Advantages and Disadvantages of Remote Working and Working From Home

April 23, 2019

Woman working from home on her laptop
Ben Eubanks

In today's technology-driven world, flexible work is a key point of interest for workers. Additionally, the advantages of working from home help to deliver value back to the employer in terms of productivity and loyalty. While working remotely may not be the best fit for everyone, it can be an attractive employee perk to offer.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Working From Home

Research from WorldatWork, an association for benefits and compensation professionals, found that 80 percent of employers offer some sort of flexible working arrangements for employees, but fewer than one in four organizations actually has a written policy for how to use it.

Advantages

As someone who has worked remotely for more than five years, I can say without reservation that there are major advantages of working from home. There are three key components:

  1. Lack of commute: anyone who spends the first hour or more of their day fighting traffic and driving up their stress levels isn't ready to be their best self at work. On top of that, the financial expense is also something worth noting.
  2. Fewer distractions: working away on a tight deadline as someone comes by with the "do you have a second?" request is everyone's office nightmare. While small talk is an important part of work, too much can pull you away from the job you're supposed to be doing, creating a drag on productivity.
  3. Working in your prime hours: this is one that's lesser known, but still incredibly valuable. Everyone has their own circadian rhythm that dictates the times they are best suited to focus and do deep work. If your hours are 6-10 p.m., then you're out of luck in a job that requires you to be in the office by 8 a.m. By working strategically during your prime hours you can be much more productive than someone who just grinds out tasks all day long, according to Dr. Josh Davis.

Disadvantages

IBM and Yahoo have made headlines in recent years by calling their remote workers back to the office. The firms didn't do this because they thought it would make their people angry (though it did), they did so because they wanted to improve the creativity and collaboration among their staff. While remote work has value, it's more challenging to bounce ideas off peers and leverage that informal collaboration that happens in the hallway, by the water cooler and so on.

Another set of disadvantages, as outlined in this Forbes piece, are on a more individualized level: loneliness, lack of career progression or even the sense of never "leaving" work are all real issues that must be dealt with by remote workers if they want to be successful. These are not inconsequential and must be considered alongside remote work opportunities.

For these reasons, it might be worthwhile to consider a hybrid arrangement with your manager where you come into a local office on some days and work from a home office on other days to help balance out your needs with the needs of the firm.

Tips for Working Remotely

According to a report highlighted by upstartHR, 93 percent of workers say that they are least productive in the office because of interruptions and other minutiae that gets in the way of getting the job done. It's possible to work remotely and still be productive, but it requires the right mindset and attention to detail. Here are four tips for working remotely:

  1. Be disciplined. If you are not disciplined enough to work through your tasks without a manager standing over you, then working from home is not for you. There are some people who simply don't fit the model, and there's nothing wrong with that, but knowing it can mean the difference between keeping your job and losing it if you can't make this critical piece work.
  2. Stay connected. Be connected not only with your manager but also your peers at work. Set up a weekly conversation with each one, even if just 15 minutes long, to stay up-to-date on important news, personal information and other conversations you miss if you're not in the office.
  3. Create boundaries. If you have children or a spouse who is also home during the day, it's important to create boundaries with them so they understand that work time is not to be interrupted unless it's an emergency. This also helps to get you into the right mindset, so don't forget this one. A friend uses a colored sign on his door to indicate if he's in a meeting (red sign/do not disturb) or available (green sign/come on in).
  4. Use technology. Today's technologies are one of the primary advantages of working from home. With video chat, virtual collaboration tools and other software, workers can instantly connect with others just as if they were sitting down the hall. Take care to use a variety of options so that it creates more points of connection among your peers who may be in the office or working from home as well.

These tips for can help those both new and old to remote working to get the most out of their hours in the home office. By being intentional with their time and approaching the arrangement strategically, this could be the most satisfying work situation employees have ever experienced.

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