Am I More Productive When I Work from Home – or Less Productive

PatioHow does working from home impact my productivity?

I don’t actually know.

I am a knowledge worker, I am employed for my knowledge and for the way that I help things to change and move forward. I am employed for the way that I resolve problems and find paths through tricky situations.

It’s important to me that I am productive, it’s also important to my employer.

I have the opportunity to work in a number of different locations, one of my favourites is to work from home. But there are parts of working from home that worry me.

In order to understand how working from home impacts my productivity I need to understand how I measure my productivity. So what do I produce – well knowledge of course. But clearly that knowledge in my head is useless. I need to be sharing that knowledge in ways that make a difference to others.

So can I just measure my output in number of email, pages of documents, etc.?

Well actually – no I can’t. Because measure the quantity of what I produce is the wrong measure. What people actually want from me is quality, not quantity. They don’t employ me to be a chef at MacDonald they employ me to be a chef at that nice little Italian restaurant around the corner where they always have something new and interesting. I still have to produce something, but it’s not the quantity that is important.

So can I define a measure that measures the number of quality outcomes?

I think I can tell when my input has resulted in a change. I think I can also tell the occasions when I am not adding any value at all. The times when I am not adding value tend to be characterised by a complete lack of interest on my behalf, that’s quite an easy measure. But I struggle to tell the size of the impact when I am adding value.

So can I just tell by how many times people come back to me?

People will not normally return to a shop if they have received bad service, the same is true for all of us knowledge workers. If we don’t come up with the goods they won’t bother coming back. It’s, therefore, true to say that if I get a high level of return business then I am probably doing a good job. The problem with this measure is that if the return business drops off it’s too late.

I, therefore, decided that a single measure approach was the wrong way to go and have decided to go for a range of measures approach, qualitative and quantitative in order to measure my impact.

Productivity – Range of Measures

The table below shows the areas that I am measuring and the results from yesterday:

Measure Weight Home Working Office Working
Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Total Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Total
Emails – replied to/initiated 1 7     7       0
Emails – return business 3 3     9       0
Knowledge expansion activities 2 2     4       0
Meetings – adding value 2 2     4       0
Meetings – participation 1 2     2       0
Meetings – return business 3 0     0       0
Out of work activities 2 5     10       0
Phone calls – adding value 2 3     6       0
Phone calls – received 1 6     6       0
Phone calls – return business 3 1     3       0
Grand Total         51       0

I’m still not sure I’ve captured everything but it seems like a sensible list of things to include, and I’m not beyond adjusting the weighting as I go along.

The one thing I haven’t included is the creation of any documentation, and there is a reason for this. Generally documentation that I produce is the result of knowledge sharing and development that has already occurred; I’m just documenting it so that there is a permanent record.

I’ve also added in a measure for ‘out of work activities’ because the impact that my working environment has on this will be very interesting. Writing a blog entry is included in this list.

I’ll also be measuring similar days in order to avoid spikes from Mondays and Fridays.

Meetings aren’t always face-to-face either, if it’s a teleconference it’s included in the meetings list rather than in the phone call list.

As well as I am able

Great CloudsMy new strap line for this blog is “as well as I am able”. This line actually has a bit of history to it.

It’s actually the Chastney family official motto and included in our coat of arms; but that is something that was only discovered by my father’s generation. Before that it was always a motto for the way that the Chastney family lived their life and was even a common saying in the family. It obviously stuck and was passed down through the generations.

We have never been people to angst about perfection, but have been comfortable in doing the best that we can. It doesn’t mean we are sloppy or anything, it just means that we try to do the best we can. If our best is good enough then that’s great, if it isn’t then fine, that’s not our problem.

The Chastney problem is often that our best is often much better than other peoples good enough.

Today is WATER day.

WaterI have decided that I should at least try to go without coffee, and definitely get away from the habit of having a coffee first thing.

So today is WATER day.

Actually feel quite invigorated today anyway. I went out for my morning walk. There is a wood near where I live and the blue-bells were out, the dew was just lifting and it was fabulous.

Coffee Release – Failure

My Coffee Mug

Well it’s time for a confession. I wrote a few weeks ago about wanting to kick the coffee habit. I even wrote about managing for two days. Anyone who actually reads this blog will have noticed that I haven’t talked about it since. Well that’s because I’ve been an out-and-out failure. If you want to form a new habit you need to work at it for something like 40 days. Clearly 2 days is nowhere near 40.

But do I try again? I haven’t decided yet.

I notice that Steve is yet again well focussed and managing to cross of his resolutions. ah well, perhaps some of us aren’t made that way (I would have linked to him, but he seems to have deleted it).

Another view on the story that someone sent me.

IMG_1647My friend Lee left me this comment on one of my posts (you know the one with a story of a professor who talks about the things that fit into a jar):

Nice message. It’s only too easy (maybe more so for men) to have only 2 contents in the jar, pebbles and sand. Instead of golf balls I may fill my jar with only a few tennis balls as any free time is spent with my immediate close family, I need to make an effort to visit my parents, brother and sister, and further extended family. People I sometimes come across in my work life make me forget that I actually work to live and don’t live to work!

Lee and I work in the same organisation so I am going to avoid talking about specific people, but how true he is. Work is about work for so many people, they are focussed on work and little else. But I believe that there is so more to life than that. I have been trying to formulate my thoughts over a few posts, these are all under the “My Time” category.

Working for Others


As part of studies in to my mission statement I recently listened to a sermon from Knox County Vineyard in which the Pastor references studies about happiness during retirement for people who volunteer.

It’s one of my objectives to “Devoting my time to the service of others and in so doing discover God’s purposes for the Cross of Jesus Christ”. I’ve not set myself this objective in order to get a happy retirement, I have set it because I believe that it is the call of the Christian to serve others. But it’s interesting to note that God honours those who connect with His purposes (even if they don’t know they are).

Someone just sent me this…

Someone just sent me this, it kind of fits with my current thoughts.

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar…and the 2 cups of coffee.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him.When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls.

He asked the students if the jar was full.They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly, and the pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.

He then asked the students again if the jar was full; they agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else.

He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “yes.”

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

“Now,” said the professor, as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognise that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things: your family, your children, your health, your friends, and your favourite passions, things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter–like your job, your house, and your car. The sand is everything else: The small stuff.”

“If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first, the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just filler.”

One of the students raised his hand and enquired what the coffee represented.

The professor smiled. “I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.”