Before the COVID-19 pandemic, working from home may have seemed like a perk that freelancers got to do — not everyone. Now, many more full-time employees have experienced working remotely due to employer-mandated safety requirements.
If you recently joined the ranks of virtual staff due to the pandemic, your visions of the remote-working life may have been dashed by reality. Working from home may sound like an ideal situation, if you’ve imagined 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. The following pros and cons emerged after conducting informal interviews with more than 100 people with remote jobs. Read on for some positive aspects of telecommuting and the challenges that come with a work-from-home lifestyle.
— Pro: More flexibility to take care of appointments and errands.
— Con: No physical separation between work and leisure time.
— Pro: Fewer interruptions from meetings and chitchat.
— Con: Easy to misread cues via electronic communications.
— Pro: No commute time or expense.
— Con: You have to make the effort to get a change of scenery.
— Pro: More time spent with family.
— Con: Less in-person contact with co-workers.
— Pro: You can often do your work when you’re most productive.
— Con: You are not on site for the in-office perks.
Pro: More flexibility to take care of appointments and errands.
One of the hardest things about committing to a 9-to-5 desk job is that it prevents you from being able to handle almost anything else that comes up in your life, whether attending a routine dentist appointment or picking a sick kid up from school. When you work from home, while you still have to meet your deadlines and be available when you say you will be, you generally have wider bandwidth to tend to other responsibilities without jeopardizing your job.
Con: 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; those lines can often be blurred. As a result, they sometimes feel as if they are 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. Setting boundaries and sticking to them is important when you’re working from home.
Pro: There are fewer interruptions from meetings and chitchat.
It’s easier to get into a deep state of focused 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 many remote workers are often 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’s 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 through digital communication systems, such as email, chat, social media and text. Without body language, facial expressions and other cues, remote employees have to put in extra effort to maintain positive communications.
Pro: There is no commute time or expense.
You can save a lot of money and avoid wasting hours spent getting to and from work when your office is right down the hall. Avoiding traffic battles tops the list of benefits for some of those who work from home. 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 where they work during the day is the exact same place where they’ll be sitting later that evening; getting involved in their work often translates to spending a huge portion of the day indoors. Pre-pandemic, 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.
Pro: More time spent with family.
While the “con” above of having blurred boundaries between work and leisure time can definitely create chaos, there’s an upside for families: more time together. Office workers must kiss their loved ones goodbye each morning when heading off to work; not so for virtual workers, who can work side by side with a work-from-home spouse or with kids who are learning in a digital classroom. By doing away with the commute time, there is more time to be spent with loved ones.
Con: There is less in-person contact with co-workers.
While you may have more time with loved ones when working from a home office, the flipside is less opportunity for face time (minus a screen) with people at your company. If your co-workers drive you crazy, then reduced time on-site might be a perk for you. But if you enjoy office-based camaraderie and like to be able to socialize with your team in person, then the remote life might make you miserable.
Pro: You can often do your work when you’re most productive.
When you work in an office, your schedule is rarely your own. Between the aforementioned interruptions from colleagues and meetings, plus your boss hovering nearby with agenda items and to-dos, accomplishing your focus work may be a “catch as catch can” situation, grabbing time to think and compose important reports and communications between events that others have imposed.
It’s still always essential when working from home to be mindful of your team’s needs and be available to dial in for virtual meetings. But remote employees generally have greater latitude to select their time of peak productivity to do their most important work and — depending on who else is working at home with them — have more quiet time to hone in on tasks that require concentration.
[READ: 8 Types of Employee Benefits.]
Con: You are not on-site for in-office perks.
You can’t swing by the break room and grab a doughnut from the box or hit the company gym if you’re working from home. This may be more of a disadvantage for workers in industries such as tech, with impressive on-site offerings like game rooms and chef-made food, but if there’s a perk you like about being in the office, then working from home may make you miss it.
Weighing the pros and cons of working from home has become even more important in the wake of the pandemic, since many companies are now giving their employees the option to not come back into the office. If you are given the choice to consider working from home permanently, be sure to think through each of the pros and cons of working from home to land on a solution that matches your priorities. 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.
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Update 06/14/21: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.