Working from home is not more productive for most people!

The WFH home army hates to hear this! Yikes! But it’s true. While a small percentage of workers, overall, around 10% are actually more productive, the vast majority of people just don’t have the self-awareness and drive to be as productive as they are when they are in an environment that is designed to have them do work.

The media will never tell you this because it’s not popular and won’t get clicked.

Do you know what has happened since the beginning of the pandemic? The golf industry has exploded! Some Stanford researchers, who golfed, started to realize that the golf courses seemed really busy. Like really, really, busy! And these courses were busy during times when they shouldn’t be busy, like mid-afternoon on a Wednesday. You know, the time when folks should be working!

They discovered they could use satellite technology paired with GPS and cell phone data to map out traffic at golf courses. This gave them a picture of what this looked like pre-pandemic and what it looks like today. What do you think they found?

First, you have to understand that prior to the pandemic the golf industry was hurting. Average rounds of golf were down and trending down year over year for a long time. They had this old white guy problem. Meaning old white guys were the biggest participants in golf, and that demographic was getting older and dying.

Here’s what Stanford discovered about working from home and golf:

  • There was an 83% increase in mid-week day golfing from pre-pandemic to post-pandemic. All those WFH folks weren’t actually working all they said they were working!
  • There was a 278% increase at 4 pm. So, we have some hope for those who maybe just were cutting out a little early.
  • The pandemic has led to a golf boom with folks wanting to get outside, but weekend trips to courses were far less of an increase to weekday visits. So, yes, more people are golfing overall due to the pandemic, but weekday golf has exploded with WFH.

I know! I know! This is only one small little study. I’m sure you’re still WAY more productive working at home than you were in the office. But you’re not, or most likely you’re not, but that’s just because you have low self-awareness!

I think most of us just get confused with short-term productivity vs. long-term sustained productivity. The BLS shows productivity of workers has dropped off a cliff, so we really can’t make the WFH productivity argument any longer. I do think for short-term bursts of productivity working from home or someplace where you don’t get interrupted can make you feel way more productive. But day in, day out, over the long haul, working around others who are working will help you sustain your productivity.

I know you hate to hear this. Working at home is so lovely! Plus, you get those great golf tee times during the day!

8 thoughts on “Working from home is not more productive for most people!

  1. Yeah I believe most people would disagree about the unproductiveness mentioned about working from home. The majority of people require some sort of flexibility in an ever so changing economy and that’s why these working models have proven to alleviate a ton of stress for a large percentage of the working class. has effectively accomplished this with their tools designed to facilitate the adoption of hybrid/remote work for any company looking to make this positive shift. It has certainly assisted me in adapting to the evolving era of remote work and is certainly worth exploring!

  2. To be frank, I’ve been reading your stuff less and less because of a lessening of usefulness, relevance and accuracy.

    You seem to be seeking ‘hot takes’ (Fox News) and less ‘wading into the weeds for detail’ (NPR) as of late.

    This piece is an excellent example. I actually wonder if you looked at the BLS information at the link you included. (I’m deliberately not using the reports that came out since your post BTW).

    The below link would probably have been when you published this the most recent report from the BLS page (OPT) that you linked to:

    The sectors that had productivity that fell off a cliff include Drycleaning (-13.6), Diganostic Labs (-6.8), Warehousing (-9.6) and Railroads (-8.2) …. none of those scream ‘work from home’ to me, and (all) scream the opposite to me (Diagnostic Lab WFH anyone? 🙂 )

    Those with big increases include Air Transport (+13.9), Wireless Telcom (+8.4), Travel Reservation Services (+15.5) and Amusement Parks (+16.3) and 2 of those are capital-heavy industries rebounding post-covid with in-person coming back … and Travel Reservations Services.. fairly screams ‘Work From Home’ to me… MANY others that would be well suited to work from home (Finance, Banking, Professional Services all had modest improvements.

    The source you cite… as near as I can tell does not account for Age…. a BIG factor in our population (and labor dynamics now)….

    This chart shows a big bump in the % above 16 who are retired since Covid:

    So I have some concerns about the golf report actually being a useful indicator of anything… other than Boomers are retiring?

    You can do better.. and in the past have done better than this.

  3. I am not sure I can agree here. Is it just about work from home or is it about the fact that a lot of us now have to extend ourselves beyond the 9 to 5 to be able to work with team-mates who are not in our time-zone and so we take the time out at ‘unusual’ hours to ensure that we don’t work 16 hours a day and burn ourselves out? Golf may sound like a nice to have but there is exercise, networking and greenery in the mix which is good for creativity.

    The issue of going to the office is not necessarily the fact that you are in the office (regardless of set-up) but it is the commute time that is, generally, hours wasted. I would also suggest that if you are not able to be productive at home, you have probably figured out how not to be overly productive at work too so is there really a difference?

  4. Sorry Tim – Most of your posts are helpful tips and fully researched strategies that make sense. But you’re way off base with this one. Knowing you, it probably was intended to poke the bear and generate comments. I agree with the person who speaks to the flexibility of a WFH life that allows one to golf during the day, and work in the evening. And the person who referenced the open office environment – so true! In the office, I’m wearing a headset all day in back to back virtual meetings, scrambling to take a private conversation into a huddle room, or chatting in the meeting chat box because the executive sitting six feet from me, or my direct reports, don’t need to hear my every conversation. You can’t paint this one with a broad brush. And don’t even get me started on the white male patriarchal side of this issue.

  5. You’re ignoring the rest of the data from that study that found productivity remains steady. This is a cherry picking of their data. For example:

    Also I recommend watching the presentation they did of their data recently. The golf example is used to show that people have the flexibility to work when they want so they choose to play golf in the middle of the day while still maintaining their work imperatives. You think employers wouldn’t notice if they were just playing golf and not getting their work done?

  6. Respectfully disagree on this one, Tim.

    I think if you are a person who has a great amount of self-discipline and do not need management hovering over you to get your daily/weekly/monthly/quarterly tasks completed (or simply put “just doing your job right, on-time, the first time”), you probably are still way more productive in overall life and experiencing way better work/life balance than you have in years.

    My two cents based on my own situation and observations of people.

  7. Sorry Tim – but I have to disagree. Too much of this is equating working an 8-5 M-F time period with productivity. There is tons of research that shows different people are productive at different times of the day. So what if people go do something else in the middle of the day as long as they are getting done the scope of their job? You aren’t talking about hourly workers here – you are talking about salaried staff. There is also research that the employees “working” 40 hours in an office are not as focused. The brain works better when it takes breaks from doing work – it is healthier and more fruitful. If an employee accomplishes their salaried position duties but does it during non-traditional hours that should be ok.

    • @Jennifer, my thoughts exactly. Additionally, the modern open office is not “designed to have [most people] do work”. For most of us, it’s designed for distraction and actually drains productivity and prevents focused, deep work, which is necessary for knowledge workers. In the office, I can only down out the “water cooler conversations” and mid-cube farm histrionics for so long with binaural beats at max volume before damaging my hearing.

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