Working from home is like saying no to drugs

Whenever the topic of working from home comes up, I always find myself defending my productivity. A colleague will say, “Well, it’s nice, but you’re just not as productive as if you were in the office.” Something about the argument never sat well with me, and I’ve finally nailed down what it is: it treats productivity as if it’s the only thing that matters.

Frankly, I don’t really care if I am less productive working from home than in the office. Productivity is only one variable in a complex equation. Another very important variable is personal happiness. I want to be productive, but I also want to be happy, and sometimes those goals conflict and I have to sacrifice one for the other. Working from home is where I am potentially sacrificing productivity for happiness. Now, to be clear, I’m not conceding that working from home makes me less productive, but instead I’m saying that I really don’t care. It’s a moot point in the argument.

There’s a lot of evidence that Adderall makes you more productive. Many college students use it regularly as a performance enhancing drug to study harder and longer. It stands to reason that many knowledge workers would benefit from a productivity increase by taking Adderall. Ignoring for the moment that Adderall is a Schedule II substance that will land you in jail, what if your employer started handing out Adderall every morning? You might say, “I don’t want to take it.” The reply, “Well, that’s nice, but you’re just not as productive as if you were on Adderall.” To me, that’s the same argument as asking everyone to come into the office to maximize productivity.

If maximizing productivity for the company is all that matters, then you should never drink alcohol, always get a good night’s sleep but not too much, take an even measure of Adderall and caffeine every day, never have children, and take all sick relatives off life support. Ridiculous, right? That’s because workplace productivity is not the be-all-end-all of our lives. And for me, working from home provides the right balance of productivity and happiness.

Update: There’s some good discussion on Hacker News, but as I expected, most of the debate is around whether or not you’re more productive at home. Instead of asking, Am I more productive?, look at the other side and ask, Am I happier? If the answer is no, then working from home probably isn’t for you. If the answer is yes, then think hard about how valuable productivity is versus your own happiness.

Tags: wfh