According to data from the Office of National Statistics, just under 15% of UK workers telecommute. In the USA (according to globalworkplaceanalytics.com), home workers are the fastest growing segment of the employment market, and over 80% of people say they would like to work from home, at least part-time.
But is working from home really the utopia that people think it is? What are the pros and cons of choosing a position that lets you work from home?
If you have a remote working agreement with a degree of flexibility, then it’s easier to fit your work around your life, rather than the other way around. That means you can meet friends for coffee, visit sick or elderly relatives or pop to the gym by starting work early and finishing late.
If you do take a position with remote working, ask whether that flexibility exists. The best remote team managers monitor their staff based on deliverables, not hours put in. If they talk about productivity monitoring at the interview? Prepare to be micro-managed.
When word gets around that you’re good at your job, you become the person that everyone wants to ask for favours. You can end up with a queue at your desk, and not enough time to get your job done.
When you work from home, the only interruptions will be the postman and the rumble of your stomach demanding another snack.
Although many people think of introverts, wanting to be by themselves when they work from home, the truth is that all personality types can thrive as digital nomads. Your work doesn’t literally need to be done from home; you might go into the garden when the weather is good, or to a coffee shop or library if you want the stimulation of being around other people.
There are even co-working offices, where teleworkers from many different fields come together to work in a collaborative environment. There are a growing number of co-working nurseries, where they combine working on-site with child care.
This may seem like an obvious point, but the daily commute has a serious negative impact on your health so avoiding it is a big bonus.
It also saves you the cost of transport, and it’s friendly to the environment too. Win!
The temptation to keep working once it’s 5 o’clock can be strong if you’re a driven employee. And while your office-based colleagues may stay late too, they're less likely to boot up their laptops and get on with work again in the evenings or at weekends.
A recent study from the University of North Carolina reported that remote workers can end up earning less because of the extra hours they put in.
If you’re not physically present in the office, you miss out on opportunities to get your face in front of senior management and make your way up the ladder that way.
Remote workers rely more on their team leader for representation within the company.
That’s a joke, obviously, but the fact is that many remote workers use their own equipment and materials when they work from home. It’s estimated that firms save up to £10k a year by having staff work from their own homes.
It’s worth asking if there is any kind of equipment or expenses allowance to cover things like a good office chair, a laptop, your internet connection and consumables.
And of course, working from home can feel isolating. You don’t have the camaraderie of working late with a team, or taking in cakes for your birthday, fish & chip Friday or boozy lunches.
While there are many tools to connect remote workers, it’s not quite the same as being there, in person.
This can be an even bigger problem if the firm you are working for is overseas. Trying to schedule a meeting with someone who is in Australia or the USA? It’s impossible to do without sacrificing your evening.
Still want to be a remote worker? It seems likely that the trend for remote working will continue. While there are some downsides, there are also negative points to working in an office.
Before you decide whether to take a position working from home, take some time to think about how you can make it work for you. If you don’t feel positive about it? Don’t accept.
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