The concept of working from home is a relatively new one. Before the internet, only a handful of professions could do the bulk of their work from home. A fiction writer, a painter, or a farmer could work from home, per se.
However the vast majority of professions required direct contact with people and things to complete the most rudimentary of tasks. This is no longer the case. With the invention of the internet we’ve opened ourselves to a world of “remote” possibilities. Everything from e-commerce to freelancing is now available to billions of users worldwide.
Users are no longer only limited by their location but rather by their access to technology. Now, a child with nothing more than a basic computer and access to the internet can have access to free education material. The internet and the hardware that allows us to access it are what have made way for the ‘Information Age.’
Once the internet hit the mainstream, the world changed. Education, work, technology, agriculture, medicine, you name it – everything changed.
Working from home is one of these changes that are becoming more ubiquitous. It is a wonderful opportunity for some. People that live hours away from their office, single parents, people with disabilities, and many others are grateful to have the opportunity to join the workforce in their own way.
Still, for others it can be difficult. At times, it can even feel lonely. After all, every person experiences life and work through different eyes. If you are considering making the switch to working remotely, consider the pros and cons before you do.
For most people that are tired of the status quo, working remotely has only pros. When asked, most people agree that they would love to work from home. According to a survey by Buffer of 2,500 professionals, 99% of respondents said they would like to work remotely.
Below we’ve listed a few of the most common answers to the question, “Which are the benefits and downfalls of working remotely that stand out?” Though there were plenty more, the following were the most common answers.
Commuting obviously takes time away from employees. For some employees that live near their workplace, commuting might take as little as 10 or 15 minutes each way. Other employees might not live as close and could spend anywhere from 30 minutes to even an hour or more on their way to work.
Telecommuting saves employees the time they spend getting to and from work. It also saves them the money from bus fare, cab fare, metro fare, or gas and parking costs for their car. Adding to that, the (arguably) greatest advantage is safety.
Approximately 1.35 million people die in road crashes each year. Another 20-50 million suffer from non-fatal injuries that often lead to disabilities. Employees working from home limit their exposure to such accidents by not having to commute to work each day.
Children are usually in school during office hours. For this reason, many would argue that not much family time is lost between the hours of 9 AM and 5 PM. Yet, not so many people leave the office at exactly 5 PM.
Most workers don’t live a short walk away from their office. More so, people tend to bring their work home with them. Throughout this entire process, precious quality time with the family is lost. Time that could have been spent on work is now spent on moving and changing scenes. Children get older and eventually that lost time is never properly recovered.
By working remotely, parents can spend more time at home. They can send their children off to school on a bright yellow bus and welcome them when they arrive at home in the afternoon.
On a flexible schedule, parents can wrap up their work before their kids arrive. Then they can spend quality time with the kids before dinner. Parents also have more time for school events, sick days from school, and school holidays.
This type of flexible schedule can lead to a very healthy work-life balance. This is also particularly helpful for single parents. It’s a wonderful substitute to hiring a nanny or leaving the kids home alone after school.
All people work differently. This should come as no surprise. Some are at their mental peak in the morning, while others peak in the evening. Some people enjoy an afternoon nap, while others prefer to fall asleep at 9 PM.
Regardless of the kind of work schedule a person prefers, offices usually choose for them. By freeing an employee from regular office hours, the employers can focus on achievements. A person who works better in the evening might not be great at communicating in the day. However, given the chance to spend more time in the evening on work, we could see a drastic shift to positive results.
A flexible working schedule also allows for better planning. A person could take care of chores and errands in the morning, while everyone else is off at work. That person can take full advantage of the empty banks and supermarkets, then head home and begin to work. This can save time and hassle from otherwise tedious tasks.
Hobbies, sports, exercise routines, and plenty of other healthy lifestyle choices become easier to plan. Meetings with friends and family can also become more frequent. With a flexible working schedule, morale and motivation rises. Studies even show productivity rises too! No more plans need to be cancelled because of the all-too-common excuse, “Sorry, I have to work.”
Offices can be just as distracting as they are good for work. To their credit, they help employees feel a sense of “this is where work gets done.” Unfortunately, they are also riddled with small distractions.
Coffee breaks, “water cooler” conversations, interruptions, impromptu meetings, and even background noise happen around the office. At any given time you might hear phones ringing, people talking, noses sniffing from colds, dry coughs, keyboards typing, etc.
That’s not to say home is free from distractions. Obviously having a TV, computer, or game console at home can be more distracting than office noises. Being at home with your family can also lead to distractions. For home distractions, however, it’s important to set clear boundaries for yourself and family members. Be clear: work time is work time, no matter what level of flexibility you require.
One of the perks people tend to appreciate most is the ability to work from anywhere. It’s too common that we hear of a family having to relocate because of a job opportunity. Children switch schools and parents leave friends and family behind.
At times, the new environment can prove difficult to get accustomed to. Working remotely allows companies to find great talent without having to pull them away from home. Some individuals appreciate being able to travel and move around, and there are positions at remote companies that are designed to cater exactly to them.
A remote company would allow the individual to travel while also maintaining a consistent workflow. Furthermore, a remote company is more likely to be better-equipped at catering to these sorts of traveling-based workflows than an office that adopted a workflow for their travelers.
The world now is full of places to accommodate remote workers. Whether it’s in a coffee shop, a shared workspace or an office at home, work gets done.
It’s easy to find positive reasons for working remotely. Yet, it’s also important to see the other side of that coin. After all, there must be a reason why most offices have still elected to keep the majority of their staff working in-house.
Even giants like IBM boasted about how many of their employees work remotely and then had to bring them back into the office! It’s definitely not a perfect system. Below are a few reasons why this system is still a work in progress.
The majority of people surveyed in a study by Buffer said their biggest concern was not being able to unplug after work. Second to that, they chose “loneliness.” Offices don’t just provide a place to work. They offer their employees a place to socialize.
They might discuss the latest happenings in a new Netflix show or a breaking news event. Regardless, offices provide a sense of community. This is one of the key details that are lost when working remotely. Humans are a social animal, they need to spend time with others.
Amir Salihefendic, CEO of Doist, said, “we need to acknowledge that isolation, anxiety, and depression are significant problems when working remotely, and we must figure out ways and systems to resolve these complex issues.”
A benefit to working remotely is that employers can choose from an international pool of talent. Borders are not a limiting factor for companies that choose to hire remote employees. Traditionally, new hirees would be asked to move to the country where the office was located.
Now, employees can telecommute. This creates a new problem, however. As offices now have employees from all corners of the globe, they have to deal with timezones.
How do you manage teams of developers that have employees in the US, Australia, Russia, China, and India? What is the best way to manage communication with a team that has members 12 hours apart? Offices keep everyone on the same page but are also limited in their choice of workforce.
Another major issue between employers and their remote employees is trust. It’s easy to know someone is working when they are literally in the office. Seeing is believing, after all. How do you know someone is working when they are not in the office?
Offices employ numerous methods to verify whether an employee is working or not. They may use time tracking software, task-based checkups, daily updates, weekly meetings, etc. However, none is perfect. Therefore, companies with remote employees have to maintain clear standards.
Both their procedures and workflow must adapt to employees working in different timezones. Creating this kind of work environment takes time and that’s why many companies choose to avoid it.
Arguably one of the greatest challenges for newly remote workers is time management. The usual system of an office has teams in nearby cubicles where a supervisor can hover over them, provide assistance, or lend guidance that can get work back on track. This allows the supervisor to check what the employee is doing. In turn, this enables them to make sure their time is being used in the most efficient fashion.
When working from home, this hovering supervision is lost. Supervisors can no longer see what the employee is spending the bulk of their time on. Most importantly, the employee now has so much freedom it’s up to them to decide how to use their most productive hours.
Remote employees must find a way to create a work environment at home, or wherever they choose to work. This is crucial for their performance. Their house is riddled with chores and distractions that could make them less efficient therefore proper planning is necessary. The employee can’t fall back on their supervisor anymore. They must learn to be independent.
This is one of those “thrive or die” moments for most remote employees. If they don’t learn to manage their time wisely, their performance will suffer, and their job may be in jeopardy.
This is both a risk and an opportunity. Employees that learn to manage their time efficiently become a stronger asset to the company. Not only do they learn to get their work finished in a timely fashion, but this discipline drips into their personal life too.
As mentioned earlier, remote work can be both “a blessing and a curse.” For most, working from home would mean more time for themselves. An employee working from home can spend more time working on their own projects. They can spend time with their friends and family. They can live abroad or stay safely indoors. They can avoid distractions and work around their most efficient schedule.
Just as well, they might also fall behind. Remote employees risk being less focused. They might have too many distractions at home. They may not know how to handle their time efficiently. Their family might demand all of their time and take time away from their work. Employers might lose trust and feel that they aren’t doing enough. And the list goes on.
Every coin has two sides and remote workers have a choice. Their choice is whether to seize the opportunity and thrive, or realize it’s not for them and rejoin the ranks at the office. Both are fantastic options. Neither remote work nor office work is particularly the “better choice.” They are both simply choices.
Every person works differently and must find which space works best for them. Some offices even employ a part-time remote work policy. This way, their employees have fewer days in the office, learn to manage their time better, and receive the best of both worlds.
Well, now you are better prepared to decide which option is best for you. We would recommend, even if you feel you already know your preference, that you try both. After all, reading about something will never show you as much as experiencing it.