As states go from opening up to closing again, it looks like we are going to continue with remote work for the time being. Google will allow remote work until at least next summer. That being said, let’s talk about the pros and cons of working away from the office.
WORKING FROM HOME MAY sound like an ideal situation – especially if you’ve never done it before. What could be better than simply rolling out of bed and arriving at your home office in moments, without the hassles of first making yourself presentable and then commuting to a workplace with a boss and colleagues who may drive you crazy?
In reality, though, just like working in an office, remote work comes with pros and cons. To explore both the benefits of working from home as well as the drawbacks, I conducted informal interviews with more than 100 people with remote working jobs. Below are some of the top themes that emerged about remote workers’ favorite aspects of telecommuting and the challenges that come with a work-from-home lifestyle.
The pros and cons of working from home are:
- Pro: You have flexibility to take care of appointments and errands.
- Con: There is no physical separation between work and leisure time.
- Pro: There are fewer interruptions from meetings and chitchat.
- Con: It is easy to misread cues via electronic communications.
- Pro: There is no commute time or expense.
- Con: You have to make the effort to get a change of scenery.
Pro: You have flexibility to take care of appointments and errands.
Con: There is no physical separation between work and leisure time.
Many who work from home lamented that they often find themselves working around the clock, since their labor has no definite start or end times. As a result, they sometimes feel like they are literally always at work, making it difficult to shift to the post-work relaxation mode that many office workers take for granted.
The absence of an obvious division between the personal and professional realms means some remote workers get distracted by housework.
“It’s a constant balancing act to make sure you’re taking enough time for your family and yourself,” says Carrie Hill, co-founder of Ignitor Digital Marketing, who has been working from home for the last six years. “The pitfall is that there’s always a computer on and available, so setting boundaries and sticking to those boundaries is pretty important.”
Pro: There are fewer interruptions from meetings and chitchat.
It’s easier to get into a flow state of deep work when you’re in your home office without colleagues dropping by and sitting down impromptu to talk about their weekends. Limiting unnecessary interruptions from your colleagues and boss is a big plus of working from home and is one reason why many remote workers are more productive than office-based workers. While you may need to dial in for specific meetings, you’ll likely get a break from attending several others – many of which may be unnecessary to your role – that confront staff workers daily.
Con: It is easy to misread cues via electronic communications.
While few who work from home expressed feeling “lonely” as is typically assumed, many did point to the difficulty of getting the tone right in digital communication systems, such as email, chat, social media and text.
“Just like in relationships, it can be easy to misconstrue tonality of someone’s messages. We’re often blind without body language and facial expressions to rely on, and we assume the worst. Therefore, there needs to be extra effort made in maintaining positive communications,” says Michael Sunderland, managing director of Full Stack Talent.
Pro: There is no commute time or expense.
You can save a lot of money and avoid wasting hours that others spend simply getting to and from work when your office is right down the hall. Avoiding traffic battles and long-distance schleps tops the list of benefits for some of those who work from home.
“Not having to deal with commuting was a huge plus and saved me a minimum of an hour a day that I could put to better and more satisfying use,” explains Bill McCue, founder and president of his own firm, McCuenications PR.
Many remote workers also mentioned saving money by eschewing a pricey professional wardrobe unless they meet with clients.
Con: You have to make the effort to get a change of scenery.
What can be a blessing can also become a curse in the form of cabin fever. Some freelancers and others who work from home lamented that the place they work during the day is the exact same place they’ll be sitting later that evening and that getting involved in their work often translates to spending a huge portion of the day indoors. Many stressed the importance of scheduling lunches and other meetings to keep them in the mix and avoid the rut of never leaving the house.
Remote work has clear benefits, but no situation is perfect. Understanding the reasons to work from home – as well as the reasons not to – can go a long way in learning how to work from home successfully.