Many workplaces allow employees to work from home. But is it all it’s cracked up to be?
If your office is among the 43% that allow some degree of working from home, you’ve no doubt taken advantage of this perk a time or two, if not even permanently. Sometimes working remotely is unavoidable—perhaps you were hired specifically to work a remote job, or maybe you live in another region of the country and coming in to an office isn’t possible.
If you live near your office and have been given the option of working from home, however, the decision to work from your bed with a laptop perched up on a couple pillows may not be as black and white as it first seems.
What are the benefits of working from home?
The pros of staying home are pretty obvious.
- No fighting traffic. If you live in a major city with traffic problems or you have a long commute, working from home can save multiple hours per day that you would otherwise be driving. Not sitting in traffic can also reduce your stress level, allowing you to do better work.
- No need to look presentable. Unless you need to appear in a video conference, you can skip showering, putting on makeup, doing your hair, or even getting dressed! Or if you do need to video conference, you can just wear clothes from the waist-up.
- More comfortable. Many workers have a better home office than an actual office. If you have your own office with three monitors, plush rolling desk chair, Spotify blasting out Survivor’s greatest hits, and room temp at your desired level, you’re likely to be more productive.
- Tend to pets and household needs. It goes without saying that when you’re working from home, you need to still focus on your job. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take a moment to let the dog out, sign for a package, do some laundry, be around for a repairman, or even do a quick Denise Austin video workout.
- Parenting. If you’re trying to cut down on daycare bills, you could work from home and take care of your kids just to kill two birds with one stone. Smaller children who require constant attention are extremely difficult to watch while attempting to work. Older children who are moderately self-sufficient are of course easier to handle. Be sure you know what you’re getting yourself into or your work will suffer.
- Cut out noise and small talk. Maybe you just don’t care for your co-workers and would prefer to be left alone. Or maybe all the background noise of phones ringing and chit-chat drive you up a wall. When you’re home you can avoid all that!
- Tax write-offs. If you use a portion of your home strictly for work, you can potentially write that and other office-type supplies, internet service, and more off your taxes. This usually applies to self-run businesses, but do some research and find out if your situation qualifies.
- Doing something else entirely. If you’re a seasoned pro and know how to play the system, you can stay home and spend your day doing bigger projects like cleaning your garage, binge-watching Netflix, or running a secondary business or side gig. The trick here is simply keeping tabs on your job, whether by writing or responding to the occasional email, being on top of Slack or other instant messaging systems, and being present on calls. As long as you appear engaged and are getting your work submitted on time, no one can be sure what you’re doing the rest of the time.
Wait, there are cons to working from home?
You’d better believe it, buddy boy. Working from home may seem glamorous, but many remote workers miss some of the niceties of the office.
- Lack of socialization. You’re likely going to be all alone, all day, every day. Can you handle the isolation? From fun lunch outings, birthday celebrations, and happy hours, you can kiss goodbye to a good portion of your social life.
- You and your house are going to get very well acquainted. Some people just can’t stand being in their house all day and feel the need to get out and move around. If you work from home, you’ll be spending an enormous amount of time within the confines of your home and it could drive you crazy.
- Your work setup may be worse than your real office. Just the opposite as before, most people don’t have a great home office setup. If you working from home means sitting on the couch with a small laptop, you likely won’t be as efficient as your real office where you may have dual monitors, a real desk, and a full range of office supplies, printers, and maybe even a more reliable internet connection.
- Temptations. For some, the temptations of TV, video games, or even household chores can be too enticing to ignore. If you feel like you can’t trust yourself to only focus on work, you may need to go back to the office.
- Distractions. If you have roommates, kids, or needy pets at home, you might find you can’t focus and get anything done.
- Cost. If you were out of your home all day, you might not use the AC or heat. Working from home may mean running the cooling system full-blast round-the-clock, costing you precious money. The same could be said for increased home electric and water usage.
- Suspicions. A common belief is that someone is choosing to work from home just to screw around and not have to go to work. If you suspect your boss or colleagues think you’re abusing your work-from-home privilege, you need to prove yourself or perhaps go back into the office.
- Guilt. Some people may even feel guilty working from home, especially if everyone else physically went in, or others at your office weren’t given the option.
What about you? Knowing the pros and cons of working from home, what would you choose?
My Hot Take
At a past job, we had a loose work-from-home option, meaning it was there if we needed it, but it was not to be an everyday sort of thing, and we were not to abuse it. I actually did better work remotely because I felt others believed I was just at home screwing around, and I wanted to prove them wrong by accomplishing a lot of tasks. The major downside was that I didn’t have a very good home office setup. At my office I had a desk with three big monitors, while at home I had no desk and was just sitting on my couch with laptop in lap. It was hard to multitask.