Do you work from a home office?

25 Feb 2009 - 12:12am
5 years ago
18 replies
622 reads
DanP
2006

Hi All,

I wanted to get a pulse on how you feel about designers who work a
good amount of their time from a home office. I've noticed that most
companies prefer 9-5 onsite employees. The reasoning that most often
comes up is that it's "corporate culture" and better for communication.

However, I've never been able to get comfortable with being creative
in a cubicle... More, I've found that my ability to communicate is run
by email and phone most of the time whether I'm onsite or not. Perhaps
I'm idealistic, but I get so much work done by attending meetings on
site as needed, then retiring to complete my work. I can blast music,
pet my cat, make phone calls without needed to hush down for fear of
bothering others... it's just conducive to productivity. My gas
mileage is better to boot :)

I've read about how many organizations are progressive in dealing with
such things, but to be honest, it hasn't materialized outside of
consulting work.

What are your experiences? Is this still considered a "privilege" or
has the mindset changed?

Thanks for any input!
-Dan

Comments

25 Feb 2009 - 1:34am
Kevin T. Stein
2009

It's a privilege. You are being idealistic.

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Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=39200

25 Feb 2009 - 4:33am
Adrian Howard
2005

On 25 Feb 2009, at 06:12, dnp607 wrote:

> Hi All,
>
> I wanted to get a pulse on how you feel about designers who work a
> good amount of their time from a home office. I've noticed that
> most companies prefer 9-5 onsite employees. The reasoning that most
> often comes up is that it's "corporate culture" and better for
> communication.
>
> However, I've never been able to get comfortable with being creative
> in a cubicle... More, I've found that my ability to communicate is
> run by email and phone most of the time whether I'm onsite or not.
> Perhaps I'm idealistic, but I get so much work done by attending
> meetings on site as needed, then retiring to complete my work. I can
> blast music, pet my cat, make phone calls without needed to hush
> down for fear of bothering others... it's just conducive to
> productivity. My gas mileage is better to boot :)

In my experience a home office is more effective than a _bad_ on-site
working environments. Like a cubicle. Cubicles are just bad for
_everybody_ - not just designers :-)

However, I've found home offices less effective that a _good_ on-site
working environments. Where you have product related team rooms for
example. The benefits you get by having folk to talk and bounce ideas
off - pull the continuous contact with all the people involved
outweigh the other factors.

Also remember the employer is not just interested in your
productivity... but in the productivity of the organisation as a
whole. Maybe having somebody on-site makes everybody over all more
effective.

Cheers,

Adrian
--
delicious.com/adrianh - twitter.com/adrianh - adrianh at quietstars.com

25 Feb 2009 - 5:06am
John Keane2
2008

I work from home, but commute into the office periodically (once or twice a week).

I don't notice any significant difference in my own productivity - there are good days and bad days at home, just like there are in the office - but the type of work I get done in the office and the interactions I have with my colleagues are different.

In my opinion, this is largely because I am unusual in my company in working from home - my colleagues are all based in the office, so their working techniques are reliant on that environment.

This means that they are more likely to show me things they're working on and discuss them with me if I'm physically there than they are to take screenshots to email to me when I'm not there - there's an out-of-sight-out-of-mind effect also: we see a great benefit from simply being in the same room.

So unless the organisation as a whole has frameworks in place for remote working, I think it's difficult to achieve successfully - for the whole organisation.

I don't necessarily see it as a privilege, but I suspect my colleagues do (there's certainly still a stigma attached to working from home). It certainly has its work/life balance advantages.

25 Feb 2009 - 10:54am
Jason Young
2008

A good friend of mine once asked me - "How can you be creative 9-5? Can you turn it on and off? How does that work?"

I told him I couldn't.

But I do find that being able to create my own environment really helps things along. I work from my home office most of the week spending, on average about 2 days a week at various offices. While I enjoy the collaborative environment of the offices I work through and the people I work with, when it comes down to getting things done once the brainstorming, strategizing, and discussion is over, my home office is the place. For very much the same reasons you have already mentioned - I crank up Last.fm or Pandora on my iPhone through the stereo and just get it done in a comfortable environment on a schedule I control for the day. Something inspiring hits me during dinner, I can go explore that idea or make changes without loosing any time.

I enjoy it immensely and have found that those I work with do also. I am calm and relaxed when I am in the office and productive when I am not. Maybe I have gotten lucky - judging by Kevin's post above perhaps I have - but regardless it seems to be an arrangement that works well for both myself and my clients.

25 Feb 2009 - 5:40am
Adam Lerner
2009

Dan -

In some ways I don't see it as a privilege, exactly, but there are
certainly personal lifestyle benefits I enjoy because of it.

I am currently working in a company whose product caters to a pretty
specialized area of specialty. I need to be on-site much of the time
simply to absorb the culture and grab individuals for answers and
expertise.

When it comes to heads-down work though, I feel like I am more
productive from home. I have a pretty nice situation now where I am
on-site three days a week and remote two. I enjoy the benefits of
both. I think my increased productivity at home has something to do
with the absence of casual interruptions. Perversely, I think the
presence of so many things I'd like to get done at home contributes
also. As a contractor, when I am in the office for a designated
amount of time I tend to be more focused on the amount of time I have
to be there. At home it is easier to focus on the work goals and what
I have to complete in order to feel I have done what is needed for a
day. That could just be a personal thing.

I find that this schedule also helps my co-workers prioritize their
in-person communications with me a bit better. Meetings requiring my
presence are usually scheduled from my "on" days. If that isn't
feasible I come in on an "off" day for at least a half day to
attend. Overall, it seems to work out for everyone, but as was
pointed out earlier, if your organization is not prepared for the
infrastructure and scheduling demands of team members working
remotely it can be a real disaster.

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Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=39200

25 Feb 2009 - 10:47am
Nikhil paul
2009

Cubicles!! Luckily i never had to deal with them.

In my previous workplace i was seated in the design studio, and we
all know what they are like. :) while the rest of the teams had their
cubicles. Yes i did feel sad for them.

The workplace i am currently working at is a sort of loft, with all
of us , developers, designers communication team together scattered
around. some of us have their own desks, and some of us choose any
corner we like. I guess it depends on the work that needs to be done.
I am not forced to come to office, but i like coming to office. I am
not trying to rub it in. The point that i want to make is, that if
the employers want us to come to office they should think twice about
the interiors.

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Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=39200

25 Feb 2009 - 3:32pm
Janna
2008

Dan,
Though I understand your dilemma, I often find working, yes, even in
a cubicle onsite, to boost my creativity. I gain so much by the
people around me and the ideas that trickle over the wall which never
get into an email. One manger used to say he did "management by
walking around" which is to say there is much to learn informally by
working on site.
I am currently a consultant and have worked this way before, but
personally really relish having co-workers to bounce things off of
and hey, you can make the inside of your cubicle as creative as you
want! I decided there was no creativity in grey walls, but SO much
creativity in the air and in my colleagues. *sniff* I actually miss
my cubicle sometimes.
-Janna
www.seenheardnoticed.blogspot.com

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Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=39200

25 Feb 2009 - 3:39pm
Mark Schraad
2006

There are plenty of project that I can do at home. In fact there are some
projects that I can do better at home. But by and large I work as part of an
integrated team... and for many things I need to be here. Small details are
important... and many times, my org sometimes operates like the borg... if I
am not here, crucial (at least to me) decisions may occur without my input.
Yea... its not ideal, but it happens, and there is a limit to what I can do
about it. Lastly, I like to be in the room with the primary stakeholders
when I get input, present concepts and brainstorm. We've tried using remote
video and it is just not the same.
As much as I would like to not be in cube-land and would love to be at home,
my work would suffer.

Mark

On Wed, Feb 25, 2009 at 1:12 AM, dnp607 <dnp607 at pacbell.net> wrote:

> Hi All,
>
> I wanted to get a pulse on how you feel about designers who work a good
> amount of their time from a home office. I've noticed that most companies
> prefer 9-5 onsite employees. The reasoning that most often comes up is that
> it's "corporate culture" and better for communication.
>
> However, I've never been able to get comfortable with being creative in a
> cubicle... More, I've found that my ability to communicate is run by email
> and phone most of the time whether I'm onsite or not. Perhaps I'm
> idealistic, but I get so much work done by attending meetings on site as
> needed, then retiring to complete my work. I can blast music, pet my cat,
> make phone calls without needed to hush down for fear of bothering others...
> it's just conducive to productivity. My gas mileage is better to boot :)
>
> I've read about how many organizations are progressive in dealing with such
> things, but to be honest, it hasn't materialized outside of consulting work.
>
> What are your experiences? Is this still considered a "privilege" or has
> the mindset changed?
>
> Thanks for any input!
> -Dan
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

25 Feb 2009 - 3:47pm
Samantha LeVan
2009

I work four days a week in a traditional cubical environment and one
day at home. I use that one day at home to avoid meetings and crunch
on data and usually put in more productive hours there. I don't mind
cubes as long as there's also a group space to brainstorm and be
creative. While I do have that space available, my coworkers are all
out of state so there aren't any group activities. It makes me just
want to work from home 100% but my company is still getting used to
the idea of one day per week.

I think telecommuting success depends on personality - both of the
employee and the organization. Some older companies aren't as
progressive and prefer to stick with the same old cubical, 9-5
mentality. Younger companies tend to be more open to what employees
would prefer.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=39200

25 Feb 2009 - 5:27pm
Jarod Tang
2007

We got a small office and fot it for design work. I guess that is
affordable for most of the case

--jarod

On 2/25/09, dnp607 <dnp607 at pacbell.net> wrote:
> Hi All,
>
> I wanted to get a pulse on how you feel about designers who work a
> good amount of their time from a home office. I've noticed that most
> companies prefer 9-5 onsite employees. The reasoning that most often
> comes up is that it's "corporate culture" and better for communication.
>
> However, I've never been able to get comfortable with being creative
> in a cubicle... More, I've found that my ability to communicate is run
> by email and phone most of the time whether I'm onsite or not. Perhaps
> I'm idealistic, but I get so much work done by attending meetings on
> site as needed, then retiring to complete my work. I can blast music,
> pet my cat, make phone calls without needed to hush down for fear of
> bothering others... it's just conducive to productivity. My gas
> mileage is better to boot :)
>
> I've read about how many organizations are progressive in dealing with
> such things, but to be honest, it hasn't materialized outside of
> consulting work.
>
> What are your experiences? Is this still considered a "privilege" or
> has the mindset changed?
>
> Thanks for any input!
> -Dan
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

--
Sent from my mobile device

http://designforuse.blogspot.com/

25 Feb 2009 - 5:21pm
Kevin Cornwall
2009

What Keane said," So unless the organisation as a whole has
frameworks in place for remote working, I think it's difficult to
achieve successfully - for the whole organisation."

Two things to address about that: business culture and the law.

First thing: I would go work in the office if it was for a small
company. But the problem with small outfits is that they usually
don't have the resources to fill specialized roles with experts
i.e., requirements, interaction designers, usability teams, graphics
people with a graphics degree, etc. and so don't do things from my
perspective in IXDA, very well.

The last few years, I've been contracting for a large, distributed
national company. In any given project meeting there are no more than
3 of a dozen or so participants - each a dedicated expert - who are
actually physically located in the same building; many IT groups, in
fact, are in India.

To make this work, the company has honed the art of working remotely
by investing in supportive collaboration tools, all used in
conjunction: Outlook calendaring, SameTime IMS, WebEx, national phone
conference bridges, SharePoint document repositories, etc.

This arrangement is exponentially more efficient: allows recruiting
from (and living in any region (I get to stay in San Diego);ensures
that all requirements, tasks, work product is documented; maximizes
multi-tasking; leaves a document trail of interactions (nice to have
an email or IM log handy when it comes to he said/she said);
optimizes worktime - zero commuting time, no mass exoduses for lunch
and breaks and keeps things impersonal, more merit than personality
based.

Plus, and it is no small plus, if everyone who could telecommute did,
you'd fix global warming, gridlock and dependency on foreign oil in
one fell swoop - with existing technology. (Just had to add that
because feeling morally superior compared with the car commuter is
fabulous perk.)

Second thing: My company, like most these days, hires contractors at
a 4 or 5 to one ratio compared with employees. It is illegal for a
company to dictate either the location, work hours or tools of an
independent contractor. So, if, as a contractor, you're being asked
to work in a cubicle, the company is violating the law, open to a
lawsuit, and has no grounds to push back on you if you tell them you
will be working remotely. Any company of this kind of company needs
to quickly implement a telecommuting culture or put themselves at
risk.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=39200

26 Feb 2009 - 2:13am
Andy Polaine
2008

I work from home most of the time. There are a few reasons for this.
Having lived in major cities for many years (London then Sydney) one
reason was downshifting to a smaller town where the quality of life is
much higher. The downside is that there isn't a lot of interaction
design going on here, which means most of my clients are elsewhere and
often in other countries.

When I have been on-site, it's usually to do brainstorming sessions
and nut out the creative. The rest of the time on-site is mostly spent
in front of the computer anyway and I'd prefer to have my own office
environment for that. The upsides are many – flexibility, comfort, low
overheads, etc.

The downsides are fewer, but I do miss the social interaction
sometimes. (When I am writing, however, it's perfect not to have
anyone else there). Regardless of what others think about the
technology, things like Twitter, Last.fm and Skype have made a huge
difference to that aspect. Twitter replaces the usual studio banter
(mostly) and I can turn it off if I want. There are always other home
distractions, though, and it's important to create space and time for
this. Good presentation by John Cleese about this: http://www.polaine.com/playpen/2009/02/24/john-cleese-on-creativity/

My time in Australia taught me a lot about working at a distance
because if you're in Sydney and working with a client in Melbourne,
it's still a long way to travel just for a 45 minute meeting. So
Australians are very used to working remotely (maybe like the USA?).
In Europe there is more of a mentality of "you have to be there" but I
think this is often unnecessary, particularly in an age of carbon
footprint consciousness and financial crisis.

Best,

Andy

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
Andy Polaine

Interaction & Experience Design
Research | Writing | Education

Twitter: apolaine
Skype: apolaine

http://www.polaine.com
http://www.designersreviewofbooks.com
http://www.omnium.net.au
http://www.antirom.com

26 Feb 2009 - 12:29pm
Adrian Howard
2005

As an aside - there is a large amount of research showing co-located
teams be far more effective than distributed ones...

There was a workshop at CWCW 2008 looking at some of this stuff last
year if folk are interested. Don't know if the results are written up
anywhere.

http://docs.google.com/View?docid=dhncd3jd_343cmcr7mcm

I'll pick one paragraph from the workshop description:

"It doesn't take much distance before a team feels the negative
effects of distribution - the effectiveness of collaboration degrades
rapidly with physical distance. People located closer in a building
are more likely to collaborate (Kraut, Egido & Galegher 1990). Even at
short distances, 3 feet vs. 20 feet, there is an effect (Sensenig &
Reed 1972). A distance of 100 feet may be no better than several miles
(Allen 1977). A field study of radically collocated software
development teams, i.e. where the teammates share a large open-plan
room, showed significantly higher productivity and satisfaction than
industry benchmarks and past projects within the firm (Teasley et al.,
2002). Another field study compared interruptions in paired, radically-
collocated and traditional, cube-dwelling software development teams,
and found that in the former interruptions were greater in number but
shorter in duration and more on-task (Chong and Siino 2006). Close
proximity improves productivity in all cases."

... and some more refs from other places ...

<http://possibility.com/Misc/p339-teasley.pdf>

"Teams in these warrooms showed a doubling of productivity."

<http://doi.ieeecomputersociety.org/10.1109/TSE.2003.1205177>

"One key finding is that distributed work items appear to take about
two and one-half times as long to complete as similar items where all
the work is colocated"

<http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~kraut/RKraut.site.files/articles/Espinosa07-TeamKnowledge&Coordination.pdf
>

"Our findings reveal that: software developers have different types of
coordination needs; coordination across sites is more challenging than
within a site; team knowledge helps members coordinate, but more so
when they are separated by geographic distance; and the effect of
different types of team knowledge on coordination effectiveness
differs between co-located and geographically dispersed collaborators."

<http://tinyurl.com/yqs5dp>

"Our results show that, compared to same-site work, cross-site work
takes much longer and requires more people for work of equal size and
complexity. We also report a strong relationship between delay in
cross-site work and the degree to which remote colleagues are
perceived to help out when workloads are heavy"

<http://www.springerlink.com/content/0137yud7c3k8xryw/>

"Findings reveal that aspects such as a lack of a common understanding
of requirements, together with a reduced awareness of a working local
context, a trust level and an ability to share work artefacts
significantly challenge the effective collaboration of remote
stakeholders in negotiating a set of requirements that satisfies
geographically distributed customers"

Cheers,

Adrian
--
delicious.com/adrianh - twitter.com/adrianh - adrianh at quietstars.com

26 Feb 2009 - 5:00pm
Adrian Howard
2005

On 25 Feb 2009, at 08:47, nikhil paul wrote:

[snip]
> I am not forced to come to office, but i like coming to office.
[snip]

And _that_ is the sign of a good work environment :-)

Adrian

27 Feb 2009 - 2:10am
Andy Polaine
2008

Interesting research, though I'm not entirely sure the results are
due to the distance per se or whether this is an apples and apples
comparison.

The culture and organisation of a project team make a big difference
to their success, co-located or not. It also ignores the fact that
some projects wouldn't happen at all if it wasn't for being able to
work collaboratively at a distance. Slower is better than not at all.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=39200

1 Mar 2009 - 3:56am
Adrian Howard
2005

On 27 Feb 2009, at 00:10, Andy Polaine wrote:

> Interesting research, though I'm not entirely sure the results are
> due to the distance per se or whether this is an apples and apples
> comparison.
>
> The culture and organisation of a project team make a big difference
> to their success, co-located or not. It also ignores the fact that
> some projects wouldn't happen at all if it wasn't for being able to
> work collaboratively at a distance. Slower is better than not at all.

Obviously :-)

Nobody is saying that distributed teams can't do good work. Just that
- compared to co-located teams in good working environments - they're
under a disadvantage.

Finding ways to improve that is where CSCW folk have their fun :-)

Cheers,

Adrian

1 Mar 2009 - 4:23am
Janne Kaasalainen
2008

Hi,

To the original question. I tend to have an opportunity to work at
least partially from a home office, and I have a decent one for that
too. However, I tend to prefer not to, for the sake of my own
productivity (office 'forces' to get things done) as well as liking
the place and people there. Additional advantages of the office for me
are also improved communication and separating personal time and work
hours a bit better. Communication part can also be a disadvantage at
times but during those days I can stay home.

On Mar 1, 2009, at 11:56 AM, Adrian Howard wrote:
> Nobody is saying that distributed teams can't do good work. Just
> that - compared to co-located teams in good working environments -
> they're under a disadvantage.

That's some major disadvantage btw, especially so when you deal with
big(ger) groups. This gets even more scary if people are spread over
different time-zones. My team has been trying to bend over our backs
to avoid these situations the last few years and notably even as we
speak. Let's see how things work out, though. Communication, help,
ideas, critique etc are just so much easier to arrange that it seems
to be worth fighting for for us.

Again, not to say that it's not possible to do good/excellent work
with distributed team, but I've found it to be harder.

Best regards,

- Janne Kaasalainen

1 Mar 2009 - 4:36am
Adrian Howard
2005

On 1 Mar 2009, at 10:23, Janne Kaasalainen wrote:
[snip]
> On Mar 1, 2009, at 11:56 AM, Adrian Howard wrote:
>> Nobody is saying that distributed teams can't do good work. Just
>> that - compared to co-located teams in good working environments -
>> they're under a disadvantage.
>
> That's some major disadvantage btw, especially so when you deal with
> big(ger) groups. This gets even more scary if people are spread over
> different time-zones. My team has been trying to bend over our backs
> to avoid these situations the last few years and notably even as we
> speak. Let's see how things work out, though. Communication, help,
> ideas, critique etc are just so much easier to arrange that it seems
> to be worth fighting for for us.

++ to you!

Too often people accept the status quo when it comes to a working
environment rather than fight to change it for the better. Don't
accept the context you're given until you've spent some effort trying
to get the one that you need.

>
> Again, not to say that it's not possible to do good/excellent work
> with distributed team, but I've found it to be harder.

Me too.

Adrian

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