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I just recently switch from working in the office to working from home. I found that I needed to readjust how I manage my time as I was adapting to the new style of work. The thing that seemed to have worked for me is something called the pomodoro technique. However I'm a little uncertain about how to allocate break times.

Brief explanation of Pomodoro: Set a timer for 25 minutes and when it rings, stop what you are doing and take a 5 minute break; after four concurrent sessions take a 25 minute break.

My gf pointed out to me that a 5 minute break every 25 minutes means a 10 minute break every hour. If there were none of the longer breaks then an 8 hour day would have 80min break and possibly an additional 30 min for lunch.

Include the 25 minute break and the 8 hour work day is spent with 6 hours of work and 2 hours of break or some break down like that.

I can attest that since I have adopted this time management technique I am far more productive than I have even been in the office. In the office I would get maybe a good 4 hours of work and the rest of the day was shot with distractions, things needing repair or attention (printers, phone, co-worker, internet) Here my production is much more focused and task oriented.

Since I'm taking breaks I don't want to stretch my day out longer than it needs to be since it seems harder to set limits on when to stop. So the question is, as I understand the pomodoro technique, the breaks are taken during the work session, is it ethical to include that break on my time-sheet? I do feel that the breaks help clarify my focus and let me release whatever I'm holding on to enough to give me new focus.

(PS. I'm aware that to ultimately get an answer to this question I must consult my boss and ask, but I'm asking from others who work from home and maybe even use a similar technique.)

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    If you weren't using a stopwatch device like Pomodoro, then you would still take breaks, or wouldn't you? How would you treat these in an ethical way? For example, suppose you were in the office and took a few short coffee breaks and a couple of bathroom breaks throughout the day. Do your ethics call for you to stay an extra half hour to compensate for the accumulated time of "lost productivity?" – Brandin Apr 22 '15 at 7:23
  • @Brandin I would think that those types of breaks are normal, it's just a little different when working from home, was that 30 minutes lost surfing the web downtime to recharge the thought on the current problem, or was it 30 minutes of surfing the web? In a home setting it's a little easy to loose track of work/home mode. – Mallow Apr 22 '15 at 7:32
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    In a home setting it's a little easy to lose track of work/home mode - but you said in your question that you are more productive since you've been working from home. – Brandin Apr 22 '15 at 7:47
  • I mean that in the sense that when you clock in clock out, you have a physical location 9 to 5. When you are at home, if your break time has a distraction, like land lady wants you to help her, it's harder to separate that time slot. Yes I'm more productive, but also my 8 hour day is ending late at night... which means I feel like I'm working more than 8 with the interruptions in between. I'm sure that will change once I manage external forces a bit better. – Mallow Apr 22 '15 at 12:01
  • It sounds like your question really should be how to avoid distractions while working from home. Distractions which are expected, like taking bathroom breaks, a short number of reasonable pauses during the workday, etc., don't need special attention from you (keep yourself on the clock, for example). But if your landlady is coming by every day during your work hours, this is the kind of distraction that you should regulate. If it's just once, fine, but any more than that, tell her you have important personal business during this time and don't want distractions. – Brandin Apr 26 '15 at 9:18
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As you said, your ultimate answer would probably come from your boss.

That being said, my approach regarding the ethics would be: Do you charge for break time if you are working in the office? If so, it would only be fair to do this while working from home, assuming your productivity, break time etc. being approximately equal.

After all, in my opinion/experience, working from home is about working at a different place, not getting a different amount of work done.

  • Well it's two fold, if anything I take less breaks in comparision, It's just I changed my technique of calculating time. Before if I entered the office at 9 and got out at 5, that was the time I charged. Some days super productive, others not so productive. I might not be working on something directly related to the job, but related (asking a question on stackexchange) Now I'm more focused on job time, so I try to take whatever time I do other things (stackexchange) and not include that on the timesheet, whereas in the past I would have, simply because I was physically at the office. – Mallow Apr 22 '15 at 6:58
  • The problem in doing that is that even if I start my day at 9am now. by 5 pm I don't have 8 hours, but maybe 5 because I went up to take care of laundry for thirty minutes, or had a request from my landlord etc... So it's a bit harder to be strict when it comes to time in time out – Mallow Apr 22 '15 at 7:00
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    @Mallow You could still ask the same ultimate question as suggested in this answer. How would you do it if you're working in the office? For example, some days you may be super productive (100%), and other days not so much (70%). For the days that you're only 70% productive, would it be appropriate to tell HR that you deserve only 70% pay for those days? – Brandin Apr 22 '15 at 7:04
  • @Brandin Right, I revised the last paragraph. Basically, in my opinion it boils down to the question of whether you get the same work done. Though, if you are unlucky, your boss might see it differently... – anderas Apr 22 '15 at 7:10
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If you are clearly more productive at home, then my advice is to let sleeping dogs lie and don't say anything to your management. I am pretty sure that a number of the users of this site will be shocked at my advice but the bottom line is that you are significantly more productive at home and you are actually clocking two more effective hours of work at home than you are clocking in the office. Either in the office or at home, you are not clocking eight hours of effective work anyway.

Knock yourself out during those six hours and keep the gory details between you, us and the walls of your home office. As long as you're giving your employer more than their money's worth.

  • Different approach than in my answer, but probably equally valid. But this might depend on your work; e.g. you might be required to be available during work hours on Skype to help co-workers. Then I would recomment to at least be online, even if you are not strictly working. – anderas Apr 22 '15 at 7:19
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    @anderas Agreed. The OP has to be reachable at all times regardless of how they organize their workday. – Vietnhi Phuvan Apr 22 '15 at 7:22
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The Pomodoro technique does not necessarily mean that you do nothing in those 5 minutes. It means you step away from your current task and focus on something else (that could be nothing).

There are lots of things that people interrupt productive work with: going to get some coffee, answering a mail, going to the toilet, reshuffle some papers, ... You would do these things also if you were in the office.

Also, if you have a job/task where you are deeply immersed in your work, it can be beneficial to ignore the occasional Pomodoro break: you implement the technique in a way that works for you.

I suggest you read the many posts on Productivity.se about Pomodoro to see how other people work with it - now there's another idea on what to use those 5 minutes for ;-)

Bottom line: Don't bother, don't mention the breaks, if you do the work you're supposed to do, it's fine.

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No. You are not working, regardless of your physical location. You are on a break. Why would you charge? You should be charging only when you are working.

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