Home is Where the Office Is-Benefits and Drawbacks of Working From Home
It’s been said that “home is where the heart is”. For an increasing number of people, it’s where the office is as well. Developments in communication technology, coupled with changing attitudes, have allowed for a greater number of people to do part, or even all, of their work from home. A 2017 Gallup survey found that in 2016, 43% of respondents spent at least some time working remotely.1 Some people consider it a tremendous perk while others find it not to their liking. If working at home is an option for you, or if you are an employer contemplating the pros and cons of entering into such an arrangement with members of your staff, there are a few things worth considering.
Who’s Working From Home?
People who work from the friendly confines of home will generally fall into one of three broad categories:
Remote employee – These people are gainfully employed and, as such, can count on a steady income. As they are part of a team, however, they will often be called upon to maintain a fairly regular schedule. 2
Freelancer – You work for clients, often completing project-based work. As long as deadlines are met, everybody is probably happy, providing you flexibility. On the downside, expect income levels to vary from month to month.
Business Owners – You own your own business and operate from home. Your only limitations are your own imagination and your ability to generate business. Flexibility? Max. Income stability? Not so much.
Benefits of Working at Home
The Comforts of Home – No need for the suit and tie, you can wear what you like (unless you’re participating in a video conference or expecting a client to drop by). Your fridge is at hand and the décor is yours to design. And, as Digital Nomad Soul point out, the atmosphere can be significantly more relaxing.
“No boss standing behind you, waiting for results. No keyboard-hammering, phone-call-yelling coworkers anymore and no bullying or infighting. On the long run, this will save you a lot of nerves.”2
This can provide a cost saving for employers as well, due to the possibility of smaller offices or no offices at all!
Eliminate the Commute! Save Time! – What would you do with an extra hour or two (or three) per day? When your commute is as short as a flight of stairs, there is significant time to be saved. Car maintenance, bus fare and parking fees all add up and all that transportation has an environmental impact as well. Due to the relaxed dress code, you won’t spend as much time getting ready in the AM either. From the employer’s point of view, this can result in increased productivity, a win-win.
Independence Day – If you are self-motivated, disciplined and focussed (or want to take a crash course on how to become those things) then working from home is for you. With nobody looking over your shoulder, you will sink or swim based on your own ability to get the job done.
Let’s Get Flexible – Some work from home positions are more flexible than others, but working from home is generally less rigid than the office. Feel free to take care of personal business (or get a round of golf in) at 2PM, so long as you don’t mind making up the time that evening. This flexibility goes two ways, as home-based employees are sometimes called upon to adjust their schedule to fit company needs.
“In most cases, as long as the work gets done, you’re able to determine when. You may be able to see your children off to school and welcome them home afterward and be available through the day for emergencies as long as the work gets done. Keep in mind that may be long after everyone’s in bed or weekends.”3
Tax Benefits – A home office can help you claim everything from your internet bill to toilet paper as a business expense. Speak to your accountant about which potential savings apply to you.
Enticing to Employees – Business owners will find that a ‘work from home’ option can be an enticing perk for luring potential talent.
If it were perfect, everyone would do it. Working from home does have drawbacks and, perhaps not surprisingly, some of them are closely tied to the benefits.
Blurs With Home Life – Many find that while they are never completely ‘working’, they are never completely ‘not working’ either. Working from home can make you feel a little too relaxed when you’re working and not quite relaxed enough when you’re not.
Out of the Loop – Despite the available communication technology, working remotely can never really duplicate the experience of being in the middle of the action. Collaborations and learning experiences often occur spontaneously and can’t be planned for.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T – You may be completing tireless and invaluable work from your home office, but your neighbors and friends are bound to think that you don’t have a ‘real job.’ Likewise, co-workers may suspect you of sleeping on the job.
All By Myself – Solitude is a double-edged sword. You may find yourself looking for any reason to meet friends (chicken wings, Bingo, etc.) Your spouse may arrive home from work hoping for some quiet time to decompress at the precise moment you’re ready to let loose with a day’s worth of pent up chatter.
Tips for Making It Work
Ease Into It – If possible, start working from home on a limited basis. This will help you determine whether you have the necessary personality traits to make it work.
Keep It Professional and Structured – Have a dedicated office. Do whatever is possible to avoid barking dogs during conference calls. Create structure that works for you, such as working hard during the week to keep the weekends open. Make sure loved ones know that you ARE working, and are not necessarily available for idle chatter or unnecessary disruptions.
Be Responsive/Stay in the Loop – Reply to emails quickly to demonstrate responsiveness. Go to office social events to create and maintain relationships with co-workers. Remain engaged.
Make Social Time – Days on end without leaving the house can have a negative psychological effect. Create reasons to get out.
As technology continues to make telecommuting feasible for more and more people, it will be up to employers and employees alike to make honest assessments about the fit it has for their particular situation. Those who have the opportunity and inclination to embrace it should remember to do so with their eyes open to both the benefits and challenges it presents.
1 “Want to Work from Home? Understand the Pros and Cons before Deciding.” Monster Career Advice. Accessed June 21, 2019. https://www.monster.com/career-advice/article/pros-cons-of-working-from-home.
2 “21 Work From Home Pros and Cons – The Surprising Truth Behind Remote Work.” DigitalNomadSoul. March 10, 2019. Accessed June 21, 2019. https://www.digitalnomadsoul.com/work-from-home-pros-and-cons/.
3 “The Pros and Cons of Working from Home: Is It Right for You?” The Pros and Cons of Working from Home | Randstad Canada. Accessed June 21, 2019. https://www.randstad.ca/job-seeker/career-resources/workplace-culture/the-pros-and-cons-of-working-from-home-is-it-right-for-you/.
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