The number of people working from home has dramatically increased over the last decade and a massive 4.2 million UK workers are working from home – that’s 13.9% of the workforce!
Many of us would love to sit in the comfort of our own home and watch the paychecks roll in, but in truth, working from home often has just as many cons as it has pros.
Whether you’re migrating away from the office or running an online business you’ll soon begin to notice some clear benefits and disadvantages of working remotely:
Advantages of Working from Home
+ No Commuting Costs – The average commuting cost for a UK worker is £161. Working from home means less or even no commuting – you can essentially give yourself a tidy payrise by ditching those long rainy journeys. Say goodbye to sky high fuel costs, parking tickets, train/bus fare and wear & tear on your car. Cutting down on the commute is also great for the environment!
+ Savings in Travel Time – By ditching the commute you gain back any time you’d normally spend travelling. The average daily commute time across the UK is 47 minutes. What would you do with the extra time? Another hour of work? An early morning workout?
+ Flexibility – Stepping away from the office environment allows you to set your own working schedule so that you can prioritise more effectively. On top of flexible working hours you also have complete flexibility over your working environment – whether that’s your home office, a restaurant, a coffee shop or even your local library.
Increased flexibility allows you to tend to personal matters at more suitable times including doctors appointments, calling utility providers, car MOTs, weekly food shops or family emergencies.
+ Less Stress and Distractions – The first 10 minutes of the day can be very stressful, you know the feeling:
It’s 8:45. You have 40 unread emails, your manager needs a report on their desk ‘ASAP’ and team members are in desperate need of your assistance…
The nature of the office environment makes it very easy for other people to set your agenda for the day based on their needs. Working from home removes these distractions and allows you to prioritise your own work.
A distraction in itself may only take you two minutes to deal with but studies have shown that it can take up to twenty minutes to regain concentration after you have been distracted. By working remotely you can limit the amount of distractions you encounter and therefore increase your productivity.
+ Proximity to Home & Family – With long days and equally long travel times it can be hard to be there for family. Working from home allows you to be closer to your relatives and gives you the flexibility to visit them at any time. This is especially important for parents and elderly carers as they can have the peace of mind that they are available if they are ever needed.
+ Improved Health & Fitness – With time saved on commuting and the ability to set your own schedule you can set aside time to focus on your well-being. This could be a workout in the morning/lunch break or even just a 5 minute walk to clear you head.
Working from home also means you have access to your own fridge and kitchen facilities; this gives more opportunity for healthier meals and snacks without the limitations of the crammed office fridge and faulty microwave.
+ No Workwear – In the office environment, it is often required that you dress in a certain way. Financing your workwear tends to be a costly, ongoing process that leads to you working all day in uncomfortable attire. Working from home gives you the ability to wear what you are comfortable with.
*Be careful though, dressing too casually can create an informal atmosphere which in turn can effect your quality of work. In short, find middle ground between a dressing gown and a full suit.
Disadvantages of Working from Home
– Isolation/Lack of social interaction – Working in an office, you become accustomed to the day to day chat with co-workers, work related discussions and team brainstorming sessions. This is very different compared to working by yourself at home which can be quite isolated once you are removed from such a social environment.
– Difficulty in Separating Home from Work – When you’re working in the same place you are living it can be very difficult to separate home life from work life. In this respect, it is important to set up a dedicated area of your house that becomes your ‘working zone’ and use the rest of the house for relaxing, eating, family etc. Without these guidelines in place you can often find that work never stops which can be detrimental to your family life.
– Lack of Competitive Spirit – Let’s face it. Nothing feels better than doing a better job than your peers. Having the highest levels of productivity, creating impressive quality work. In fact, some of us rely heavily on the element of competition to motivate ourselves at work. A well fostered team environment can be a fantastic asset in driving people to generate results.
With this in mind, there’s a great deal of satisfaction and praise available for those that work hard in the office environment. Once you remove yourself from this competitive territory you’ll find that the only person you really need to prove your worth to is yourself.
– More Distractions – Depending on your working environment at home, remote working can very often present it’s own form of distractions. This is especially the case if you are in the house with family members or even pets as interruptions can be very frequent and time consuming.
– Need for High Self Discipline / Motivation – Working from home is a real test of strong will and determination. With no managers keeping an eye on you and no team members looking up to you, you can essentially do what you want with your time. It is far too easy to turn on the radio, television or even a games console just to break silence which can greatly reduce the quantity and quality of your work.
One of the most common distractions when working from home is procrastinating by spending your work time on personal chores. To ensure you remain productive Ella Gascoigne from StartUp PR advises that you ignore your chores, keep the TV turned off and leave long chats with family until you are out of your specified ‘work hours’.
– Alienated from Company Developments – A lot can go on at the office in an average working day: morning meetings, company updates, team developments, successes, problems, changes to processes etc.
If you’re working away from the office for long periods there will be a great deal of information that you will miss out on. This can often alienate you from the rest of your team and you may even miss out on opportunities simply because you are not physically present.
– Limited Delegation Capabilities – If you work in a managerial role, you will appreciate how easy it can sometimes be to quickly complete big projects & large volumes of work by delegating responsibility around the team. When you step out of the team environment your team may need to set their own agenda of work each day.
Your knowledge of each individuals workflow may become clouded and delegating from a distance can lead to inconvenient interruptions rather than the quality results you could once achieve. In this respect, some jobs just aren’t suited to remote working.
– Additional Expenses/Overheads – Despite the savings on commuting costs, working from home can have it’s own costs that would normally be covered by your employer. You may see an increase in your utility bills from extra use of heating or air conditioning. You may also need to purchase equipment that you would normally use in your office such as printers, scanners and other such equipment.
– Lack of Face to Face Communication – Some conversations need to take place face-to-face, if one of your team/co-workers is having personal/performance issues it can sometimes be very impractical and impersonal to try and resolve this over the phone.
Occasionally, these conversations can also be highly time sensitive meaning you shouldn’t wait until the next time you are in the office to address them. With this in mind, you should consider whether working from home will be detrimental to your effectiveness in your role.
– Perception – Despite the huge increase in the number of people working from home, some peers and employers don’t take remote working seriously. Family and friends may ‘pop in’ at inappropriate times and prospective employers may steer away from workers that they feel do not wish to be physical present at work.
Should I Work from Home?
When considering working from home, it’s important not to be put off by the disadvantages. However, it’s worth considering whether working from home would be the right fit for you. It is also worth thinking about which of these disadvantages would concern your employer if you were to propose the idea to them.
If you’re looking to improve your remote working effectiveness, Michelle from Making Sense of Cents shares some great tips on how maintain concentration levels when working from home.