Based on a survey of 1,013 American office workers, conducted in June by Wakefield Research, 43 percent watch TV or a movie and 20 percent play video games while officially working from home. Parents are more likely than those without children to partake in these two activities, which aren’t work-related.
Employees might not even be sober: 24 percent admit to having a drink. Twenty-six percent say they take naps. Others are distracted by housekeeping: 35 percent do household chores; 28 percent cook dinner.
Yet despite all the distractions, telecommuters are actually more productive than their peers in the office, according to preliminary findings from Stanford University’s study of a Chinese travel agency.
Jack M. Nilles, founder of management consulting firm, JALA International, says in an e-mail, “If an employee is doing the work and producing the desired results, what difference does it make if he/she includes a nap or cooking or a school play in the so-called work day?” He adds: “The whole point of teleworking, from the employee’s point of view, is the ability to fit one’s work into the rest of one’s life, not the other way around, as is the case in the ‘traditional’ office. The point of teleworking, from the employer’s point of view, is that its bottom-line benefits (productivity gains, space savings, employee retention, etc.) far exceed any feared risks of losses.”
Sharon Davis, who runs the website 2work-at-home.com and does other work from her home in Fort Bragg, Calif., says, “Whether it’s expected or O.K. [to do other things during work hours] depends on the arrangement you have with your employer and what their expectations are. If they give you complete autonomy to get your work done and don’t care if you hold certain hours, go knock yourself out.” Davis, who did a phone interview with me in her pajamas while watching morning television, says she takes advantage of the flexibility that working from home provides, especially when it comes to caring for her children. Still, she warns that turning on the TV can easily become a big time waster.
Half of survey takers say their bosses oppose the practice of working from home. Kim DeCarlis, Citrix’s vice president for corporate marketing, says in an e-mail that it’s not surprising that workers allow themselves to get distracted at home. “It speaks to the fluidity with which people are moving between work and life today,” she says. “Work no longer happens just between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. from Monday through Friday. Life is no longer squeezed in on the weekends and evenings. These days, it’s more a question of who hasn’t checked and responded to a work e-mail on a weekend or while attending a child’s sport activity.”
Citrix’s survey revealed other workplace habits. For example, the top reason employees sneak out in the middle of the day is to exercise, followed by “changing clothes,” “getting hair done,” and “taking a nap.”