zenhabits : breathe

Escape the Cubicle Farm: Top 10 Reasons to Work From Home

Article by Zen Habits contributor Jonathan Mead.

The future of the workplace is definitely shifting. There are a lot of new rules of work that are changing the game.

Social media sites like twitter and facebook are changing the way we interact in life and business. Searching “the conversation” on twitter, and access to tools like google trends, are transforming marketing.

There also seems to be an awakening in the way people and businesses are seeing the way they work. I see more and more people learning about passive income and how silly it is to trade time for money. After all, it makes much more sense to gauge value by way of results. Best Buy is leading the way with it’s “results-only work environment.”

More managers are realizing that it doesn’t make much sense to pay someone for their presence. The value they provide is the real measurement of worth.

Whether it’s through self-employment or being employed (which is still technically self-employment) there are a lot of benefits to cutting ties with the cubicle nation.

  1. Work anywhere. This is the most obvious one, right? If you’re unglued from your “assigned station,” you’re free to roam and work anywhere with WiFi. Some of the managers at Best Buy often work in the middle of a fishing trip or from a secluded cabin the middle of a ski resort. It’s not that this work is cutting into their personal time, it’s giving them more mobility to take those trips and choose where they work.
  2. Complete control of the design of your workspace. While I’ve never worked anywhere that had any hard and fast rules about the Do’s and Don’ts for cubicle decor, I know there are some unspoken and understood. If wanted a giant KISS poster with Gene Simmons’ tongue flailing out, that probably wouldn’t be okay. If you wanted to burn incense or listen to System of a Down, that probably wouldn’t be cool either.  If you work from home, you decide. It’s not likely that the absence of beige and fluorescent lighting will dampen your spirits. (If it does, please see a mental health professional.)
  3. Less distractions. This might sound kind of backwards, because when you think about it, you might think there would be more distractions at home, not less. But I think the opposite is true, at least for me. Co-worker drivebys, impromptu meetings, and annoying cubicle mates who likes to yell to everyone from across the office are constant interruptions. At home you might have temptations to watch TV, but at least you have control over those distractions.
  4. Flexible time. You decide when you work and when you play. You’re liberated from the clock and a schedule. You may have certain projects, meeting or deadlines you need to attend to, but you have more flexibility as to when you work on them and how working blocks of time are organized.
  5. More focus on results, not presence. When you’re focused on results, you have a tendency to care more about quality and contribution. When you’re focused on presence, you have a tendency to resent the work you’re doing. You’re focused on being there in a window. More energy is spent thinking about what time you’ll leave and not showing up late.
  6. More time with family. Since you have more flexibility within your schedule, you can decide to work when family is busy with other functions and to take breaks when they’re around.
  7. Work in your underwear. So maybe you don’t want to work in your pajamas. Fine. But at least you decide how you dress. There’s no social pressure of looking a certain way or conforming to a dress code. Your individuality isn’t repressed.
  8. Yoga at your desk. I can’t count how many times I’ve wanted to take a break and workout during work. Since my building doesn’t have a built-in gym, that’s not an option. I could do push-ups, sit-ups, or whatever, but then I’m going to be paranoid about being interrupted. Working from home? Problem solved.
  9. Less commute. Less pollution. This one’s two fold. Since you’re not commuting, you’re not spending an extra hour+ by car/bike/train every day. If traffic is hellish where you live, you’re looking at two+ hours every day wasted. Working from home? Just wake up and you’re there. No commute, no emissions being released from your vehicle. Less pollution and less traffic. Nice.
  10. Work fewer hours. Let’s face it, most of us don’t spend 100% of our time at work actually working. We surf the internet, we go on twitter. We walk back and forth from the water cooler and indulge in mindless corporate small talk. Take away the requirement to be present in a cubicle for eight hours a day and you’ll probably be a lot more efficient with your use of time. Sure, you might have to still deal with the lure of surfing online, but at least you’re not doing it by default because you have to be there.

A while ago I wrote about the benefits of self education vs. classroom education. My aim wasn’t to say this is better than that. My aim is to simply shed light on option that often go unnoticed or untapped. I think in many cases, a hybrid and holistic implementation is the answer.

In the same way, I’m not trying to say working from home is better in this article. There are certainly some pitfalls to being self employed and telecommuting. Creating barriers between work-time and personal-time, and a lack of social interaction, are a couple that come to mind.

I am only presenting options. Obviously, a one-size-fits-all answer is not going to, well… fit for everyone. I would say, however, that where we often think there are no options, exists a tremendous field of possibilities, if we have the courage to challenge our beliefs. Where we often only see walls, there are no walls at all. They are simply opportunities for us to grow.

As to how to convince your boss to let you work from home, just ask to do a trial of one day a week for four weeks to see how it goes. If your productivity improves on those days, it will be leverage for you and an incentive to your boss to continue your experiment. You may have to show up some days for mandatory meetings or for a need to be in the office, but working from home one or two days a week can make a big difference.

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