The Office Illusion

Ezra Klein lauds the productivity benefits of working from home. I myself have rarely been in the office (either first the Prospect office and then the Atlantic office) for about a year now, and I agree that the productivity benefits of not going to work are quite large. One factor is shorter commutes, which Ezra points to.

To me, though, the biggest issue is what I think of as the office illusion. When I'm in an office, I feel as if by being in the office I am, as such, working. Thus, minor questions like am I getting any work done? can tend to slip away. Similarly, when I came into an office every day, I felt like I couldn't just leave the office just because I didn't want to do anymore work, so I would kind of foot-drag on things to make sure whatever task I had stretched out to fill the entire working day. If I'm not in an office, by contrast, I'm acutely aware that I have a budget of tasks that need to be accomplished, that "working" means finishing some of those tasks, and that when the tasks are done, I can go to the gym or go see a movie or watch TV. Thus, I tend to work in a relatively focused, disciplined manner and then go do something other than work rather than slack off.