You’ve no doubt noticed that working from home has several advantages, but, as with anything, there are also a few downsides as well. During the current pandemic, both sides of the equation have likely surfaced at one point or another.
Depending on your work style and your actual job responsibilities, you may love working from home or hate it, so we’ve detailed seven pros and seven cons of working from your home office, dining room or—let’s admit it—your couch.
We also included a few solutions to alleviate those negative aspects and help you work better.
The Pros of Working from Home
Let’s start with some of the best parts about working from home:
- Greater flexibility
- More productivity throughout the workday
- There’s no commute
- Relaxed dress code
- Customized environment or office
- Increased job satisfaction
- Reduced real estate costs for businesses
1. Greater Flexibility
If there’s one word to describe working from home, it’s flexibility. Depending on your organization, you can work a regular 8-5 day, schedule blocks of time to get work done around when you work best or you can plan your work around family obligations. The possibilities are endless.
Flexibility refers to how you work as well. Will you work in your home office, or are you just working from a laptop and have the freedom to tap away from your favorite recliner or other comfy spot?
2. Higher Productivity Levels
For some, working from home involves fewer distractions than working in the office. Your home is usually quieter and you can move about freely.
There are no “drop-by” visits to your desk and fewer unplanned interactions that can interrupt your daily flow, which means that remote employees just simply work more. According to Forbes, one California company reported a nearly 50 percent increase in productivity when their employees weren’t in the office.
Of course, this isn’t the case for everyone, as you may be working from home and be caring for your children at the same time—everyone's experience is different.
3. Lack of Commute
This is likely one of everyone’s favorite aspects of working from home—the elimination of a morning and evening commute. And for several reasons, too. Commutes, on average, take around 30 minutes, and sometimes, a bad morning commute can ruin an entire day.
Fortunately, when working from home, your commute is just a few feet long, which puts more time back in your schedule and reduces your stress levels. You can use this time to work out, read or spend time with family, just to name a few options.
Plus, eliminating a commute puts more money back in your wallet since you’re not paying as much for fuel as you did when you were commuting to and from the office.
4. Relaxed Dress Code
Although this one may depend on your organization’s requirements for attire on video calls, everyone’s taking advantage to varying degrees. In fact, you just know that your coworkers, and maybe even you yourself, have been wearing shorts on Zoom calls.
Although you shouldn’t stay in your pajamas all day, as you don’t really feel like yourself when you do, working from home affords you the ability to dress more comfortably than you would in the office.
5. Personalized “Office” Space
You can set up an office, or even a workspace, that is personalized to suit you. Whether you’d like it to be minimalist and free of any unnecessary objects, or you want to be surrounded by your favorite knick-knacks and photographs, the sky’s the limit when working from home.
6. Increased Job Satisfaction
Besides saving money, wearing what you want and working how you want, remote workers, overall, report higher satisfaction and engagement with their careers.
The newfound flexibility and levels of comfort can also result in greater employee retention and a reduced number of absences. That’s a win-win for everyone.
7. Reduced Real Estate Costs
For business owners, this is a big one. If all of your employees are working from home full-time, you no longer need a physical office space, and even if only part of your staff are working remotely, you are still able to downsize and save the company. That means no more money on rent, utilities and other necessary services that keep an office functional.
The Cons of Working from Home
Of course, with the aforementioned benefits comes an occasional downside. Some of these disadvantages occur more often for some than others, but they are still present in any work from home setup.
- Communication can be challenging
- Collaboration is sometimes complicated
- Loneliness and Social Isolation
- Network & Tech Issues
- Information Security Risks
- Pressure to Always Be On
- Greater Self-Accountability
1. Communication can be Challenging
Not all of your employees will necessarily be online at the same time, which means communication will be asynchronous. Everyone has different at-home obligations and working styles, so sometimes communication takes more effort—you occasionally have to follow up more often, too, which can feel awkward and intrusive.
- Use instant messaging applications like Slack and Microsoft Teams.
- Schedule occasional “face-to-face" meetings via video conferencing to check in with colleagues.
2. Collaboration is Sometimes Complicated
While there are several cloud-based tools out there to encourage collaboration, sometimes you just can’t beat a team brainstorming session in the office conference room.
Everyone’s bouncing ideas off one another, there’s an impressive rapport and you’re all on the same level—ready to develop something great. However, when you’re working from home, it can be difficult to reach that same level of collaboration.
In video calls, everyone talks over everyone else, creating a cacophony of sound in which great ideas can become lost. Chat tools and email are great ways to communicate, but they just don’t give off the same energy as an in-person brainstorming meeting.
- Structure your online meetings with an agenda and stick to the allotted time. Use features like chat and “raise hand” to keep meetings orderly and avoid talking over one another. Encourage everyone to participate.
- Utilize cloud-based applications like Microsoft Teams, which allows real-time collaboration on documents and acts as a collaboration hub for your projects.
- Consider being on a video call while working on a document if you would like to establish energy similar to an in-person meeting. This may feel uncomfortable at first, but becomes less so the more you do it.
3. You Feel Lonely or Socially Isolated
Being in the office has its perks. You can catch up with your coworkers about what’s going on at home or the great new movie they saw over the weekend, and you get the full experience of an in-person conversation. But when you’re working at home, a chat message about those same topics doesn’t have as strong of an impact.
As a result, you start feeling starved for human interaction and feel isolated from the group, which can result in more serious issues like stress, disengagement and decreased satisfaction in your job.
- Plan video calls with your colleagues—and keep the topic off of work. You can still have that watercooler experience without the watercooler; you just need structured time for unstructured conversation.
4. Wi-Fi Problems May Arise
When you’re in the office, you’re usually wired into the company network, so you usually have a smooth and consistent connection. However, if you’re at home and running off your family’s Wi-Fi network, you may experience some network performance problems.
For instance, your kids could be streaming Netflix or playing online games, your spouse could be trying to take Zoom calls from the other room and you’re just trying to get through the workday, but your Wi-Fi keeps crashing. It’s a common problem with remote work.
- Create dedicated networks for specific devices, like your work computer.
- Wire in directly using an Ethernet port. (Note: not all new laptops allow this, so this may not be a fix-all solution.)
- Use cellular data as a Wi-Fi hotspot. (Note: Contact your cell provider—some are offering unlimited data usage with so many people working remotely.)
5. Cyber Security Risks
Remote work causes new cyber security vulnerabilities for your organization. Employees may be using personal devices to access company data, their passwords may not be secure and with everything going on at home, cyber security may not be top of mind.
- Use a remote desktop gateway to securely connect to the company network.
- Access the company network through company-owned security software, like a VPN.
- Ensure that employee-owned devices are managed with remote control software that will isolate that device from the company network.
- Use a password manager and secure, automatically generated passwords instead of relying on traditional, recycled passwords or a handwritten sticky note.
6. The Pressure to Always Be Online
While remote work offers greater flexibility and work-life balance, sometimes it causes more stress because you may feel like you have to be online and constantly available to prove that you’re being productive.
Remote workers can take breaks as they need to, but some also feel like they must work on the weekends or work late at night in order to seem like they are getting work done.
- Establish a routine and don’t be afraid to take breaks in order to refresh throughout the day.
- Use “presence” features on apps that let colleagues know when you’re in/out of the office.
7. Greater Self-accountability
For individuals who may struggle with managing their time or are easily distracted, working from home could prove challenging. You are no longer held accountable by merely being at your desk in the office.
Instead, you are now measured on your ability to get your work done at home, which means that you are responsible for structuring your day and establishing a routine. For some, this is a tremendous benefit. For others, it could feel like a nightmare.
- Use a to-do list or calendar to plan out your day.
- Establish deadlines for yourself. If you tend to procrastinate, set earlier deadlines so you’re staying on top of your workload.
- Try out new ways of staying organized and find what works best for you.
No matter how you feel about working from home, there will always be pros and cons, to varying degrees, for everyone. The situation is generally more suitable for people who work well independently and don’t mind being on their own for large blocks of time. The sustainability of a work-from-home setup also depends on specific organizations and job types, but there’s one thing for certain: working remotely isn’t going away anytime soon.
That means your organization needs to know how to work better when working remotely. CoreTech’s blog contains several valuable articles about remote work solutions, including tips on home offices, how to maintain a work-life balance and more.
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