To Remote, or Not to Remote, That is the Question - Thoughts from Referential's Barb Leavy


I recently read an article proposing that remote workers are outperforming traditional office workers and it made me reflect on the difference between the two work environments.

As a remote employee for the last several years, preceded by working in a traditional office environment for nearly twice as much time, I certainly have experience in both, so it got me thinking: Do I miss being in an office?…Yes, sometimes; Do I enjoy the short commute, not to mention the casual dress attire of working from a home office…absolutely!

While reflecting on the joys and challenges of telecommuting, I started to wonder if being remote or physically in an office changes an employee’s productivity level. How many of us, no matter where we work, still check and respond to emails in the evening, plan what we need to accomplish tomorrow while eating dinner, or reflect on what we did not accomplish during the day while laying in bed at night?

One could certainly argue that an office environment invites more collaboration and thus productivity, but with current technology it is very easy to connect with your co-workers even if they are not just a cubicle away. As for distractions, there are countless ways to lose focus in both office and home environments, from casual, meandering conversations with coworkers that run longer than expected while in the office to pet dogs that vocalize their need to go out every hour when working from home.

Personally, when I worked in an office, I felt disrupted more often. When I work from home, I often realize all of the sudden that it is 2:00 pm and I haven’t had lunch yet! When I finally get around to that meal, it usually consists of a mouse in one hand and a sandwich in another and as someone once said to me, just make sure you don’t mistake one for the other! The environment that helps an employee focus will differ from individual to individual. Reflecting on your own personal work habits (and willingness to adapt them) can help you determine whether working remotely will impact your productivity level.

Many people ask me, “how do you do it…I could never work from home!” I will agree that being a remote employee is certainly an adjustment and that transitioning from a traditional work environment may not be for everyone. Working remotely is like a long-distance relationship, it can be difficult at first but over time it can be very successful. You just need to keep in mind, just like maintaining that long-distance relationship, that working remotely takes a great amount of dedication, focus and commitment. As much as possible, keep to a schedule (just like you would if you were going to an office), do try to take short breaks when you can and at some point, shut down that laptop and try to enjoy your home as your home and not as your office!

The one thing I can say for sure, when you work from home…you never come home from work!