Artwork by: Tal Yavin
If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us one thing, it’s that being productive at work has little to do with being in the office - for most people at least. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of working from home.
In 2018, most employers would scoff at the idea of remote working. Fast forward to 2024, and it looks like organizations all over the globe are now allowing employees to work from the comfort of their homes. After all, there are several benefits to working from home that are hard to ignore.
In this blog post, we’ll shed some light on
The benefits of working from home for employees
How to overcome common remote working challenges
Remote working best practices
According to a Gallup survey in 2022, 56% of all full-time employees in the United States are of the opinion that their job can be easily done remotely. In contrast, only 6% of the employees want to go back to working entirely on-site.
If there’s one thing that can be said with reasonable certainty, it’s that working from the office is fast becoming a thing of the past. More and more employees are opting for either 100% remote working or a hybrid model that allows them to come to work certain days of the week/month. Here’s why so many people are working from home.
Imagine waking up on a cold and dull Monday morning and spending more than an hour commuting to your office. Maybe you missed the train or there’s a crash on the highway, and you’re left with a sense of panic to reach your workplace on time. Now, imagine not having to face that stress at all!
Wasting commuting time is just one of the many drawbacks of working on-site. It could add to your stress and drain you out. Also, let’s not forget about the cost of fuel. Ditching the commute allows you to focus on other priorities, like getting some extra sleep in the morning or having a healthy breakfast, which could have a positive impact on your productivity.
Remote working opportunities often come with flexible working hours. If your organization measures productivity in terms of the amount of work done in a day instead of the number of hours spent at work, you may want to consider negotiating a work-from-home arrangement.
One of the biggest advantages of working from home is that it allows you to take control of your schedule. Whether you need to pick up your kids from school, visit your family doctor, or try a new yoga class, working from home gives you the flexibility to tend to those commitments.
At home, you get to avoid a number of distractions, such as impromptu coffee breaks, water cooler conversations, and general noise and chatter. Whenever you feel unproductive, you can take a short break from work to rest and regain focus. If you’re feeling an afternoon lull, consider taking a nap or going for a walk. Working from home offers limitless options to improve your productivity and get more work done.
In 2022, Stanford University conducted a study to evaluate the impact of remote working on over 16,000 workers in the United States for a period of nine months. The study reported a 13% increase in productivity, which was attributed to quieter working environments and fewer sick days. Another study concluded that employees who work remotely showed an uptick in productivity by 70%.
Since you’re no longer tethered to a physical office space, you can easily pack up your belongings and move closer to your family or an area with a low cost of living. If you have dreamed of working from the sandy beaches of a tropical island, remote working can make it happen.
Talk to your employer first
If your organization has a hybrid model, you may be required to go to the office periodically. In such cases, you should consider living in the same region as your office. Similarly, there might be some legal stipulations that prevent your company from working with employees in a specific geographic region. If you’re planning to relocate, talk to your employer first and find out about the legal and practical effects of relocation on your job.
Work-from-home policies have practically eliminated barriers to entry for several minority groups, leading to an increase in diversity and inclusivity at the workplace. For example, employees who are caregivers, new parents, seniors, and individuals with physical and mental limitations often find working from home far more convenient than commuting to work five days a week.
When you’re in the office, you can add - at most - a couple of plants, family photos, and other items to give your workspace a personal touch. At home, you can create an entire office space that brings you joy and helps you stay motivated throughout the day! You can also crank up your thermostat, play some music in the background, or buy a super comfy office chair to create the ideal working environment.
It’s not just the commute you’re saving on. Thanks to Zoom/Skype/Teams meetings, you don’t have to buy and wear expensive office clothes to look presentable. You also don’t need to spend money on morning coffee and lunch. All of these savings will eventually have a big impact on your monthly budget. Similarly, employers can let go of several costs, such as office rent and fuel allowances, and focus more on keeping staff members motivated at work.
Even though remote work cannot eliminate global warming, it does go a long way in reducing your carbon footprint. Since you no longer have to commute to work, you can play your part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. At home, you can utilize natural sunlight when working, install surge protectors, set your equipment to power-saving mode, and take other measures to keep the environment safe.
There are many people who feel safe and comfortable at home and like to keep social interactions to a minimum. If you feel your home is your sanctuary, then maybe working from home is an idea worth considering. In a 2021 survey, several minorities in the United States felt a greater sense of belonging at their workplace by actually working from home instead of going to the office.
If you can work flexible hours, create your own customized workspace, avoid commuting to work, and get some extra sleep every morning, you are likely to notice some improvement in your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. You also get to spend more time with your family, see your loved ones, and enjoy your favorite relaxation activities, which will eventually improve your overall mood and help you find some balance in life.
Despite all its benefits, remote working comes with its fair share of challenges. However, with the right strategies in place, you can keep all of these issues at bay. Here are a few problems associated with remote working and their solutions.
Working from home tends to remove employees from the regular interactions they would’ve had at the office. While some people don’t like small talk, prolonged periods of isolation can be detrimental to health, especially during the winter season. In the long run, isolation can also lead to boredom, which might impact your performance at work. You might not feel connected with your team members or part of one unit.
Solution: To keep isolation at bay, it’s important to engage in virtual team-building and social events with your colleagues. You can create a group/team at Slack, Microsoft Teams, or other communication software where you can discuss non-work-related topics. Gamification is also another option worth exploring.
Even though your home is your comfort zone, you might find working from home an odd type of intrusion into your personal space. This explains why remote working came across as a culture shock to a lot of employees in 2020, especially those who like to keep their professional life away from their personal life. When these boundaries begin to diminish, it becomes difficult to focus on work, feel productive, and adopt healthy habits.
Solution: One of the best ways to maintain your work-life balance is to set healthy boundaries. For example, you can have a strict disconnect from work policy where you shouldn’t consider responding to work-related messages outside of working hours. Similarly, you can dedicate a certain time of the day or week as downtime. For instance, if you have an hour’s lunch break and you get done with your lunch in ten minutes, you can utilize the remaining 50 minutes to relax, take a nap, watch some videos, or do whatever you need to do to de-stress.
When you’re working from home, it becomes difficult for your employers to notice your body language and look for signs of stress, fatigue, and mental duress. Combined with a sense of isolation, a lack of emotional support can have dangerous consequences.
Solution: Employers should invest in robust work-from-home policies that include regular mental health checks, workload assessment, and strategies for coping with burnout. Another option is to design and implement open-door policies where employees can have honest conversations with their colleagues and supervisors on mental health.
Despite the fact that we’re two years into remote working, there are plenty of managers who still believe in the traditional ways of management. They don’t trust their employees working from home, and this lack of trust often leads to unfavorable policies, including mandatory webcam meetings, increased reporting, and forced timekeeping.
Solution: While a certain level of supervision is necessary, micromanagement should be unacceptable. This is where employers should focus more on performance/result-based KPIs instead of time tracking. Similarly, if you feel undue stress from the management, you can talk to your supervisors, discuss your workload, and create manageable expectations at work.
Even though remote working allows you to create the ideal working conditions at your home, there might be plenty of distractions you have to deal with. For example, if you have an important meeting and your kids are making a lot of noise, what can you do? Similarly, you might be spending a lot more time scrolling through your social media accounts, watching videos, listening to music, online shopping, and other miscellaneous tasks that are affecting your productivity.
Solution: You have to think of working from home as working from the office. Consider creating a routine and sticking to it. Find out the time of the day your productivity is at its peak, and try to accomplish as much as you can during this time. You can also invest in some noise-cancellation equipment so you can take your important meetings without getting distracted.
Whether you’ve worked from home for a while or you’re new to this type of working arrangement, you can take the following steps to stay productive and motivated while working from the comfort of your home.
Work regular hours: Don’t get carried away by flexible working hours. Even though you’re home and no one’s watching you, it’s best to stick to a schedule. Dedicate a certain number of hours to work and know when to call it a day.
Stick to a routine: When you’re working from home, you need a dedicated routine that will guide you through the day and keep you motivated. Consider having a fixed time to wake up every morning, get done with breakfast, and be at your workstation. Similarly, set a time for your lunch breaks.
Set some ground rules: Talk to your employer and set certain rules for working. For instance, if you have to pick up your kids from school in the afternoon, you need to be clear with your company that you cannot work or respond to messages during that time. On that note, you must also set some ground rules with your family members. This can include setting a ‘do not disturb’ period during the day when your loved ones should not interrupt you unless it’s an emergency. You can use this time to get some serious work done.
Don’t skip your breaks: It’s easy to get so caught up with work that you end up skipping your lunch break. In the long run, working like a machine can have dire consequences on your well-being. If you have the option to take a lunch break for an hour each day, take that break. Use that time to eat, rest, and tend to your personal commitments.
Ask for help when needed: If you have faulty equipment at work that’s affecting your work, reach out to the appropriate staff member in your office and ask for new equipment. If you’re facing connectivity issues, talk to your employer if it’s okay for you to go to the office that day. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with work, speak to your supervisor and see what can be done. In any case, reach out for help whenever you need it.
Have a dedicated office space: Even though most of us dream of working from a hammock in some exotic location while sipping a margarita, it’s not the most ideal setting for office work. You need to have a proper office space with the right equipment, sufficient heating and lighting, and minimal noise and distractions to deliver your best.
Get some face time: You may not want to ever go back to work, but that shouldn’t stop you from socializing with your colleagues. Consider having in-person meetups every now and then. You can also have virtual webcam meetings to talk about things other than work. If your employer is arranging an office event, you should consider going and meeting everyone.
Take your sick days: It doesn’t matter if you’re working from home and you’re enjoying the flexibility. When you’re under the weather, take a sick day to rest and recover.
As the global economy slowly recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic and adjusts to the post-pandemic world, one thing is certain: remote work is here to stay.
There are several benefits to working from home, such as better work-life balance, flexibility, and improved health. However, it’s important to regularly engage with your team members to keep loneliness, isolation, and boredom at bay.
Organizations can play their part to facilitate remote working by designing and implementing proper work-from-home policies that include regular well-being checks on all employees.
Asad's writing expertise lies in the fields of HR and marketing—putting him in the unique position of understanding the job-search process: both from the side of the applicant, and the side of the hiring managers. With this valuable blend of perspectives, he’s able to help his clients position themselves as top candidates for their desired roles.