interesting little projects' that makes work so interesting dried up, partly because I lost sight of the interesting little problems that cropped up that would make interesting little projects.

After about 4 years, I was in the situation where I was being paid really quite a lot of money for not doing an awful lot. The CEO was was very nice and we would meet up sometimes and he would say "I promise there will be something very engaging to work on soon, we value your experience"

But in the end, I ended up resigning, despite the fact that they wanted me to stay on and pay me lots - I just couldn't keep taking their money in good conscience. Shame - it was a great firm.


You were living George Costanza's dream.



I think being forgotten while working remote can be a concern, but it can be mitigated by the type of company you're working for.

If you're one of a couple people working remote and the rest of the team is at the office, you'll likely have a more difficult time being promoted and feeling included. If your company culture depends on remote workers it's not as big of a deal.

We have group chats, and video conferences that make it feel much more social and connected and being part of the team. Some roles require being in the office, but most developers and engineers can be successful remote with all of the modern tools we have for communication.


Sounds like you needed to use something like Slack for office communication. It's very important that everyone adjusts their habits to integrate remote working rather than just the ones who are remote. When the communication stays within 4 walls but some of the team is not within those walls then problems such as yours arise.


It's impossible to get people to really do this if you have 98 of them in an office and 2 of them remote. You can try to mandate it, but people are going to revert to human-talk. If you're serious about a mixed environment of remote and in-person workers, you must develop systems that account for the resolution the remote workers will inevitably lose.


Not really - everyone was always on IM and I'd be phoning up and talking with people daily. But really I needed physical presence to really pick up on the subvocal stuff, and the people who would pop by and mention things off hand.


Is it a top down vs bottom up idea flow type of company issue?

I can see a rigid top down company not being much fun to remote at, if all ideas must come from above, therefore onsite, and you're not onsite. At a bottom up company it wouldn't be an issue because it would be your idea you're working on.

I've worked both kinds of jobs onsite, but only significant amounts of at home at a bottom up company, and I don't think it would have been as much fun at a top down company. Top down companies generally are not pleasant working environments nor very successful anyway, so its hard to discern if remote is unpleasant due to generalized failure, or if specifically even at a top down that somehow "works" remote would remain unpleasant.


Really should go back and offer to be a contract/consultant at ridiculous rates (which you can justify by showing how few hours you work).

If the departure was amicable on the employers side you still might be able to do this.


And yet every single YC company job post is on site only. I've been watching the jobs section for about a month and I haven't seen a single remote job.

There really needs to be a culture shift in SV to support remote workers.


Well when the president of YC speaks openly about apposing remote work I think it's safe to say there's a huge bias to asses in seats [1]. That said I know of at least one YC alum that supports remote work [2].

I can't stress enough that remote work is not an organizational tactic. It's a cultural one. You must design and grow your remote working culture just as you would your product. Half-assing remote work and having 10 people in house with 2 people remote just doesn't work. It's in that scenario where I think remote work gets a bad rap.

1. http://blog.samaltman.com/how-to-hire 2. https://zapier.com/


Most YC companies are high growth, putting a premium on close collaboration. We found that WFH works great for engineers, they love it and we just wrote the remote manifesto https://about.gitlab.com/2015/04/08/the-remote-manifesto/ But sales and marketing people prefer the energy of an office, hence the split in https://about.gitlab.com/jobs/


There's a big difference between WFH and remote - in our office we encourage everyone to consider WFH and do it whenever it's appropriate, but you still need to be able to come in.


I think startups are different in this regard.

Most businesses are about turning the crank on the machine that makes them money. There you have relatively stable org charts, markets, products, cultures, and production processes. Need for information flow is modest.

Startups, on the other hand, are trying to discover or invent all of those things. The information flow is much higher. The very best communication medium we have is being in a room together, and a good startup makes great use of its high bandwidth and low latency.

At my last startup I looked for opportunities to hire remote workers for things, but rarely found them. The two I got to work were throw-away, low-priority code (e.g., non-critical-path prototypes) and Amazon Turk tasks. For the core work, though, it went best when we were all in one place.


Most YC companies aren't running call centers.


The problem with work from home is that you have to get past the one issue most offices cannot do right, the personnel issue.

As in, there are people who don't work well at work and management knows they likely won't work well if not worse if from home. However because personnel issues are hard these people linger on and stifle benefits that others could enjoy because no one wants to put up with the idiocy when they are told, so and so can work from home but you cannot.

To raise productivity first act on those who are not productive so that the rest of the team doesn't have to tip toe around a problem that has been to obvious.


To me, it means you have to actually be aware of what your people are working on, and being a better manager, than just assuming physical presense equates to producitivy.

Yes, it does make you want to be more careful at hiring, but I think that's a good thing.


That's the FUD factor talking. The OP reported none of this happening. Its an unfounded fear.

Anyway its the same problem whether or not they work from home - some people will underperform and have to be let go.

Finally, use some collaboration software and folks 'working from home' or from other sites will seem as connected as people working in the office. Even more so - a meeting of remote workers works better in fact, because each one has a headset and can be clearly heard and distinguished. Instead of for instance a crowd of people 'in the office' sharing a desktop microphone and heard as a babble by everyone remote.

We use Sococo (I work there). Its got the best presence information in the industry. Its clear who's working and who isn't. You can see everybody in the area, who's active and who's idle, whom they are talking to and what meetings are going on. Managers love it!

Working 'remotely' for 5 years now, in a company where everyone does it. Its superior in almost every way.


I work remotely right now. We have 2-3 people call in and 4-5 people who are sitting together in person in a conference room in the office. The problem is that you lose the physical cues that indicate when it's someone's turn to talk. The remote workers end up trouncing all over everyone else when they try to speak, because they don't have the cues that the people in the conference room are using to determine it's someone's turn to talk. Remote people talk far less than they would otherwise because they can't tell when it's safe to interject. The meetings still function, but it's a significant disadvantage over being present in the same room. It can also be hard to appropriately distinguish speakers until you learn the voices of your colleagues really well.


Exactly. Get them out of the conference room and back at their desks. They can put on headsets, run a collaboration tool (like Sococo) and turn on their video cameras. Now everyone is on an even footing! And its actually better than what you're doing now - everyone can share docs with everyone else; others can be called into the meeting in seconds; folks can chat privately and get their stories straight so presentations go smoother.

Even though we make Sococo, we had to train our management to ONLY do Sococo conferences for exactly the reasons you mention. Everything went much faster after that.

In fact we have to train them to stop calling it a 'conference call'. Its just a meeting, like any other meeting you ever held before. Except everyone can hear everyone perfectly; more than one person can share docs (at the same time!) and everyone can keep in sync effortlessly.


Video conferencing is a huge improvement over conference calls. There is something humanizing about seeing the people you're talking to. It's easier to see and hear who is talking, too. (Conference calls have terrible fidelity and user interface.)


Right. Our product (to toot my own horn) has 4X voice quality over phone. Everybody can see all the videos (up to 20 people). It also keeps you connected by aggressively rerouting traffic as bandwidth grows and adapts to changing network connectivity (wireless roaming, plugging/unplugging, on/off VPNs etc) transparently. All to take the meeting tool out of the way and let the meeting happen.


You might make everyone on an even footing; but the people around the table would have been more effective around the table than in their separate cubes with a headset.


At work we don't use Sococo but instead rely on Skype, Google Hangouts or Lync (depending on the project/client), but our experiences have matched what JoeAltmaier has said so far.

Whenever possible we prefer everyone be connected individually as opposed to sitting together in a conference room. The conference room becomes a distraction, impedes proper communication between all members and the attention spans increased when everyone connects from their workstation. The conference room creates two areas with two distinct conversations so if we're really aiming for an integrated environment we enforce people connecting from their workstations as opposed to using a conference room.

Culturally it also spreads that idea that those sitting together are better than the remote workers, which given our line of work is an unproductive idea to keep propagating. And while there might be differences, they pale in comparison to the negative impact that ignoring or discriminating remote workers has in our projects.


Deny! That's exactly what I'm getting at. With a good thorough always-on collaboration tool, you can actually share better and easier than crowded around a table trying to share a document, or fool with a projector, or waiting for somebody to arrive, or a hundred other time-wasting things that happen in physical conference rooms.


All of that sounds like it stems from management not doing their fucking jobs.


Working at home is so incredibly context specific I wonder how applicable this data is to other industries. I'd love to see more studies done to figure out how good or bad working at home is in general and what industry(ies) it works in versus doesn't work in.

Personally I usually get more work done at home (especially since there is no commute time) but I also usually work more hours because I get constantly interrupted at home and context switching is hard (at least for me) (wife and kids = interruptions). Even though I love being able to see my family more, saving money on gas, etc I still prefer to work the majority of my time at an office mostly because it's far easier for me to avoid context switches at an office than at home (switching too much is exhausting).


I have my office at a friends house. I save him $75 a week in dog sitter fees and bring fire wood in for the fireplace in the winter. In return I get a nice office in the country with multiple windows, a Persian rug under my chair, and no distractions.


That's why you need an office. If you own a home I encourage you to build a small separate structure in you back yard to house your office. If you're in an apartment it's much tougher.

The context switching is all about setting expectations. Everyone in the house needs to know that when you are in your office or have headphones on then you're not to be bothered.


Ha, I do have a small office but it's hard with multiple kids that are able to run around and open doors. Sometimes it works out and sometimes not so much.


Put a lock on the door.


An interesting point -- what job can't work from home? The study's author mentions in the article that "The more robotic the work, the greater the benefits, we think." Up to you if you consider pushing code robotic, I guess? :)

I work in sales and our entire team is field-based, with no concept of an office except for in the home state. It makes sense, but it does get lonely. However, there are ways to get around this. As suggested in the article and these comments, there's technology to bridge just about any problem for WFH, which is why it is on the whole a positive thing for many industries.


I very much agree. In an earlier job I used to work remotely from two days a week to going about couple of weeks without going to the office. This was when we didn't have children.

Now that we have a year old daughter and my spouse is currently at home with her, working remotely requires more thought as to the working conditions. Picking the days when my family goes out during the day work out as the best remoting days.


I've worked remotely in an apartment with my two kids (5yo and 3yo), and is not easy: sometimes I ended up working during late hours because then I had quiet time. On the other hand, I find it priceless I can take a quick break and play for a couple of minutes with my kids. What helped me is to use earphones, isolating the noise and signaling that I'm working and not to be interrupted.


> What helped me is to use earphones, isolating the noise and signaling that I'm working and not to be interrupted.

Hah, that looks like a line people would use while arguing against an Open Office model.


Yup I agree it's great that one can spend the breaks with family.


Does anyone have an understanding of whether there are corporate accounting and tax incentives that would explain some of the opposition to remote work?

I suspect there is some incentive for corporations and companies in general to spend money on real estate and offices, even though they would not really be necessary. It would explain things like Yahoo requiring all their remote employees to move to SF even though the city becomes ever less livable. Sure there are reasons to live there, but something seems off, why make people move there? Austin (and Dallas and Houston to a lesser extent) is another good example of there possibly being some kind of corporate tax and accounting incentive really driving this matter. Austin's tech boom is really an artificial concoction that was initiated while Bush was governor to incentivize and attract, and even poach tech firms to Texas and Austin.

I have my suspicions that the tax and accounting regulations are far greater of a force of nature than is recognized regarding WFH and remote work, especially once companies grow to a certain size.

If you think about it. it's absolutely insane that the tech industry is so obsessed with co-locating when, if you get off the fence, you can develop proper management and technology solutions that could make your workforce far more effective and productive. I mean what can you do to enable effective remote working with around $100,000+ in office space costs over a year? It makes no damn sense.


Old business culture? Not sure. I have thought about this too.


Story about a large enterprise: I have worked for a startup and I can honestly say that working from home can be very productive.

However, I work for a large enterprise now. The problem is most of the team doesn't really have much to do most of the time. To show off, people either

    1) spend minimum 8 hours or more in office or 
    2) Blabber all the time about how challenging and demanding their work is. I am looking at you, the sysadmin, who takes 3 weeks to create a server.

If I work from home, or use my free time in office for working out/ my own learning, they get frustrated. They pass passive aggressive comments like showing me the clock when I come in or go out.

The only criteria for them to show their work is the hours, and they never lose a chance to make sure that they remind me and the manager about that- like how they had to do something on weekends or how they have a meeting after 6 p.m. I tried to ignore all this. but it's hard. Those kind of people are the majority. So here is what I did:

Since I don't get to utilize my time properly, I decided to make sure that I at least piss them off more: I have always been an early morning person. I now come to work before anyone else. At least I enjoy the look on their faces. They have nothing to bitch about now :)


I've worked both full-time remotely and full-time at the office(both own single person office and open office plan) and much in between. For me the significant variables are commuting time, office plan, co-workers and family.

When I had my own office it was easy to concentrate at work, however I couldn't remote at that job. My commute distance was okay in summer (20 min cycling), but in winter it was too much (45min in bus or cycling).

Previously when I worked in an open office I remoted a lot, going couple of weeks without visiting the office at times. Then the commute was hour in bus or by bike so remoting was convenient. Also the open plan office was pretty bad for my productivity. We also didn't have a daughter then so there were no daytime distractions at home.

So I think its all about the balance. Any way you slice it, I need low-distraction environment to get coding done and much prefer short commute. In my current job I can remote couple of days a week which is okay and gives nice bit of flexibility for life. However I think I could handle more, but only after our daughter starts to go to daycare.


As a developer, I can't agree more. Unfortunately, I have to work with sales teams and a variety of groups/individuals that just refuse to buy into the concept. The irony is that I get more done in 4 hours at home than I do during 8-9 hours in the office. But, some people are all about that "face time". Seems to be on the downtrend, though.


> Question: So Marissa Mayer, who famously banned working from home at Yahoo last year, was wrong?

> Answer: It’s not so simple. There are lots of factors that could lead to such a ban, including a culture where remote workers tend to be slacking because of low morale. Also, we were studying call center work, which is easily measured and easily performed remotely.

I let most of my team work from home when they want to and I think the above answer has a fair bit of truth to it. You need to start with some way of measuring productivity to know if an activity works for your team or not.

The nature of work my team does is very exploratory and by definition, alot of it won't pan out in the real world so we spend a lot of time thinking about how to track progress to figure out what types of activities pay off for us and what don't.

Not to suck up to Hacker News here, but the best predictor of success we've had is does a person have demonstrated startup success.


I work from home because the office is not always a pleasant place to be. I peg the reasons as due to an open office floorplan and micromanagement.

Management has torn down the cubicles in favor of open workspaces. Several of my coworkers carry on loud conversations or use their speakerphones. There are frequent interruptions. I can't concentrate.

The preponderance of micromanagement (in the form of Agile + Scrum) also encourages working from home. Instead of sitting in useless meetings in person, I can dial in and get work done while the meeting drones on and on...


I know people who work from home and get a lot done, but the general feeling when you get the 'WFH' email in the morning is that the person is taking the day off :\ it's hard for the people taking advantage of it not to create a stigma that effects everyone. Especially to management.


Exactly.

My company is 100% virtual, and we've been WFH for about 4 years. I remember taking an official day off with my family, where we met up with another family for a fun outing. The other dad (who worked for a non-WFH company) was "working from home" while we were out enjoying ourselves.

Irked.


WFH doesn't just pay off in productivity, it pays in compensation, too. Our latest survey shows that full-time remote devs get paid 40% more than never remote devs:

http://stackoverflow.com/research/developer-survey-2015#work...

There are probably a few reasons behind this phenomenon, not least of which is richer countries outsourcing to cheaper countries. But even in wealthier countries, remote devs get paid more.

No surprise then that more developers are working remote than ever before. This year 29% of devs told us they work at least part-time remote vs. 21% last year.


> Our latest survey shows that full-time remote devs get paid 40% more than never remote devs

Anecdotally, I would suggest the demographic of employees who work remotely plays a part in this. In my experience, employers are more willing to let senior or "better" developers work remotely than less ambitious, less productive ones who need more day-to-day managing. Since quality developers (senior or otherwise) are generally paid more, I would presume this contributes to a higher average salary for remote workers.


Agreed. Not everybody is good candidate for WFH. There will be slackers, especially during non-busy times.


> Our latest survey shows that full-time remote devs get paid 40% more than never remote devs:

Does that prove that WFH pays off in compensation, or does it prove that only the most valuable devs (who could get the highest compensation whether they were on-premises or remote) can get full-time remote gigs?


You're confusing cause-and-effect here. If you're highly-paid, you're also highly-valued and your employer will be far more likely to let you have the latitude to work from home if you want to.


I think I've been stunned in my career to find that companies only pay lip service to Working from home. They'll let you take a day here and there but to paraphrase a manager at one of my jobs "we wouldn't want it to become a regular thing"

It really just blows my mind that every company doesn't have WFH days or let their employees pick a day or two to work from home with regularity.


I have been at home as an independent dev for almost 15 years and I love the flexibility..BUT, there is one thing that work-from-home people almost universally agree is a drag. When work is just a few feet away, it is hard to draw a line from where work ends and life begins. I hate the fact that the first place my kids ever come looking for me is my home office.


I have the possibility to work from home as much as I want but I very seldom do since I literally get nothing done. I would be a useless employee in a remote company. Even when I need to work on weekends and no-one is at the office I go there (all alone).

To be honest I feel that most people are like me and that the success stories this thread are not representative.


I'm curious about this thought. I wonder if in the post-automation economy, people like you will simply be out of a job. I run a small engineering team and would gladly have them be 100% remote if our current circumstances didn't require a certain amount of on-site work.

Do you lack the motivation to do the work, or do you just not like working at all? Would you work on side projects in your spare time if you could, or do your creative juices only flow at the office?

I worked for 10+ years as an engineer in a traditional office environment. Working from home in my current gig has been eye-opening for me. My productivity is through the roof compared to how I used to be. You'd have to pay me a lot of money to make me want to go back to working in an office again.


It is a fallacy that creative people find all work inherently interesting. Specially if you are holding a paid job, there will be a mix of interesting, self-actualizing work, and mere grunt work. You'll thrive doing the former but need to exercise will power to complete the later. And if the mix is unbalanced and geared towards the grunt work type (or your life situation forces you to deplete your will at a higher rate than your average peer) you'll benefit from a more structured environment with less opportunities to goof around.

Another point that happens to me, is that my standard setup is at the office. I don't work enough hours from home to justify replicating my cube at home (and on my own dime), so whenever I end up working from home, there's friction: the monitor is smaller (and wrong aspect ratio), the keyboard layout is slightly different, the chair's not ergonomic, etc). I understand this is not an issue for remote workers, but that may help explain the perceived gap between two camps.


Working from home is a problem when you have a toddler of two running around. I'd imagine that even if I worked remotely I'd go for co-working instead.


I work from home with a 3 year old and 4 month old. It really hasn't been an issue for me. As long as you have a place where you can close the door[1] it's fine and it's really nice to be able to see the kids during lunch/break. It's just important to set ground rules: while you are working kids/wife don't interrupt you.

[1] I do need to wear headphones most of the time since it can be loud sometimes :)


> set ground rules

Oh wow, I wish I could enforce that ;)


At the risk of asking a stupid question...why can't you?!?

If it's kids who are the problem, just lock the door.


+1. Working from home has worked phenomenally well for me, but my daughter is nearing 2 and she is easily (and rightfully) my biggest distraction. We're about to move into a new home where I have a dedicated office, which I expect to fix the problem...


I have worked 100% remote for the past 3 years and am way more productive at work and at home.

It takes discipline though to ignore issues at home and keep delivering.

Another key is to find an organization that is `Results Driven` vs politics `I see you in your chair` driven and that everyone there embraces a remote work culture.


I'm surprised by the ridiculously broad conclusion (headline) based on the narrow conditions of the experiment and how little emphasis was placed on the factors that lead to success. It's no surprise that work that's extremely limited in scope and may actually benefit from limited collaboration could benefit from remote work.

As a simple example, working on the wrong thing for a few hours can easily have a negative effect on real productivity over the long term. "Amount of stuff produced" is therefore a terrible measure for that type of work, where collaborating continuously can help to cut off unproductive paths at their root.

I don't think there's anything here to suggest that similar results would transfer to more creative work such as software development.


I've been working from home for 3 years now. I am part time now, but still manage to get more done than the other people in the office. I use the rest of my time to... work! I work on my own projects in the VR space, which probably nobody would have ever hired me for if I had just applied to jobs.

As other people have mentioned, I can't imagine going back. I've actually looked at going back, gone to interviews and such (I get pinged by recruiters constantly and sometimes I cave and listen to what they have to say). And every time, I'm just struck by how alien everyone's behavior is in the office. It's creepy, and then I remember I used to be like that, too. And then I'm good for another year or two.


I have worked for years from home. I'm currently at the first job that requires me to be in the office every day. However, there are no managers here - in fact, they are the ones that are remote while all of us developers get work done.

I actually like being in an office where I can talk with other developers about projects. That is something I missed working remotely as it was harder to tell if I could call someone up and would be interrupting them if we just talked about programming or ideas.

At any rate, I'll be returning to working from home in the near future I think. Even good algorithm talks don't beat time with family.


We may not be there yet, but I think a company's ability to efficiently and effectively allow employees to work from home will eventually be predictors of a company's future success.

The company executives may not see the benefits, but my prediction is that as soon as the pendulum has swung and more companies allow working from home than don't (and are successful at it because they've been thinking about it since they have a long-term vision of their company's future), the companies who paid no attention and weren't planning for this inevitable future will quickly become extinct.


I imagine for this article the "office" was a call center bullpen type setup. It is not surprising to see increased productivity due to the reduced distractions of actually having a private personal workspace provided by the _employee_ at home.

To keep costs down it seems most companies now design for maximum bodies per square foot rather than productivity. I really wish companies, especially those with the ability to absorb some extra costs, would actually try to design for productivity and not solely cost savings.


Someone finally ran a real study. I wish companies would run such experiments much, much more often.


I don't know...

I've been looking through the comments to see if anyone else noticed the fact that the experiment was not a randomized control setup. They've let self-selection bias creep into the results, so I'm wondering how much we can infer from them?


"Half the volunteers were allowed to telecommute; the rest remained in the office as a control group."

It's an RCT of people who wanted to work remotely.


I love working from home, but having everyone on the team using tools like slack to communicate is essential - I don't think it would work otherwise. The team and managers need a certain level of trust too. It was pretty hard to get "onboarded" initially and start feeling like part of the team but it got better over time thanks to over-communicating on my part and much use of the slack /giphy feature!


I have a question. For those working from home, how did you get your job? I'd love a job where I could work free from the distractions of an office. But I'm not a programmer. I'm a copywriter / marketer. And all my remote work has come from freelance gigs. I'd love full time employment with a remote company, but most jobs I see are for programmers. So how did you find remote work?


https://github.com/lukasz-madon/awesome-remote-job

Many coding jobs, but a lot of other stuff too.

There are several job boards dedicated to remote-only work listed on that page.


This is incredible! Thank you.


We're looking for remote people at Catalyze and have several non-tech jobs open. Shoot me an email ryan at catalyze.io

https://jobs.lever.co/catalyze?by=location


I've had jobs where working from home was the greatest thing, and jobs where being able to shout over to coworkers and have face-to-face conversations is irreplaceable. It depends on the work and the team dynamic. Developers working from home makes a lot of sense in most cases. Trading futures makes absolutely zero sense. There's no one size fits all answer.


>Will knowledge and creative workers also be more productive at home?

>The more robotic the work, the greater the benefits, we think.

Certainly don't agree with this. I work from home, and find the lack of distractions most beneficial for creative work. Certainly there are challenges for collaborative work, but those can be overcome, or at least mitigated.


I currently work from home, and I find actually starting work is hard for me when there's no-one to force me to get to the office by 9am.

(Then again, on the handful of occasions I have actually worked in the office, I've really noticed the office banter - it's probably on par with whatever distractions I have at home.)


I start my day just as if I were going to work. Get up with the alarm, do morning chores, take a shower, dress decently (but not office-nice), sit down and start working.

My first task: send email to someone, preferably a team.

There might be a little web surfing first, but I did that in the office, too.

My work doesn't require set hours. I do it this way simply for the discipline.


I feel I could benefit from having a consistent routine like this, though it doesn't help that I work part-time and due to various factors my hours tend to be scattered throughout the week. (Ultimately doesn't really matter for me any more since I'm finishing at my current employer shortly and will be going 9-5 in-person very soon.)


This study was for call center work. That work is easily measured by objective metrics, not particularly creative, and doesn't particularly benefit from serendipitous face-to-face interactions among colleagues. Be careful when extrapolating to software engineering.


I absolutely get more done working from home. But after a couple of years of working by myself on project for business who I would communicate with once a week (if) I felt I was getting out of touch with the human race.

I went and got an office job, and it was so nice to get up and go be with other people. Even the office politics was amusing rather than annoying. Even the annoying people were interesting. Now, after nearly a year of that the novelty is wearing off and I'm wanting to be really productive and remove myself from foolish social games again.

My ideal situation would be 2 days a week in the office, 3 at home.


I think WFH is great for individual contributors (especially software engineers) that are a fraction of a team that has some people who go into the office every day. It can be a really easy way to let those people focus and be productive without arbitrary hours.

However I have seen what happens at a company that is all-remote and it can be a disaster. My girlfriend worked remote for Cisco for 2 years and almost nothing got done. The latency on all-email communication was too high and you never knew what was going on because nobody had a full picture of the state of the project. It was a total mess.


I can't imagine an all remote team that relies on email. I've worked remote my entire career and chat is the lifeblood of a remote company. In essence, the chat server becomes the virtual office. When people sign on in the morning, you know they are there. People say bye before signing off (leaving the office). There's a #watercooler channel for people to have idle chitchat. A project manager can ask a question in the project chat room just as they would the teams open office room, etc.


Anyone work out of a co-working space? Totally recommended?

I been doing the work from home for 2 years now. It's getting a little meh. Love the freedom, but it would be nice to have actual physical co-workers, or something like it.


I work out of a co-working space but I also work for myself rather than for a company.

I could work at home but the social monotony would get to me. I need to be around other people shooting the breeze, catching up, networking, or getting help on a programming problem. I'd become too depressed being home alone all the time.

I'd recommend it. It can be pricey though (I pay $400 for a reserved desk in Brooklyn).


I tried coworking last year. It was an hour drive to me, but overall it was worth it. So much better to be in a social environment where folks are supportive than in a cave at home slinging out code.


From TFA: "gave the staff at Ctrip’s call center the opportunity to volunteer to work from home for nine months."

There is zero value added to a call center employee from working in proximity to other workers. Actually, that probably has a negative value, since the insane chatter just makes it harder to hear whoever is on the phone. The same isn't necessarily valid for other jobs.

Making a generic conclusion (such as the clickbaity title) from such a limited category of workers is just shitty journalism. Apparently, not even HBR is beyond that...


I worked remotely in my previous job for 3 years and noticed team cohesion suffered. There is something about being in close proximity with coworkers help people care more about each other.


I work from home 2 days of the week, two of the biggest advantages are:

1) You never get late to work, you are already there. 2) You can work just in your underware.

Disadvantages:

Kids, if you have them, will also demand your attention.


I would love to work from home again. I used to do a couple of days from home but now am office-based, a short distance from where I live so the commute isn't too bad.

But I would love to be back at home again.

Anyone who wants a remote-working developer for C++, let me know! I write under OSX/Windows/Linux and also do Android, SQL in various guises and some web stuff, but I prefer native to web - web is in constant flux. I did Qt a long time ago, now it's wxWidgets. I can do C# too if you want it.


Data is very interesting but will it be same for all industries?


I have a friend who fuels airplanes for UPS, I don't think he is going to get to work from home anytime soon.


Teleoperated robots to do aircraft refueling is probably already technologically possible.


The window between "teleoperated robots to fuel airplanes being economically viable" and "autonomous robots to fuel airplanes being economically viable" is probably too small for teleoperation to become a big thing in general.

(Be sure to ponder the full meaning of "economically viable". As you say, teleoperated robots to fill gas tanks are already possible today, but clearly they are not economically viable in any but the most expensive of situations because humans are still cheaper.)


How about legal liability?

You hire a remote guy to fuel the airplane watching the cameras and gauges and signing off personally on delivering certain amounts to certain planes following certain safety procedures and documentation procedures including everything being automatically recorded. And if there is a screw up then you can initiate legal proceedings (well, not if you outsource, but if you teleoperate in the USA it would at least be possible).

With a fully autonomous robot then the first time there's any problem, the deep pockets robot mfgr will be sued out of existence regardless of having anything to do with the problem other than having deep pockets. Only in business until the first airliner crash, and not a day longer, even if it has nothing to do with fuel.

In a way I'm talking myself out of the idea, because non-teleoperated can't be documented for all eternity like remote work can be documented. So the remote fueler is on camera fueling up a jet without commenting on the obvious metal fatigue crack far in the background that a monday morning quarterback knowing what to look for can see if he ignores the fuel dude's job and zooms in on finding the wing crack... this is a legal problem that non-teleoperated doesn't have.


I think with lots of things, there is not enough volume and cost relative to personnel to justify the R&D and ongoing operations. For quite some time you would still need an operator and there is always the edge cases that a human can deal with on the fly that the robot cannot.

Bottom line, the world needs a finite number of plane refuelers and they are cheap. No need to replace them anytime soon.

But yes, technically possible at this point, I would agree.


I like the opportunity to work from home but I'd rather be around people most of the time. Sadly the place I am working at is anal about people being in the office.


I can work either from home or from my office. My office is fine but I'm usually more productive in the comfort of my home because I'm less likely to be distracted. An other good thing is that I have more options if I want to take a break. I can pick up the guitar for 10 minutes, enjoy the sun outside, relax on the bed and so on... better than browsing the web where you don't even leave your desk.


> I can work either from home or from my office. My office is fine but I'm usually more productive in the comfort of my home because I'm less likely to be distracted.

This is definitely different for each individual. For me, I'm more likely to be distracted at home.

> An other good thing is that I have more options if I want to take a break. I can pick up the guitar for 10 minutes, enjoy the sun outside, relax on the bed and so on... better than browsing the web where you don't even leave your desk.

See above, re: distractions.


Distractions exist everywhere. For me, at least, there is tangible benefit to throwing frisbee for 10 minutes vs. browsing reddit for ten minutes. I feel more clear-headed and productive after frisbee or doing my laundry. I don't get much out of surfing the web while bored in my office.

Unfortunately, no one lets me bring a frisbee into the office.


More productive, more focused and healthier lifestyle.

You can live somewhere less urban, and have a happier wife and kids.

If all you need is a computer and a connection, there is no reason to waste time and efficiency in an office environment.

If you can't find the time and money for a real vacation, consider having a working vacation. Spend afternoons on vacation, work in the morning and evening. Its really works!


Pffft, ignore that advice big companies. Move along, nothing to see here. Open concept offices with butts-in-the-seats is the only way to go. Don't let them undermine your management authority! /s

As a self employed work at home developer with a distraction free environment, having businesses adopt this sort of thing can only decrease my competitive advantage. ;-)


[deleted]


Pants separation is pretty orthogonal to productivity for some jobs.


Is there terminology to search for, for jobs which are part remote, part on-site? You would've thought companies would be looking for people happy to work on that basis.


No mean to brag, but I retired at 31; under 5 years in sales, working from home. My remote productivity level far exceeded my prior experience in an office.


is there a directory or job site somewhere that specifically deals with commpanies with this kind of culture?

I'd LOVE to work at a place which allowed me to work from home most days or which didn't have set office hours, where remote working was part of the culture. It seems hard to find such places.



the article points out itself, how biased it is by focusing on a particular kind of work, and one that is very amenable to not just doing from home, but measuring remotely.

the title is a bit of a bold claim in the face of the content...


Interesting to see HBR posts thriving on HackerNews.


I'd advise against working from home for everyone in compliance with the separation of concerns principle as context switching is not easy at all and it will burden the person with a lot of stuff to sort out with regard to the work/life balance and the mixture of the incompatible job/home environments.

However, I'd definitely vote for and favor a more balanced approach that combines both remote work from a dedicated office that has been set up specifically to handle this type of activity that is independent and detached from the home environment, and the formal workplace to maintain the bond and harmony between team members.


I remember reading about a chap who context switched from "home" to "work" by walking round the block as his commute. He was reported as saying it really made a difference to him.


That reminds me of this study, "Walking through doorways causes forgetting": http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17470218.2011.571...

Even if you return to the same place, the context switches break your concentration and make you forget things. I guess sometimes that's exactly what you want.


I've been working from home for 5 years now and have a dedicated office at home. I don't go into it unless I am working and I leave my work there when I'm done. I have no problems with work/life balance or context switching. Of course you need to make an effort to get setup, but the benefits outweigh the risks 100x for me.


If it works out for you, who am I to judge you?

But in my case it didn't work out even though I had a separate room in the house set up for this specific task. I had to abandon this arrangement as my productivity and social life suffered and went out looking for a small office to rent and set up accordingly.

I have also tried some coworking spaces but I felt there was something missing and I was not getting the full deal of this approach.

I guess also I'm very conditioned to the usual morning rituals to prepare for the day from washing up, having breakfast, dressing and leaving the house to work. I could not really escape this routine and it took a toll on me till I moved to my cozy office and started to see a markedly increase in my productivity and social life well being.

So, at the end of the day it boils down to personal preferences and what suits and suits not an individual.


Totally agree with this. I've interview several people for remote work and some people love the idea, some people are highly skeptical. Of the two people I know who got hired who came into the job skeptical of WFH, both ended up quitting and going back to office jobs. Obviously this is a small dataset, but I do get the impression people generally have a gut feeling on whether they can do it or not. Personally even working at home I'm extremely regimented, ex: get up, change, coffee, breakfast, etc (pretend I'm going to an office) so I think it helps.


Anybody else getting a Web Script Status 500 - Internal Error?




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