Technology has made it possible for many professionals to do everything they can do at the office from the comfort of their own homes. Employers are increasingly offering the option because it allows them to reduce the overhead costs of maintaining larger office spaces. For a variety of reasons, there has been staggering growth in remote work in the last five (44%), 10 (91%), and 12 (159%) years.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, more employers than ever before are allowing—even mandating—employees to work from home. Many professionals have had the experience of spending part of the week working from home, or doing so on occasion as circumstances like sick kids warranted. But relatively few have experienced the lifestyle difference of working completely from home. It’s easy to consider the benefits, such as avoiding a typically long DFW commute, but what about the social isolation? Indeed, there are quite a few unexpected negative aspects of working home that may surprise you.
Here, we take a balanced look at working from home so that you can decide if the arrangement is something you want to consider during the next few months, or even for the longer term.
Job Satisfaction: Job satisfaction tends to rise and stress tends to fall with remote work. Consider these recent statistics from Flexjobs:
- 90% of employees say more flexible work arrangements would increase morale.
- 80% of remote workers experience less stress.
- Remote workers are 57% more likely to be satisfied with their job.
- 65% of workers said they are more productive at home than in the office.
Financial Rewards: A myth persists that the financial benefits of working in an office outweigh the savings of telecommuting. Not so, according to recent Flexjobs data:
- Remote workers earn $4K per year more than non-telecommuters on average.
- Add to that, the ability to save more money—an estimated $4,000 per year.
It should be noted that high performers may have more leverage to ask employers for a work-from-home arrangement, which may skew results here. The savings estimate of $4,000 per year seems conservative, however, when you consider that telecommuting offers some tax advantages in addition to savings on lunches and coffees out, gas, and wear and tear on automobiles which have become much more expensive in recent years.
Even in cases when employees would earn less for telecommuting, according to the State of Remote Work 2019 report by Owl Labs, 34% of workers would be willing to take a 5% cut; 24% would take a 10% cut; and 20% would take a cut larger than 10%.
Productivity: The remote worker isn’t getting drained by a commute or the distractions of in-office noise and unnecessary meetings or social interruptions. Working from home provides complete control over the working environment so that the employee can choose the optimum setup for his or her own productivity. More productive workers are also likely more efficient, which means they can get more done in less time, which leads to the next benefit.
Work-Life Balance: The demands of parenting, maintaining family relationships and friendships, and of exercising and eating right for long-term health aren’t getting any easier. If employers are demanding more hours, and for their employees to be accessible via digital devices when away from the office, something has to give. Telecommuters have more free time and more ways to strike a satisfactory work-life balance than their in-office peers.
It Requires More Discipline: Did we say there are fewer distractions at home? Well, that’s true for those with the ability to focus on the task at hand. If you’re easily distracted, there’s laundry to do, snacks to eat, television shows to watch, and plenty of other distractions you never imagined. Friends may stop by or ask you out to an impromptu coffee or run. Minutes lead to hours in these scenarios, and at 5 o’clock, you may still have plenty of work left to do. Offices are ideal for people who need a little structure, and many people don’t realize that need until they try working from home.
Social Isolation: Sure, you’re never more than a phone call, email, or DM away from your co-workers, and many telecommuters get all of the interaction they need working from home. Some people, however, need to feel the physical presence of others in order to be happy. They need to participate in meetings and in-person collaborative scenarios; for them, digital communications just won’t suffice. Some jobs are more socially isolating than others. Consider how much social interaction you require, and whether your specific job would provide that if it were moved from your office to your home.
Your Home Feels Like an Office: One great benefit of having an office to commute to is that you get to leave it. When you work from home, it is your office. If you’re a workaholic, it can be hard to get out of work mode and to engage with your family, or pursue other personal activities without guilt. If you can’t “turn it off,” you may be better off commuting. In addition, for some professionals, home feels less like home when it’s also their workplace.
If you do have the option to telecommute at some point, give these pros and cons serious consideration. It’s easy to imagine that more freedom always means more contentment, but what works in our personal lives doesn’t always hold true in our professional lives. When you work from home, the grass is nearer, but it may or may not be greener.