As more and more professionals seek a better work-life balance and more companies adopt flexible policies to accommodate shifting workplace priorities and realities the working from home option is becoming increasingly viable. Employees see this as an ideal means to remain in the workforce and continue to be employed thereby maintaining all the tangible benefits of being part of an established company, while enjoying all the advantages of being based at home. The option has its potential pitfalls however and below we discuss some of the advantages and disadvantages of working from home.
By working at home you save on many hidden costs associated with going to work. These include costs of commuting, car wear and tear, fuel, road taxes, parking as well as indirect costs such as expensive professional wardrobes and the dry-cleaning of those. Often you can also save on older children’s care arrangements although for younger children it is highly unadvisable to forgo the childcare arrangement and try to balance close care and supervision with the demands of the job.
This doesn’t just relate to timings either although the flexibility to determine your own work hours to some extent is the most important aspect of this. You can also determine your environment, lighting, temperature, setting, mood; basically work in the framework that suits you best and makes you happiest and most productive.
Coworkers banter and distractions, unnecessary interruptions, unimportant meetings can all be avoided if you are safely at home and sealed off in your own environment which you have barricaded from any possible interruptions.
Proximity to home and family
For many, the physical proximity to family and the convenience of being at home are tremendously comforting. For parents it can be especially pacifying to know that they are very near to their children and available should they be needed for any reason. This also applies in the case of elderly care.
The stress of commuting in bumper-to-bumper traffic at rush hour in many countries is extremely counterproductive and can lead to disgruntled workers who are already exhausted and worn before they have even begun their day. This is especially true where the workplace is far from the office. Other stresses often cited include unfriendly coworkers, a suboptimal work environment and constant distractions.
Removed from the stresses and distractions of the workplace and working independently in their own preferred environment at their own pace, professionals are often a lot happier and a lot more productive.
Often with long commutes and anywhere from 1 to 3 hours a day spent getting to and from the workplace both physical and mental health are adversely impacted; the former as the gym hours are usually the first to go and the latter due to the stresses associated with both the commute and the workplace itself. By working at home the commuting time saved enables you to resume physical exercise, to go for a long walk for example before and after work or to join a local gym.
Better work/life balance
Work/life balance, the aspiration of the modern professional, is often achieved and tuned to satisfaction through a working at home arrangement, particularly when a professional has the flexibility to report into the office and work from the office partially as an option and can fine-tune the arrangement to achieve the most optimal balance.
Often, professionals working from home complain of isolation and loneliness given their removal from their bosses and coworkers and th is can be very depressing to some. Since the workplace provides a location to meet people and make friends for many, professionals working from home have to be more creative and resourceful in getting to know people and in staying in touch with their colleagues.
Although office distractions are avoided by working at home, different distractions may arise. Interruptions from children, work, neighbours, friends, family may be very disruptive and special efforts must be made to make it known that you are actually working and unavailable for interruption within work hours despite your physical presence at home.
Difficulty in separating home from work
The temptation to engage in household matters since you are at home is often very strong. Suddenly you may start feeling obliged to clean the home, do the shopping, the childcare, the cooking, the home finances and the socializing all while meeting the full requirements of the job too. It is essential to draw the line between home and work so as to avoid both areas suffering.
Work doesn’t end
Since there is no-one looking over your shoulder enforcing strict hours you may feel tempted to work endlessly. This pressure to work endlessly may be compounded by the fact that you feel there are greater expectations made of you as a home-worker or by self-imposed pressures to prove yourself and your abilities in this arrangement. Moreover the lack of physical separation between home and work may add to this pressure to work endlessly.
Alienated from daily 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, changes in company direction, new competitive intelligence etc.
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 and aggressively vying 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.
Need for high self-discipline
Working from home is not for anyone. It takes a lot of dedication, self-control and discipline to motivate yourself to persevere in working at home alone over the long run without succumbing to the distractions and losing drive and momentum. Often a partial arrangement where you report into the office once or twice a week is the optimal arrangement as 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.
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