Eli is KHIT’s lead developer and has been with the company since October 2019. He kicks off our Work From Home blog series with a real-talk assessment of the difference between office and home-office.
The time is 7:00 AM. Your alarm clock is dutifully emitting a harsh buzz to wake you from your peaceful slumber – a brutal reminder that it is indeed a brand new day. As you complete your morning routine in the laziest of fogs for the 5,000th time, it becomes increasingly harder to suppress a familiar thought: “Man, this sucks.” The time is now 7:45 AM.
After slogging through half an hour of questionably self-aware commuters, you at last find yourself at the office. After completing the ancient ritual of awkward smiling and uninteresting small talk, you finally make it to your desk. The time is now 8:30 AM. You look at today’s schedule – a solid three hours of meetings that could have been emails to start the day. You’d like to get some serious work in before they start, but they don’t start until 9, and it’ll take half an hour just to get into a decent workflow. You instead elect to fetch some coffee and mentally prepare for hours of near-useless boredom.
The time is now 12:00 PM – the meetings are over, you’ve had lunch (a utilitarian ham & cheese at your desk), and it’s high time to actually contribute to the workplace. You work diligently with some breaks here and there until everything that needed done is done. Luckily, there’s no mid-afternoon meetings and it goes rather smoothly — a rare treat. The time is now 6:00 PM. Exhausted, you retreat through the webs of traffic and make your way back home. By the time you are able to enjoy the evening’s leisure, the clock that so rudely awoke you that morning now reads 7:00 PM.
Twelve hours have elapsed since your day started. Of those twelve hours, one hour was spent getting ready, one hour was spent commuting (if you’re lucky), one or two hours were spent talking with coworkers or waiting for the next thing to happen, two or three hours (typically more) were spent in largely unnecessary meetings, and five or six hours were spent doing actual productive work.
Let’s be honest – the current model of working at a centralized, physical workplace is a huge waste of time, particularly if you work in tech. As a recent college grad whose first job at a large software company was very similar to the scenario described above, I was absolutely floored at how much time is simply wasted on a daily basis, from the lowest on the totem pole (read: me) to even my manager’s manager and almost certainly beyond. I later left the job for mostly unrelated reasons and eventually joined the team here at KHIT, where I currently work from home every day. The difference was quite difficult to get used to at first – the lack of commuting alone was completely foreign to me – but once I settled into a routine, I discovered that the increase of personal work responsibility and lack of distractions allows for a much more efficient work schedule and a better overall attitude when going through it.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that working from home automatically makes you super-efficient or completely eliminates all wasted time. Realistically, the five or six hours spent doing in-depth work are only upped to six or maybe seven hours on average, depending on the tasks that need done. If I’m being honest, the likelihood of me hitting the snooze button surely increases. But the benefit doesn’t lie solely in productivity, really — at the end of the day, no matter where or how you do it, you’ll probably get a similar amount of work accomplished if you want to keep your job.
For me, the real benefits of working from home are found in the removal of monotonous day-to-day drudgery that can often ruin a day (well, for me). In a remotely based company, all the meetings that should be emails are emails, and the ones that shouldn’t are accomplished just as well in the internet world as in the physical world. I don’t have to wake up exhausted at 7 AM. I don’t have to spend an hour or two commuting. Instead of making idle chit-chat with coworkers and waiting for meetings to start, I can go directly to my laptop and immediately get started on a task. When I get hungry, I can use the time I saved not commuting to make something better than a ham sandwich – or if it’s a busier day, I can use that time to make room for an extra hour or two of work. If I want to take a break and go for a walk at 1 PM on a gorgeous day, I can do just that. I now have extra hours of free time that were impossible before; not because I’m doing less work (if anything I do more now), but because I can avoid time-wasting activities that are not just common, but integral to working at a physical office.
The point is, I no longer have to spend 12 or more hours a day away from my own home, locked away in a fluorescent hellscape with, let’s admit it, people I don’t really care for. What’s the point of doing so if you can still accomplish what you need to on your own accord?
Are there benefits to a physical workplace? Sure. I can’t deny that there are certain advantages to working in person and that many people prefer it. But shouldn’t it be a choice? Why do it five days a week?
Let’s do a quick calculation. In December of 2019, there were 130 million full-time workers in the U.S. About 5 million of them are listed as software engineers, not including other technical occupations . Let’s say that each one, like I used to, commutes a total of 1 hour every day (again – if you’re lucky). Assuming 251 official U.S. working days for each person in a year , simply eliminating the commute to and from work would save 1.26 billion hours that could be used for work, or literally anything else that isn’t a total waste of time. And that’s not including the other hours of wasted time which would easily bring that up to at least 3 billion hours of total wasted time per year. That’s just software engineers.
I understand that not everyone is suited for working at home, and it presents its own unique set of challenges. However, these challenges are easily overcome and are miniscule compared to the miserable drudgery of day-to-day work at a physical location. Even if it’s just a couple days a week, having the option to work from home would be a step in the right direction for all parties involved, increasing productivity and decreasing time-wasting annoyances.
It’s time for the tech industry to seriously consider making remotely based work the more common, and eventually the default way to operate.