As more professionals look for a better work-life balance and more companies adopt flexible policies to accommodate shifting workplace priorities and realise the financial benefits of having a lower office overhead, working from home is becoming increasingly viable.
There are potential pitfalls however and below we discuss some of the advantages and disadvantages of working from home.
Better work/life balance
Work/life balance is vastly improved, particularly if you the flexibility to report into the office and work from the home as an option and can fine-tune the arrangement week by week.
For you-You save on many costs associated with going to work- commuting, car wear and tear, fuel, road taxes, parking as well as indirect costs such as your professional wardrobe and dry-cleaning.
For your company -Home-based workers can produce big overhead savings for companies. They need less office space, less equipment, less facilities such as staff restaurants.
The time taken to present yourself professionally, deal with hair and makeup, and travelling to work, is probably a major factor in increased productivity. As soon as the kids are out of the door you can be at your desk in seconds! And in the evening as soon as you switch off your computer, you can immerse yourself in home life.
You can probably save on older children’s care arrangements. For younger children it is probably impractical to forgo proper childcare arrangements and try to balance care and supervision with the demands of the job.
The flexibility to determine your own work hours to some extent is probably the most important aspect of this for many. You can also choose your environment, lighting, music, temperature, setting, mood. Choosing the factors that suit you best and make you happiest probably contribute to home workers increased productivity.
Colleagues chatter and distractions, interruptions, trivial meetings can all be avoided if you are at home and in control of your own environment. You must ensure you are protected as well as possible from interruptions.
Closeness to home and family
Many people find the physical closeness to family and the convenience of being at home is important to them as it means that they can be available if help is needed. This is true for parents and also applies in the case of elderly care.
The stress of commuting at rush hour in many countries is counterproductive and can lead to workers who are already exhausted and in a bad temper before they have even begun their day. Other stresses can be unfriendly colleagues, a poor work environment and constant distractions. You are much more likely to avoid a “bad day at the office” feeling if you are in control at home.
Working in your own environment at your own pace, many people are a lot happier and a lot more productive.
Both physical and mental health can be improved; perhaps you can find time to go to the gym instead of commuting? Or you can go for a long walk at lunchtime. You have more control over the food you and your family eat as well- no staff restaurant, and you can prepare casseroles and leave them to cook while you work.
Danger of being overlooked for promotion
The danger of being overlooked for promotions and career development opportunities is quite real when you are away from the office and other more visible employees are actively competing for them. An open line of communication with management and regular visits to the office are critical in order to prove your dedication and commitment to your career and to prevent the out-of-sight-out-of-mind syndrome.
Although office distractions are avoided, different distractions may clutter your day. Interruptions from children, or elderly family, nuisance calls, door to door salesmen, the office, neighbours, friends, family can be very disruptive. You are the first person who comes to mind when an emergency arises and someone needs to collect something, run somebody to a hospital appointment ….You must make it known that you are actually working and not available for interruption within work hours despite your physical presence at home.
Need for self-discipline
Working from home requires a lot of dedication, self-control and discipline to motivate yourself over the long run without succumbing to distractions and losing drive and momentum.
Difficulty in separating home from work
The temptation is to engage in household chores while you are at home. You may feel obliged to clean, do the shopping, the washing, the childcare, the cooking, the home finances. You need to be disciplined enough to draw the line between home and work.
Work has no boundary
The lack of physical separation between home and work may tempt you to work outside normal hours. You feel there are greater expectations of you as a home-worker, or you may self-impose pressures to prove yourself and your abilities in this arrangement.
Alienated from company developments
A lot can change from day to day in a company and you may find yourself removed from important developments such as staff changes, new business developments, changes in company direction, new competitive information.
Some people struggle with isolation and loneliness and this can be depressing. You need to be more creative and resourceful in getting to know people and in staying in touch with your colleagues. When you do go into the office, schedule a lunch break with colleagues in advance; or arrange a social meeting after work that day.
So in summary
An arrangement where you report into the office once or twice a week might be a good compromise. It allows for close interaction with colleagues and supervisors and ensures you remain in touch with company developments while still permitting you the comfort and convenience of working from home.
And if you have the right mindset it can be very productive to break up intense periods of professional work with domestic tasks such as switching on the washing machine, or emptying it later. The mind often solves a work problem while the hands are busy!!
The key is to set yourself targets and make sure you achieve or surpass them on a regular basis.