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'Homing From Work': The Perks of Doing Chores at the Office

It's not slacking, it's 'homing from work,' according to recent research, and it actually makes your team more productive.
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Every couple of years a company called Captivate Network surveys a few thousand white-collar American professionals about their work-life balance. Between 2011 and 2013, they found that while the number of respondents who reported working 9 hours a day or more went up by 30 percent, the number reporting a healthy work-life balance also went up 11 percent. How is that possible?

The answer according to Captivate is "homing from work," which is just the fancy term the company came up with for doing personal chores at work, like scheduling doctor’s appointments, arranging shipping, banking and online shopping. The practice is increasingly common, and nearly everyone is now doing it , the latest survey found (a whopping 93 percent of us according to the 2013 numbers). Men, women, old and young all admitted to taking time out of their work day to complete these sort of tasks.

What Does That Mean for Bosses?

Taken from the perspective of anyone who has ever tried to have a life while working nine to five in an office these findings really aren’t earth-shattering, but for some managers they may come as a surprise. It’s easy to get annoyed when you see your employee browsing Amazon.com rather than working, after all, but this survey, as well as others, suggests that the right response is really a smile.

Regular, short breaks actually improve productivity, science confirms, and it makes intuitive sense that if you’re using these periods to complete personal tasks, you’d reduce your work-life stress at the same time you’re giving your brain a breather.  "It’s harder to be psychologically present when you’re distracted by the demands of other parts of your life," Wharton management professor Stewart Friedman, who has studied management’s response ‘homing from work’, sensibly points out.

What Does It Mean for Marketers?

That managers shouldn’t be bothered by their employee popping out to get a mid-day manicure is only one of the possible takeaways from the study, however. Captivate Network actually focuses much of their report on the implications of the data for marketers. Traditional "after hours" products and services are no longer being purchased only when workers clock off for the evening. So if you’re running a nail salon in a business district, a "lunchtime relaxation package" might serve you well. If you’re sending out a newsletter for your online shopping site, the afternoon energy lull might be worth considering rather than the weekend.

The bottom line: don’t think of customers are unreceptive to your marketing messages just because they’re at work. That was the old days. This is now.

 

Last updated: Apr 30, 2014

JESSICA STILLMAN | Columnist

Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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