Before the COVID-19 pandemic, working from home may have seemed like a perk that only freelancers got to do. Now, many more full-time employees have experienced working remotely or in a hybrid role.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the pandemic has resulted in over one-third of companies across a wide range of industries increasing telework for some or all of their employees. The BLS also reports that around 60% of the organizations that expanded their telework options are planning to keep them indefinitely.
If you recently joined the ranks of virtual staff, 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 list 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.
[See: Best Remote Working Jobs.]
Benefits of Working From Home
— Pro: More flexibility to take care of appointments and errands.
— Pro: Fewer interruptions from meetings and chitchat.
— Pro: No commute time or expense.
— Pro: More time spent with family.
— Pro: You can often do your work when you’re most productive.
— Pro: You can get more done.
— Pro: You can save money on your work wardrobe.
— Pro: The ability to live where you want to.
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.
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.
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.
Pro: More time spent with family.
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.
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.
Pro: You can get more done.
A number of recent studies have confirmed the growing body of research that prove working from home can help you be more productive than you can in an office, with stats showing productivity increases of up to 77%. It makes sense when you consider the above points that you have fewer interruptions and can work when you’re at your best while working remotely.
[Read: Work-From-Home Gift Guide.]
Pro: You can save money on your work wardrobe.
In addition to saving drive time and gas expenses, the work-from-home crowd can generally save on clothing costs as well. While you may need to have professional garb at the ready for video calls (at least for your top half on camera), most who work from home have more freedom to wear what they want while they work.
Pro: The ability to live where you want to.
While some employers have restrictions about where you can live as a remote employee and may change your pay according to the area you reside in, a huge perk of the remote life is the ability to choose your location without needing to worry about a daily commute. Even if you’re in a hybrid role or need to make occasional visits to the office for meetings, if you don’t need to drive in each day, you have a wider range of possible places to settle besides right near the office.
Cons of Working From Home
— Con: No physical separation between work and leisure time.
— Con: Easy to misread cues via electronic communications.
— Con: You have to make the effort to get a change of scenery.
— Con: Less in-person contact with co-workers.
— Con: You are not on-site for in-office perks.
— Con: You have to be more self-motivated.
— Con: Some bosses may be biased against those who aren’t in the office.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Con: You are not on-site for in-office perks.
You can’t swing by the break room and grab a doughnut 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 among their company benefits. If there’s a perk you like about being in the office, then working from home may make you miss it.
Con: You have to be more self-motivated.
If you’re the type of person who procrastinates working unless a boss is breathing down your neck, then you might find yourself underperforming in a work-from-home role. Remote workers have to motivate themselves to get the job done, which puts more onus on people working from home to manage their time wisely to complete their projects, instead of having someone else setting the timelines and spurring them along.
Con: Some bosses may be biased against those who aren’t in the office.
A study by researchers at the University of California at Davis and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that “face time” — the amount of time that you’re seen at work either within normal business hours or outside of them — can affect how your boss and others perceive you at work. If you’re not in the office and others are, some managers may be either intentionally or unintentionally biased against you. You may find that your contributions aren’t noticed or appreciated as much by your team and may feel compelled to make extra efforts to keep on everyone’s radar screen.
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 06/30/22: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.