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Despite the many benefits of working from home, when put in practice, workplaces are divided. According to our research, when asked if their companies had a set timeline to return to a central office to work, 27% of those surveyed stated that they were already working from the main office as of April 2020. However, 16% of respondents said they were not yet back at the office and planned to work remotely indefinitely.
How could something once celebrated as the ultimate step forward in work-life balance not receive a near-universal seal of approval?
The reality is that, while working from home certainly has its benefits, there are many challenges too.
Below, we explore both. So whether you're already working at home, thinking of going back to the office, or your a remote work beginner, this article explores the ups and downs of what lies ahead.
Discover 50 ice breakers questions and games that will make your meetings engaging.
Let's first take a look at what you'll have to overcome when sitting in your at-home office. As wonderful as the comfort of your own space can be, you miss out on a lot more than you realize not being in the office.
When at the office, the focus is work. There's no television; there are no spouses, children, or pets. Chores aren't pressing your to-do list, and there are no quick errands to run. There's no traffic passing in front of your home or neighbors walking by or ringing doorbells.
When you're at your house, many little distractions add up to a lot of time lost. You can zero out these unnecessary disturbances by ensuring your home office has doors and is in a quiet part of the house. Investing in noise-canceling headphones may also prove helpful.
Arguably, one of the more overlooked aspects of working from home is the lack of direct access to your IT department. The troubleshooters for hardware and software issues certainly saw their stock rise during the global shift to remote work. This is where browser-based tools can prove so helpful. Minimal setup and support are needed, which keeps you productive all day long.
In a perfect world, how you work in the office is exactly how you work at home. However, being surrounded by your personal life makes it a lot harder to manage your professional schedule. Especially when you're not also surrounded by others working a similar timeframe as you.
Keep you and your schedule organized for a full eight-hour day with time management tools that segment your day and keep you on task. Take care of your most important tasks first, and try to mirror at home what a day in the office looks like.
Remote work inherently results in a disconnect between you and other members of your team. Face time is limited, and availability is less reliable with people spread across multiple locations instead of in the same central office. This makes it hard to collaborate as a team and prevent silos.
Video conferencing platforms bridge the gap between you and your team members, employees, vendors, or clients. Even when working remotely, though, make it a point to schedule regular, in-person group sessions to keep everyone physically connected.
Perhaps the most unanticipated consequence of remote working during the pandemic was the social isolation felt by most workers. Working by yourself, for 40 hours a week, without physical interaction between you and your co-workers can bring about depression and loneliness. And it can be hard to break the ice with new coworkers when you've never spent time with them in real life.
To avoid isolating yourself any more than is necessary, reach out to family and friends regularly to maintain your most vital social connections. Schedule periodic in-person meetings and team-building activities with your team members or arrange after-hours gatherings to keep your workplace socially connected.
The most effective at-home employees tend to be self-starters who can tune out distractions and work efficiently without much direction or supervision. If you're the collaborative type and appreciate the guidance and support of an office environment, remote work is challenging. Organize your tasks with platforms like Asana and Trello to keep you on track and ask your supervisor for frequent check-ins to keep the ball rolling.
At home, yes, you can take conference calls wearing a business top and pajama bottoms. It reinforces the fact there's a particular element of fun and freedom in working down the hall from your bedroom. But that fun can easily take your mind off work - or take you away from it completely. And it's difficult to get back on track when your motivation wanes at home.
Hold your slacker side at bay by sustaining professional decorum during your working hours. Get ready for work as you normally would (wearing more casual attire, of course). Drink your coffee, answer your email and develop a routine that puts you in a work mode instead of a procrastination mindset.
Your schedule is more fluid away from the rigidity of an office. That can affect your lifestyle habits too. Waking up later leads to going to bed later. Without a set lunch hour and your fridge mere steps away, your snacking and eating habits become sporadic and unhealthy. Your once routine workouts can suffer too.
There's a need to maintain a disciplined work-life balance. Your working hours are just that - the time you work. Set consistent start and stop times that line up when you want to wake up and go to bed. Resist the temptation to get up from your desk every hour to graze - establish times for a break in the morning, one in the afternoon, and a one-hour lunch. As for your workouts, buy a treadmill or stationary bike to keep yourself moving.
With those various hurdles out of the way, now we can get to the good stuff. The following reasons top the list of why anyone who can work from home should want to give it a try.
Time is one of our most valuable resources. Working from home gives you a lot more of it — no need to wake up insanely early. Or spend hours in traffic. Or fret over the time at night needed to decompress from the day. Instead, all those extra minutes and hours afford you more moments with your family and friends, walk your dog, work out, and cook a nice dinner (or make your lunch during the day). Heck, you might even have enough spare time to practice a new skill or hobby.
You might have distractions at home, but they're nothing compared to what can break your concentration at the office — gossipy coworkers, spur-of-the-moment meetings, overly demanding bosses, team lunches that linger too long. At home, more often than not, it's just you, your desk, and your computer - which can do wonders for your productivity and your peace of mind.
Working in an office proves a monotonous existence. Your daily schedule of lunch and breaks or errands is pretty rigid. The at-home office experience tends to break that mold. With many companies, as long as you achieve your daily tasks within the required timeframe, you're not beholden to a set schedule. You can access more hours of your day to run errands, pick up the kids from school, or set doctor's appointments.
We already spoke about the time you save from not having to commute to work. But you also save gas and the money it takes to fill up your vehicle. Perhaps even more lucrative is the potential to lower your annual insurance premium. After all, you'll travel less and reduce your risk of being in an accident.
What might be the most popular aspect of working at home is the opportunity to dress down for work. No more fancy - and often uncomfortable - suits and ties or dressy slacks or skirts and high-heel shoes. At home, you set the dress code, not your employer. This too can save you money as you no longer have to shop for weeks worth of business clothes.
Consider everything we covered on this list: more time with your family, more free time in general, a quieter, more relaxed work environment, freedom to perform at your optimal level, no sitting in traffic or wearing fancy clothes. Collectively, if all of those benefits of working from home don't lower your blood pressure, we bet at least one or two will.
Autonomy instills a measure of confidence and pride in the work you do. For the self-starter, this is huge. Many individuals find they work better, faster, and more diligently when they're free from the pressures of someone looking over their shoulder. That level of independence can help you thrive in your current position and the more lucrative one down the road.
Finally, we'll send a shout-out to all those introverts who, for so many years, had to trudge through, day after day, in what is very much an extroverted world. Certainly, the outgoing among us will be fine as they're certain to schedule plenty of conference calls and after-hours team-building events to fill the void. But when it comes to working from home - introverts, this is your time to shine.
Discover 50 ice breakers questions and games that will make your meetings engaging.
Admittedly, working from home is not for everyone. A segment of the population simply appreciates the in-person, hands-on aspect of venturing into an office every day.
For everyone else, there's unmistakable freedom that comes with not having to physically punch in somewhere miles away from your house. There will be hurdles, of course, and to be genuinely successfully working from home requires a certain level of discipline.
But if you don't mind overcoming the handful of challenges it presents, working from home can prove the best professional decision you make.