Office productivity in the cubicle world has been studied quite a bit. The most dire predictions of "actual work done" by folks at the office will often be less than 2 hours. The most generous are typically in the 4-5 hour range. Here’s the sample day of Jane Officeworker I’ve seen more than once:
Jane really doesn’t get going until about 9:30AM after coffee, email, water cooler chat…then she turns off mentally at about 11:30AM planning lunch…then she suffers through post-lunch coma and conversation until about 2:30PM…then shuts down again mentally at 4:30PM to plan for the commute home.
At best the above example is a good 4 hour day of productivity. In doing some research on this post, I came across some excellent writings that I’ve linked to below. The bottom line is that I believe that the full-time office worker will become less than 20% of the workforce by 2017.
Home worker productivity can be examined with equal scrutiny. However, I believe the net results are substantially more time spent on productive work vs. the "office inertia" of distraction and waste. (Or are we all part of a vast conspiracy to keep up the front that we’re getting things done vs. goofing off?)
A sample day for Joe average might mean rolling out of bed at 7AM and heading down to check/reply to email, read blogs, post a blog, and set up the days activities. By 8AM, Joe has had coffee and suffered no commute stress and is more likely to begin work. Joe may get in about 2 hours of work before the mind recharge is required. Joe gets up at 10AM and heads to the gym. Gasp. He returns at 11:30AM, sucks down a sandwich and begins work again. He gets through about 2PM before he needs to go pick up his little boy at pre-school. He returns by 2:30PM after a quick run through the SBUX drive through. He’s back at it by 3PM. At 5PM he’s toast. He eats with the family and spends some quality time. After the kids go to bed at 8PM, Joe pops back into the office and checks email, he’s pretty well addicted to that medium of communication but that’s a different story. He gets some key questions answered, listens to voice mail and mentally gets a grip on the day tomorrow. He dims the light at 9PM and does whatever it is Joe does until bed time.
Some quick math nets you 8.5 hours from Joe Homeworker…even with his workout and toddler pick up during "work time".
Am I being more generous to Joe Homeworker than Jane Officeworker…hell no. "But what about personal instant messaging and skype and twitter and (fill in the blank distraction technology). Fine. Subtract 2 hours from the Joe Homeworker equation, and we’re still gaining an extra work day of productivity every single week!
If we look at days I’m more familiar with…there’s probably 8 hours of productivity strewn about 12-14 hours of "being present". The bottom line is that eventually, larger companies will blend more and more "homework" into their work force. It makes the workers happier and they do MORE for the same rate of pay in 100% of my experience. I know many workers that have a "regular job" but are given the freedom to meet outside of the office, flex their schedules a bit, and you know what…they’re pretty happy compared to their cubicle dwelling counterparts.
If you need to be a "watchdog" to ensure your workers are "doing"…then you’ve hired the wrong workers.
Busyness vs. Burst: Why Corporate Web Workers Look Unproductive