Working From Home: The Pros & Cons
There is no doubt that the increase in the number of people working remotely over the past few years has been propelled by the COVID-19 pandemic. With the surging popularity of working from home, more businesses are continuing to offer flexible working to their employees after being allowed back to work. Already having the measures in place and having established that it is possible and often preferable, most businesses have no reasons to deny this to their employees.
Remote working has its benefits as well as its downsides and it is mainly down to your own personal situation and preferences whether working from home is to your liking.
What are the benefits of working from home?
Remote working offers the chance for more flexibility. You can, more often than not, choose working hours that work around your own productivity levels and when you feel you perform best. Alongside working your preferred hours, remote working gives you the opportunity to travel; you can work from home or work from the beach or anywhere you want! This increased flexibility means employees are often more productive and perform better in their job role.
Avoiding commuting. The overall decrease in cars on the roads during the lockdowns throughout the pandemic proved beneficial to the environment. With your commute now being a flight of stairs or two at most, you save time either side of your working day; you can use this time to have a lie in, unwind or spend time doing something else.
A better work and home life balance is another benefit for some people when working remotely. You have more time to spend with your family or the people you live with and fitting work around your personal life is a lot more easily done.
You can save a lot of money working from home. Not commuting means saving money on public transport or your petrol or parking. Similarly, you are more likely to save money on lunches or after work drinks when working remotely. Not having to fund a work wardrobe is another area where you may save some cash... not to mention being able to wear comfy clothes or even pyjamas whilst working is most definitely an ideal situation!
Operational costs could be reduced, proving beneficial for businesses. With more people working from home, less office space is required, saving money on rent and utilities as well as cleaning services and other costs.
Working remotely gives you complete autonomy of your workspace and working environment, if you have the privilege of being able to have your own space. Being able to customise your environment to your preferred temperature, light settings and levels of background noise means you can work more efficiently and more productively.
What are the downsides to working from home?
Remote working is definitely not for everyone. Some people prefer the routine and social interaction of an office environment and thrive more when working around other people. Personal situations may also impact a person’s ability to work from home productively, perhaps their home environment is not ideal or they don’t have a suitable workspace. For people who live alone, they may experience increased isolation and loneliness without the face-to-face interaction of their usual work environment. This could have a negative impact on their mental health as well as their ability to work productively.
Moving across to working from home, with increased levels of virtual communication means extended hours of screen time exposure. This can cause fatigue, headaches and a host of other symptoms and can have a negative impact on your physical as well as mental wellbeing.
Although having a better work and home life balance was mentioned previously, some people find working remotely blurs the boundaries between your work and personal life. Being more online focused can mean higher intensity such as back-to-back virtual meetings, no proper breaks and always being ‘switched on’. Sometimes people also may find working from home gives you an increased workload, leading to juggling both personal and work-related things simultaneously. This could all potentially lead to burnout and an increase in mental health struggles.
Remote working can affect company culture and the social aspect of an office environment. Employees, especially new starters, will often find it harder to build meaningful connections without that face-to-face interaction and the small conversations throughout the day. Enthusiasm and passion for the company may also diminish over time due to the detachment.
A study found that overall physical and mental wellbeing decreased since transitioning to complete remote working during the current pandemic. 64.8% of participants reported new physical health issues whilst 73.6% reported new mental health issues had arisen since working remotely; these were all brought on as a direct impact of working from home and not COVID-19.
What can you do?
It is important to maintain a level of social interaction. Having social events out of working hours or bringing remote workers into the workplace for face-to-face meetings occasionally can boost that level of interaction. Even consistent check-ins can help bring that personal touch that is sometimes lost in remote working.
Introducing hybrid working as an in between stage can be a nice combination of office work and remote working and can help combat the negative aspects of both. Employees may find a better balance when splitting their time between traditional working and working from home; the outcome may mean increased productivity and a healthy work life balance.
Ensure remote working spaces are healthy and functional. Although employees are not in the office, there is still a duty to provide a safe working environment and if that is not possible then accommodations should be made.
Offering support regarding mental and physical wellbeing for employees is essential to helping them adjust and perform well whilst working remotely. Encourage use of any available materials and make them aware of people who are available to talk to if needed.
Understand the boundaries that employees have when working from home. Just because someone is working from home doesn’t mean that they have no free time or can answer calls at all hours of the day.
Many people had their first taste of working from home during COVID-19 however remote working was increasing in popularity before the pandemic started. It is clear to see why, look at digital nomads who can work from wherever in the world, giving them the opportunity to pursue travelling alongside working. Obviously, this is not the norm and most people who work from home tend to stay at home however the freedom to go visit family or friends across the country is available when working remotely and many people value this.
It will not be a surprise if many people and businesses transition to hybrid working in the future. With most people having had a taste of remote working in recent years the opportunity to continue after the pandemic may well be very tempting.