Working from home, sometimes referred to as remote work or telecommuting, is exactly what it sounds like. Rather than working from an office, the employee instead works from their home. While remote work isn’t available for some professions that need a person to be physically present, many white-collar jobs can be performed from anywhere with the right technology and a stable Internet connection.
The Coronavirus pandemic caused a dramatic shift in the location of work for many people in Australia. With little warning, many people used to working in an office had to get used to working from home. This sudden change in paradigm left many people feeling uneasy with their new working arrangements.
Although the pandemic has passed, the changes it made to the way Australians work haven’t. Working from home has become part of the Australian business landscape, with many job listings using remote working as an incentive to apply.
Not having to get up early and commute to the office can be great, but not everything about working from home is necessarily as good. As with everything, there are pros and cons to working from home, and finding ways to mitigate the potential downsides of working from home is vital for both productivity and employee wellbeing.
Pros of Working from Home
Increased Productivity and Satisfaction
Working from home allows people to work from a location in which they are comfortable. Many people have reported that they are more productive when working from home in comfort. A Stanford study of 16,000 remote workers showed an increase in productivity of 13% over those working from an office.
This increase in productivity is due to fewer distractions, reduced office interruptions, and the ability to create an optimal work environment tailored to their preferences. Remote work can also result in fewer meetings and less time spent on non-essential activities.
By eliminating daily commute hassles, office politics, and rigid work environments. Employees often appreciate the comfort and freedom of working in a space they have personalised to suit their needs.
Improved Work/Life Balance
Working from home can offer a better work-life balance by allowing people to spend more time with family, pursue personal interests, and engage in self-care. This flexibility can lead to higher job satisfaction and overall well-being.
The same Stanford study that indicated an increase in productivity with remote work also showed that working from home improved work satisfaction to the point that attrition rates were reduced by 50%.
No Office Distractions
Research conducted by Dr Libby Sander and Bond University indicates that employees may find it difficult to be creative or productive in an office. Dull workspaces can stifle creativity. The typical background noise of an office – co-workers chatting, phone calls, impromptu meetings, the hum or buzz of printers and other technology can all lead to distraction or difficulty concentrating on the tasks at hand.
Working from home eliminates the need for commuting, saving valuable time and reducing stress associated with traffic or public transportation. This can result in increased productivity and improved well-being.
Remote work may lead to reduced expenditure. Working from home can save on commuting expenses, parking fees, and meals outside the home. Employees may also be able to save on work attire, dry cleaning, and other expenses associated with office-based work.
Cons of Working from Home
Blurred Work/Life Boundaries
One of the biggest drawbacks of working from home is how difficult it is to separate work from home life. It can be challenging to establish clear boundaries between work and personal life when the two are physically so close together. The lack of separation between the two can lead to longer work hours and difficulty unplugging. This can affect personal relationships, sleep and stress levels.
Creating distance between work and home can be achieved when working from home. This can take the form of a physical barrier, such as a door to an office that can be closed after the workday. If a dedicated workspace is not available, a buffer activity, such as going for a walk, heading to a yoga class or the like can create enough distance between work and home life.
A commute may be an important part of maintaining a healthy work/life balance. A 2022 conceptual study indicates that a commute may function as a liminal space between work and home. Liminal spaces allow people to transition from one role to another.
What this means is that during a commute to work, people can prepare for the day ahead and switch to work mode. When commuting home, the liminal space allows people to switch off from work and relax.
One of the main drawbacks of working from home is the reduced social interaction compared to being in an office setting. Remote workers can feel isolated. People may miss out on in-person collaboration, networking opportunities, and casual interactions with colleagues. Lack of interpersonal interaction can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation, as well as increase stress.
Remote work can present challenges in terms of collaboration, brainstorming, and maintaining effective communication with colleagues. Relying on virtual meetings, emails, and messaging platforms may not always replicate the efficiency and immediacy of in-person discussions.
Zoom fatigue refers to the exhaustion, mental strain, and overall tiredness experienced by people who participate in videoconferencing meetings and interactions for extended periods. Although convenient, videoconferencing requires more mental effort than face-to-face interactions. This is due in part to the need to process non-verbal cues, facial expressions, and gestures on a flat screen.
Videoconferencing platforms may not fully capture subtle non-verbal cues, resulting in a communication gap. It may take increased mental effort to interpret information accurately. This can be exhausting.
Potential for Distraction
While working from home may offer freedom, it can also present distractions. Household chores, family members, pets, or personal obligations. Staying focused and maintaining productivity may require additional discipline and self-motivation.
The pros and cons of working from home can vary depending on individual preferences, job requirements, and the support provided by the employer. Hybrid work models that combine remote and office-based work may help strike a balance between the advantages and disadvantages of both settings.