As a computer programmer, I’ve worked in a corporate setting for over 20 years. For the past ten years I’ve worked from home, going into the office usually only once a week, so I think I'm in a good position to provide detailed summaries of both realities. Let's take a look at a typical workday for me at home (the real “me,”) and me in the office (“me” being a composite of the many office-mates I’ve had through the years).
Working from Home
7 a.m. - 4 p.m.
7:00: I sit down at my desk in sweats and a t-shirt with a cup of coffee, activate my computer.
7:05: I scroll through my work emails to see if anything urgent happened since I logged off the night before. If not, I pull up my personal emails and respond as needed.
7:15 - 8:30: I scan my newsfeeds via twitter to see what happened in the world while I was asleep.
8:30 - 9:00: I check the weather forecast etc., warming up to the idea of thinking about maybe getting to work.
9:00 - 10:30: Procrastination over, I actually work.
10:30 - 11:00: Work continues with a conference call. Read online newspaper during meeting.
11:00 - 11:30: Too close to lunch to get any more computer work done, so . . . a little housework.
11:30- 12:30: Lunch hour! But not really. I usually do one of the following:
A. Mow the lawn
B. Empty the dishwasher
C. Ride my stationary bike
12:30 - 1:00: Eat last night’s meatloaf at my desk while working (if there’s a time-sensitive project) or scanning newsfeeds.
1:00 - 2:30: Work continues.
2:30 - 3:00: Break time: I fold clothes, clean up from lunch, or take a walk if the weather is nice.
3:00 - 4:00: Wrap up whatever work I need to finish for the day, then read my newsfeeds and hope no co-workers contact me before 4:00.
4:45: Get a call from my boss. I answer it because she thinks I might be gone golfing so she's checking up on me.
Working in the Office
8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
8:00: Park, lock my car, and head towards the building. Being parked by 8:00 is considered “on time” because it's not my fault the parking lot is so far away from my office. Plus, the elevator takes forever.
8:10: Activate my computer then head to the break room to get coffee. If the coffee pot is empty, make a new pot and wait for it to finish. No one else is there yet.
8:30 - 9:30: Back at my desk I go through work emails and then personal emails. Hearing co-workers’ voices, I wander back to the break room to hang out for a while and discuss the absence of a Starbucks in the building, how much we hate our jobs, “the Man,” and non-present co-workers.
9:30 - 10:00: Check newsfeeds while being subjected to a loud conference call that Leesha two cubicles down puts on speaker phone.
10:00 - 10:30: Go downstairs, walk outside at least twenty feet from the building, and take a smoke break with the handful of employees left who smoke.
10:30 – 10:45: Work, alternating with video games on my cell phone.
10:45 - 11:20: Attend a meeting. Everyone except the person giving the presentation plays with his/her cell phone.
11:20 - 11:45: After the meeting, hang out in the conference room and argue with co-workers about where to go for lunch.
11:45 - 1:15: I win! It’s the Japanese steakhouse around the corner. Eight of us sit and watch the chef do an impressive stir-fry on the grill in front of us. We all split three slices of fried cheesecake.
1:15 - 1:20: Drop off the to-go box with leftovers at my desk.
1:20 - 1:45: Smoke break, then I take the Wall Street Journal to the restroom.
1:45 - 2:00: Back at my desk. Across the aisle Kip yawns/growls like King Kong, burps loudly, and makes other bodily noises I haven’t heard since the 5th grade. He hollers at me that he just sent me a funny video.
2:00 - 2:15: I check out the YouTube link of “hilarious cat farting.” A few other videos catch my eye, so I return the favor via an email to Kip.
2:15 - 3:00: I wander down the corridor, alert Kip to the email I just sent, pause at Rodney’s desk, and we discuss either:
A. Our previous night's league softball game
B. Fantasy baseball or football
C. How much we hate our jobs, “The Man,” and non-present co-workers
D. How hilarious that “cat farting” video was that Kip just sent
3:00 - 3:15: The afternoon’s flying by so it’s time to multi-task: Coffee break and smoke break.
3:15 – 3:45: Get afternoon work done while wearing headphones and posting IM status as “busy” so no one will bother me before 5:00 quitting time.
3:45 – 4:45: Catch up on Facebook, twitter, and my gaming forum.
4:45: Time to leave! Woo-hoo!
4: 46: Get a call from the boss on my cell phone. I ignore it; she should have called me on my work phone before I left for the day.
So yes, there are advantages to working from home. Although, I would argue that my typical work clothes are a step up from the “casual” office-wear I’ve seen some of my co-workers show up in. But all in all, the idea that you can measure productivity by the number of hours that someone “shows up” is absurd.