Working from home…

For those wondering about how my game is coming along, here is a quick update: I’m very close to what I’d consider beta. All features are now in, the game strikes me as very stable, and it can be played from start-to-finish in every way.

Aside from “polish”, “balance”, “bugs”, (which could take a million years) and replacing the temporary text with final text, it’s done. I anticipate hitting beta in about two more weeks and then I work on the aforementioned until it’s good enough. And, yes, I know it was more than a month ago when I said I was probably “about two more weeks away from beta”. This ended up being far more demanding than I anticipated.

Now that the update is out of the way, I want to take a moment to tell you all how uncertain I was about being able to successfully work from home, even though… *VFX of fading back through time*

… The first time I ever worked from home came when I was working at BioWare — I think it was the first half of 2003. The video game press were visiting to play a game that we were working on (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic).

Our power situation was such that setting up a dozen computers for the press would exceed our supply and cause the power to go out. Leadership considered the best solution and opted to let some people, such as many of us on the QA team, work from home.

My first day home, I did not wake up as if I had to be at work by 9am (or even my more usual 10:30am). I slept in. I slept until I felt like getting out of bed, which was probably early afternoon, and then I took my time actually waking up and easing into the half-gone day.

I repeated this throughout my “sorta” workcation until I had to return to the office. Then I checked out the stats for my average performance versus my performance from home. I’m sure this will surprise no one, but I was far more productive from home despite feeling like I was being lazy.

That’s where I’m at right now. I sleep until noon. I shower. I catch up on Facebook. I eat breakfast and drink some tea. And then I start working until what would technically be lunch — except it’s coming at 7pm or 8pm. Afterward, I work a little more until it’s time to watch some TV or movies with Candice and go to bed to start the whole thing over.

I remember reading or discussing the topic of how many hours of productivity managers were looking for, and discovered that 20 hours of productive work for a junior or mid-level employee was considered good, and you hoped your senior-level staff could hit 30 hours.

To everyone who is working a 40-hour week (or far, far more, as I always did as a teacher), maybe that sounds like a vacation. But from your day, consider what’s left after you chop out time for bathroom breaks, coffee breaks, lunch breaks, chats around the water cooler, time spent goofing off on the Internet or at the foosball table, reading and responding to e-mails (whether or not for work), and enduring agonizingly-long meeting (unless you’re one of those who love meetings and think they’re super productive. I was always happier being left out from them). Commutes may even be a part of your work day. Chop all that out and only mark the time spent being productive. 30 hours may sound impossible after that.

But aside from two light weeks in the last couple of months, I’m hitting between 31 and 43 productive hours per week. And while I’m usually a bit brain dead by the end of the week, this feels very sustainable. In fact, it’s bordering on relaxing. Sometimes I have to force myself to take the weekend off. By Monday, I’m itching to get going again.

The point is that while I initially wasn’t sure if I had what it took to be disciplined enough to remain productive while working from home, once again I am finding that I am likely getting more done than I would were I at an office. It makes me wonder why more businesses-that-can don’t allow their employees to do this — especially when programs like Skype even make meetings easy.

If you’re curious about this idea and don’t want to take my word for it, check out this article (and here are the slides) or listen to some of the smarter companies out there who are also realizing that getting everyone in the same building isn’t always important.

What do you think?