Is Working from Home More Productive?

work from home

Updated 5/30/2020

I work out of my home. That was a conscious choice almost exactly three years ago when I worked at an agency just 12 miles away. I would leave the house before my (then) 6 year old son was off to school. Most of the time, I would get home as he was either going to bed or already in bed.

As I approached the 4-year mark of doing this, I did a quick search on the health impacts of remote work. The articles that come up are polarizing, but it seemed like a good opportunity to try to and quantify the effects on me.

I didn’t have a bad commute. It was about 30 minutes to go 12 miles. Instantly, that disappeared and left me with 1 hour per workday – 5 hours per week. Add that up over three years working 50 weeks per year, and I’ve saved 1,000 hours or 16.5 days of time.

What did I do with that time? It basically got split 50/50 between (mostly) daily trips to the gym and work. So thanks to remote work, I gave my clients an additional 8 days of work over three years – just because a commute didn’t exist. Imagine someone with a 2 hour commute.

You know what you can also do when you’re not behind the wheel of a car? Read. I was lucky to make it through a magazine before. Over the last 3 years, I’ve knocked out 36 books per year in 10 minutes of reading here or there. Granted, some of the books sucked but at least I wasn’t in traffic.

Midway through my agency life, I’m sad to say I let some things go. I hit my all-time high in weight at 205 pounds. That’s a 28.6 BMI for someone my height – on the high side of overweight thanks to stress, happy hours, impromptu birthday cakes, and three lunches per week at restaurants. Thankfully, when I left, I had dropped down to the 185 range (somehow still the low end of overweight!)

Four years later, thanks to time freed up in the morning, I come in at about 170 pounds (normal range.) More importantly, no more man boobs! I’m assuming some internal metrics like blood pressure will look better too, though I really wasn’t thinking about that at the time.

Many of those calories were directly thanks to work-related alcohol. A happy hour here. A “let’s discuss over a beer” there. Since being at home, my alcohol intake has been cut by more than half. You’d be amazed at how those add up if you keep track of them. This is likely the main reason for the weight loss, but I’m likely more coherent in meetings. Not feeling terrible is a nice side effect.

As you’d probably guess, you don’t drive as much when you work remote. In fact, it’s a lot less for me. I used to fill my tank (15 gallons) up about once per week or so. I now refill every 3 – 4 weeks (call it 3.5). So, keeping with the same pattern, I would have filled ~3,000 gallons of gas over the last four years. I’ve filled ~850 gallons. A difference of 2,150 gallons (approximately $4,300 of gas money at $2 per gallon).

Those 3x/week restaurant lunches? Gone. Those cost me about $12 per lunch or $7,200 saved over four years.

Mental Health:
I saw a recent article about working from home adversely affecting your mental health. I don’t really have a number for this but would make this counterpoint:

When you leave a job with people you talked to every day and considered your friends, how many do you stay in touch with after you leave? My count is about 12. Only twelve! My company had 125 people working there. I guess many of us were only really friendly when we needed something (myself included). While there are some isolating days at home, you know what I’m ready to do at the end of the day? Talk to my family. Hang out with friends. Call someone. Good luck getting me to do that a few years ago when I was a shell of myself at the end of the day.

Oh, and I’ve probably seen my son more in the last 3 years than in the first 6 years of his life. I’ve taken him to lessons, practices, clubs, and school activities. I’m pretty sure other parents at his school think I’m unemployed.

Final Tally:
Dropped 15 pounds
Saved roughly $11,500 between gas and lunches
9% reduction in BMI score
Less than 1/2 the alcohol consumption
Average of 20-30 additional books read per year
Worked more total hours

Obviously, results are probably mixed. All I can definitively say is that the working from home setup works for me.

Flywheel Demand