Over the course of the last year, we’ve seen the work landscape changed drastically. Many employers who would have never accepted employees working from home had to wrangle most, if not all, of their workforce into pivoting to remote work. While there were growing pains, it’s become clear that many employees can be just as productive, if not more so, by working from home. Today I want to point out some of the pros and cons of working remotely.
Pro: You can have the freedom to plan your day
The most obvious benefit to working from home is no longer traveling to an office. Removing your commute and shortening your morning routine can save you a sizeable chunk of time. The census bureau estimates that the average one-way commute time is 27.6 minutes, meaning remote work would add an average of one hour back to their day. Additional time is saved by removing the workplace distractions like random drop-ins to your office/cubicle and unnecessary in-person meeting. The time saved results in extra sleep, significantly affecting productivity, alertness, and creative thinking.
Additionally, you can be as comfortable as you want. (within reason) Instead of an office, sit in the backyard while working and dress casually. Plus, you catch up on all of the minor household tasks that build up when commuting to work while on a break. Working from home also gives you the time for small yet meaningful breaks like taking your dog on a quick walk. But this also means less physical separation between work and leisure time, and sometimes it's not easy to transition from your work to home life when the two are adjacent.
Con: Working from home brings new distractions
Staying focused and on task is more challenging when you can pick up your phone and go into a social media hole for hours, and it also brings the issue of over-working to the table. Additionally, not everyone has their peak productivity during the standard work hours. Some work best in the early hours, while others find they perform their best late at night, both squandering the rest of the workday aimlessly at their desks. Rather than focusing on a standard workday, employers can allow employees to work when most productive. As long as quality work is completed on time, then the time of day it’s finished is unimportant. Many people are also more productive from home due to fewer workplace distractions like the ones mentioned in the previous paragraph.
Pro: A more personalized workspace
Remote work also presents the opportunity to create a workspace that perfectly suits you. Instead of a cubicle, you could create your own personalized office space. Personally, I prefer an airy space with a large desk with multiple lamps, lots of empty desk real estate, and a couch I can move to and work from my laptop.
Con: Lack of human interaction
One of the downsides of working remotely is less human interaction. Video calls remove the random and unplanned interactions that occur in person and can’t take the place of the creative solutions found through happenstance conversation and from in-person meetings. Some companies such as Apple believe these conversations are integral to the company’s success, though many employees are against this and protesting by signing an internal letter. It’s hard to argue with employees since Apple has launched several new products during the pandemic, including pivoting to an entirely new in-house chip design.
Many Apple employees — some of whom had already permanently moved away from the Bay Area during the pandemic or had medical concerns about returning to the office — pushed back on that decision, with more than 1,700 Apple employees signing a protest letter. -Shirin Ghaffary, vox.com
Pro: Ability to eat healthier at home
When in a workplace, grabbing food can be just that, grabbing. Having to leave the office to purchase food, especially if you have to leave the building, can cut down on your chances of finding something nutritious and quick. There also may not be any healthy options around. Preparing your food at home and bringing it to work is an option, but coupled with the commute and storing your meal, it’s quite the hassle. You may find it easier to prepare meals at home while saving time and money.
Mental health can suffer from remote work as well due to burnout and lack of human interaction. It’s also more difficult to fit in exercise when you spend most of your time in your own home. To combat this, it’s important to schedule time away from your desk and give your day meaning outside of work. Set reminders every 30 minutes to stand up and complete a short task like tidying up the kitchen or clearing your desk of out-of-place items or trash. Make pre-emptive plans with friends to get together to give yourself something to look forward to and get your mind off work.
Because you’re spending so much time at home, exercise is more challenging and more important. With your routine becoming less active, it’s essential to get moving. Getting those 10,000 steps in at work is much easier than at home, so taking a long walk or working out along to a youtube video for 20–30 minutes a day will greatly increase your mood. It’s strongly advised that you stretch daily and stand up once per hour. Standing desks are a great investment if you plan on working remotely. They may improve your circulation, decrease neck and back pain, and improve your posture.
We can always find more positives and negatives from remote work. Still, the best practice will be found in making small adjustments to your daily life, personalizing your workspace, taking time for yourself, and separating your work from your personal life even as they become more intertwined.