Office Redefined: Why an Out-of-Office Career May Be Calling Your Name


My own decorated office on the top floor of some New York skyscraper with an amazing view, like the ones you see in the movies- that’s one of my dreams. Being in an office makes you feel like you’re important, like you’re a somebody.

Currently, as a virtual intern for Her Agenda, I don’t have a set office to work in. I have the freedom to work anywhere I want, whether it’s at home in my pajamas, the public library, or one of my favorite coffee shops. My editor and I have never met in person; we live on complete opposites of the country and communicate solely through phone, email, instant messaging, and video chat. We have our weekly meetings on Mondays in between my two college classes; I wave to her from my school’s cafeteria via Skype. This is an example of today’s “workshifter.”

Workshifting, a website which provides out-of-office workers with the latest telecommuting tools, defines the term as “an updated definition for “telecommuting” and “remote working”, that refers to the ability of being part of a distributed workforce, working from outside of the office and shifting one’s work habits to achieve a better work-life balance.” To get a better idea what this actually means, watch the quick video clip below:

What it comes down to is this- working outside of an office has been a really insightful and fun experience, and I am enjoying it tremendously. It has made me question whether the office setting is really what I want.  Now of course, working outside of an office isn’t for everyone; some professions require constant contact with their team, and others simply need the structure of an office setting to stay focused. But what about the rest of us? There must also be people out there who don’t prosper in the 9 to 5 office setting.

Stanford Economics Professor, Nicholas Bloom, worked with James Liang, cofounder of Chinese travel site, Ctrip, to do a nine month study which recorded the productivity of workers both inside and outside of the office. The staff at Ctrip’s call center was asked which of them would like to work from home for nine months. Out of the total number of staff members who volunteered to work from home, half were given permission to telecommute; the rest of them remained in the office. Bloom reports the results of the study:

“We found that people working from home completed 13.5% more calls than the staff in the office did—meaning that Ctrip got almost an extra workday a week out of them. They also quit at half the rate of people in the office—way beyond what we anticipated. And predictably, at-home workers reported much higher job satisfaction.”

You would think that working outside of the office, workers would be less productive without the structure of the office setting. Ctrip believed this to be true, as one of the key reasons they agreed to do the study was only because they thought it would help them to save money on space and furniture. However, the results from the study proved the benefits to be even greater. Bloom reveals his reasoning behind the surprising results:

“One-third of the productivity increase, we think, was due to having a quieter environment, which makes it easier to process calls. At home people don’t experience what we call the “cake in the break room” effect. Offices are actually incredibly distracting places. The other two-thirds can be attributed to the fact that the people at home worked more hours. They started earlier, took shorter breaks, and worked until the end of the day.”

Still not finding these facts convincing? Check out this visual that maps out statistical difference between happy workers and sad workers.

outofoffice_how to work from home telecommute or workshift successfully

In a new book, Out of Office: How to Work from Home, Telecommute, or Workshift SuccessfullySimon Salt shares some of the key reasons why he finds the transition from the traditional workplace to out-of-office living beneficial. Here are four of them:

Sydney Love

About Sydney Love

After taking a year off to do some soul searching, Sydney is now continuing her studies at the school that originally stole her heart- Agnes Scott College, a small women’s college in Decatur, Georgia. She plans to pursue an English-Literature major and an Africana Studies minor. When Sydney's not busy with her studies, you can find her tutoring on campus, reviewing local coffee shops for her personal blog, or writing for Agnes Scott's college newspaper, The Profile. Follow her on Twitter: @mssalove
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