Short for “work from home,” WFH (now the hot topic of socially-distanced dinner party conversations) was rarely discussed a few years ago. Yet as we enter the post-pandemic era, many professionals are only applying to and accepting positions from organizations that offer this little acronym. Working from home has some serious benefits, like no longer battling that daily commute and more flexibility. However, there are some aspects of WFH culture that may not be as appealing.
Depending on your preferred work style and culture priorities, WFH could either be the best thing for you or the worst. Let’s break down the benefits and challenges of this work arrangement.
Pros of WFH
So Long, Long Commute
Remote jobs eliminate the daily commute. That long drive battling road closures, construction and other drivers all while trying to keep your breakfast balanced on your lap has come to an end. Even if you work from home one or two days during the week, it means less time spent to and from work. With all this extra time you can learn to meditate, become bilingual, walk the puppy you decided to adopt during the pandemic or finally learn how to make your grandma’s to-die-for lasagna. Bottom line – the time you are not spending commuting to and from the office is time gained. Minimizing daily drive time also benefits mother nature. Reducing emissions from cars and lowering the consumption of fossil fuels lessens the environmental impacts that come with commuting.
Fewer commutes mean fewer costs. Remote workers have reduced fuel and transportation expenses. Remote work also cuts costs on expenses like work clothing and childcare. Savings on childcare can be especially valuable to parents working from home. And for those of us who never wake up on time to pack a lunch resulting in meals purchased out, working from home offers considerable daily savings.
Quieter environments may lead to greater productivity. Some offices can be highly distracting. Designating a quiet and focused space with a home office helps remote workers create more productive environments than office based-workers. Remote workers can limit unnecessary interruptions which allows for a more dialed-in workday. When working in an office, you are subject to interruptions from colleagues or your boss popping by with a new project or an immediately needed update.
While being in an office setting may promote collaboration, it can also disrupt focus. Having time to concentrate on tasks and allow for “deep work” will increase productivity. Remote work also gives you the ability to step away from your computer when you need a break from the screen. This helps to stay motivated and reduce burnout, something you are less likely to do with a manager hovering nearby. But remember to be mindful of your coworkers needs and be available to connect for virtual meetings or questions.
Utilize New Tools and Skills
Technology is intertwined with work from home culture. You may need to learn new technical applications, such as Webex, Microsoft Teams, or other team collaboration platforms. You will be able to learn and develop various technical skills that you may not have gained by being in a physical office. Working from home requires more consistent communication between coworkers and managers. This means more emails, phone calls, video calls, chats, smoke signals and carrier pigeons. Using these tools more often will improve your digital communication skills.
People want more job flexibility. But, what does this mean? Many work from home positions are not limited to normal business hours. Employees can address projects during the hours they are most productive, but independence in your job may not be something you are familiar with in your current physical workplace. If you possess self-discipline and motivation enough to manage time responsibly and complete job tasks, working from home may be for you.
Remote work can also reduce intermittent absences. Whether you are sick or have to schedule an appointment, working from home can help you limit how often you need to take a day off. Remote work can also encourage work-life balance by allowing you to schedule your work around your personal life. Working remotely can afford you more time to take care of essential tasks. Nine-to-five jobs prevent employees from being able to address life events when they come up. Remote workers have a much easier time getting a routine check-up or picking up a child from school while still meeting project deadlines and responsibilities.
More Inclusive Job Offerings
Work from home positions open up additional job opportunities for individuals with limitations to working in traditional spaces. People with disabilities that prevent them from traveling or working long hours can grow their careers remotely. The ability to work from anywhere can also mean an increase in available and qualified candidates.
Cons of WFH
With all the benefits of remote work, you may be wondering why you would ever go into an office again! Don’t become enchanted just yet. No job or work arrangement is perfect and many face challenges when working from home.
If you are someone who enjoys office-based camaraderie and appreciates a good happy-hour with coworkers then remote work may make you miserable. Working remotely, you won’t have the same opportunities to speak face-to-face with coworkers which could lead to disconnect. Remote work requires proactive engagement through communication platforms. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a coworker or manager with a question. If you feel like your team needs to connect more, why not suggest a virtual meet up? The key to avoiding loneliness and isolation as a remote worker is to schedule outings and events and keep the lines of communication open.
Home Office Expenses
Some remote positions require specific equipment like headsets, webcams or software to perform essential tasks and projects. If you want to set up a desk, chair and other furniture, you can expect to cover some initial costs to make your home office right for you. And because most of their work will be done digitally, remote workers need working and reliable internet connections.
Working from home also comes with the risk of not logging off or shutting down. This can lead to increased work-related stress.You can avoid this by setting boundaries and clearly defining your schedule. Allocate specific times for your job tasks and personal tasks. For some people, it helps to have a designated workspace and leave the space when the workday is over. Don’t get distracted by housework or that Amazon package on the porch. Define start and end times and stick to them. Sticking to a definitive timeline will keep you on task and help maintain work-life balance.
Although working from home can help increase productivity, it can also be a hindrance. With the freedom to move around and take breaks whenever the need arises, it might be difficult to stay focused on the tasks you’re working on. When at home it can be tempting to tidy up the kitchen, prepare a quick snack, or catch a few minutes of shut eye after the previous evenings Netflix binge. But too many distractions can lead to a decrease in your productivity and motivation. One way to combat this is to set personal deadlines and use productivity tools and task management applications. If household or neighborhood noise is an issue use noise-canceling headphones or play music to block out sounds.
Working from home can sometimes lead to a disconnect between you and your coworkers. You risk not having access to information until someone in the company communicates it to you, or new team members may be apprehensive to reach out to coworkers they have never met face to face.
Stay connected with your coworkers and managers through constant communication whenever you have questions or concerns. Use tools to collaborate and get up to date information on projects. Make attempts to get to know your remote coworkers beyond the screen. Many remote workers find it difficult to sense the correct tone through digital communication systems such as email, chat, social media and text. Without body language, facial expressions and other cues, remote employees have to put in extra effort to maintain positive communications.
What’s Right for You?
Many companies have made public statements or issued notices to employees with permanent “Work from Home” options. If you are presented with the choice, be aware of which benefits and challenges may affect you and which you are willing to live with. Remote work has obvious benefits but some workers may learn they prefer a more traditional work culture. Learning which type of work arrangement works for you could be a factor in your long-term career success.