Long commutes. Endless meetings that could have been an email. Claire from HR’s dreadful lemon bars. Missing out on those things may be part of the appeal of working from home, and more and more workers are making that move. While remote work may be less social than in-person and have a different standard of answerability, it also means having more control over your environment and your work style.
The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in a global shift in how work is performed, with 34.5% of businesses increasing their remote work opportunities in the United States. And while it might seem like a dream scenario for many, there are pros and cons to working from home, all of which should be weighed as you consider your next career move.
In this article, we’ll discuss several of the most common pros and cons of working from home, and how it can affect your overall career:
What does it mean to work from home?
The pros of working from home
The cons of working from home
What does it mean to work from home?
A work-from-home job is pretty self-explanatory — it’s working remotely, out of your own home. Generally, all that is required is a stable internet connection and a computer (although some industries might require additional equipment provided by the company). This type of work used to be referred to as “telework,” although that’s now considered an outdated term. Basically, working from home means a job does not necessitate that an employee travel to their actual place of work or office.
4 Pros of working from home
Working from home is a different experience than being in a physical workspace. Other than having far fewer people in your home office, remote work can require additional self-direction and incentive to complete tasks and maintain productivity. But many people find that they thrive in such an environment, and find it less stressful overall. It all depends on your goals and understanding how you work best.
Working from home can be good for your wallet. According to a 2021 survey by Bankrate, 57% of workers said remote work had a “positive impact on their finances.”
1. You can be more independent
When you work in an office, distractions abound, and your daily schedule may not be totally up to you. It can be challenging to get work done in between meetings, donut breaks, and chatty co-workers. But working from home allows you to choose when you are most productive and have more "alone time" to focus on your work and meet your goals. Additionally, regulating your own work schedule means being able to take a break when you need one, which can help you stay engaged and lessen the chances of burnout.
2. Productivity can increase
It’s easier to get things done when you work on your own terms. According to recent studies, the adjustment to work-from-home opportunities has increased overall productivity by 4.6% in comparison to the pre-pandemic levels of remote work. This is generally attributed to the time saved by not having to commute, as the work-from-home employee is not spending valuable time sitting in traffic.
It’s not just about eliminating the commute. According to a Chinese study, call center employees who volunteered to work from home demonstrated a 13% increase in their productivity, of which 9% was from taking fewer breaks and sick days, and 4% from the workers being able to take more calls per minute due to the less distracting work environment.
3. More scheduling flexibility
Working from home may mean you can set your own schedule and work when you can be the most productive, and promotes a stronger work/life balance. It also allows you the freedom to take care of those little “life things” that come up during your workday, such as medical appointments or caring for a sick child. While deadlines must still be met and people need to be able to reach you, working from home reduces the stress of taking care of other responsibilities without the fear of losing your job.
4. You can wear what you want (mostly)
Working from home can save you time and money, including the wardrobe department. A few polished, professional pieces are good to have on hand for online meetings or client presentations, but for the most part, your fashion choices are your own.
Strike a balance between professional and casual. Pajama pants may not be your best option every day. Switch up your look depending on your mood.
Go overboard with your work-from-home clothes. Too much jewelry or a loud pattern can still be distracting in an online meeting.
Wear something you feel good in. Putting on that favorite shirt or comfortable slacks will help put you in “work mode.”
Make your outfits too complicated. Keep it simple.
Remember to comb your hair, especially if you’ve got a video meeting. You might be at home, but you shouldn’t struggle to look presentable.
Wear pajamas all day. Dressing for work — even remote work — helps you feel more focused and professional.
6 Cons of working from home
Working from home can be great, but it’s not for everyone. Before deciding if working from home is a good option for you, do your research. Talk to other people, even from outside your company, who have worked from home, and get their opinion. What did they like? What did they dislike? Don’t forget to do your research, and be aware of what your company's work-at-home policies are. Then you'll be able to make an informed decision if working from home will make you happier, or present too many challenges.
1. It can be solitary
Chances are, your fellow employees don’t live with you, so for the most part, you’ll be working solo. For some, this can create feelings of stress or loneliness, which can have long-term health consequences. When you don’t have an office to go to, you can miss out on social connections and interactions with your coworkers. According to a study by the American Psychiatric Associate, 17% of remote workers reported feeling lonely “all the time.” If you’re a social butterfly, working remotely might not be for you.
2. It can blur the lines between home and work time
Working from home can feel like you’re at work 24/7, especially if you don’t have delineated beginning and end times. Some on-site people use the commute to get into “work” mode and “home mode,’ and without that, it’s hard to shift your mindset. If you don’t set boundaries, it’s easy to get distracted by chores, food, or family.
3. Communication with coworkers can be tricky
When you’re in a different time zone than your colleagues (literally or figuratively) it can be a struggle to communicate efficiently and collaborate on the work. Ensure that you’re proficient in the designated work platforms so that you use them effectively and consistently.
4. Remote work might hinder your career growth
Lack of “face time” with the boss might cause a negative impression and hinder your career path. According to studies by Brandel and Goinpath, “face time at work is commonly used to assess employees on traits such as initiative, dedication, and teamwork.” Your work may not get as much notice as in-person employees, and you might feel the need to work harder to stay front-of-mind within your team/department.
5. You have to be self-directed
If you require extrinsic motivation to get your work done, working from home might not be for you. While some people do well without others keeping an eye on them, if you struggle to stay on-task and set your own schedule, you might reconsider working remotely.
6. You miss out on perks
If you’re someone who enjoys team lunches or working out in the office gym, working from home might not be your best option. And some people enjoy the built-in community that comes from working on-site. That goes for other perks, too, like office happy hour or that employee-of-the-month parking space. If you can’t live without free snacks, you might be happier working in person.
According to a Pew research study, as of February 2022, approximately six out of ten (59%) of U.S. workers who say their jobs can be done from home are working from home “all or most of the time.”
Working from home has become the “new normal” for many workers and provides flexibility and options not available to those working on-site. But what works for one person may not be great for another. As long as you determine your career priorities and ensure that working from home will align with your goals and aspirations, it may be the best option for you, even if you have to buy your own donuts.
More people than ever are working from home and are happy with their situation.
Working from home allows you to be more independent, provides a better work/life balance, and can help increase your overall productivity.
Remote work can also be solitary with many distractions, and can blur the lines between “work time” and “home time.”
Working from home limits face time with management and colleagues, which might be detrimental to career growth.