Research tells us that six out of ten workers believe they can achieve more when working at home.
To office traditionalists, the thought of getting more done in a building that puts you within easy reach of the TV, your bed and family members is usually dismissed as being preposterous. There are simply too many distractions, surely?
It seems not. According to the same study, just 12% of the workers surveyed said they were easily distracted when swapping their office desk for one that doesn’t require any form of commute. For some people, clearly, it works.
Office real estate is expensive, which is why many businesses are starting to look seriously at the benefits of home working. If portions of the workforce can operate from their homes and achieve the same levels of productivity, overheads can be reduced. What’s not to like?
Despite this, the fact remains that few businesses are comfortable with employees working solely on a remote basis. At some stage, face-to-face contact is required and is beneficial for both parties. Catching up with colleagues and attending important meetings are all part of home working when you’re employed by someone else.
That begs the question – how do you combine both?
There’s only one way to assess this, which is to look at the definitive list of pros and cons of working in an office and contrast them with the home working experience.
Traditional office working – the upsides
Still working 9-5 in a regular office? If so, you’ll likely be aware of the following benefits:
1. Keeping up-to-speed
If you’re primarily situated in a traditional office, you’re in amongst it – you know exactly what’s going both within your department and with the company as a whole.
Even if you’re not privy to top-level discussion, the simple fact you have a physical presence within the four walls of the organisation gives you a consistent insight into the general ambiance and any changes taking place within the company culture.
At home: Even with video conferencing and collaborative productivity tools, you’re too far removed from the day-to-day operations to get a feel for what’s really going on. If you’re not one for office politics, however, the ability to give yourself a break from the office community can be very welcome indeed if you’re able to work a few days at home each week.
2. Top tools
Great companies know they need to invest in the best tools if they’re to get the best out of their workforce, and that means you’re likely to have access to everything you need to do your job efficiently.
The right workspace is a key productivity driver, too, and most offices feature larger and more ergonomically efficient stations for employees.
At home: Depending on the size of your house, you may have to make do with the dining room table as your desk or the tiny worktop in the corner of your bedroom. Neither make for a particularly comfortable working environment and are within close proximity of several homely distractions.
Balance is key. The prospect of working in a smaller, cosier space at home can be a nice change from the clinical nature of an office and the absence of employees is just as welcome, enabling you to raise your productivity levels considerably.
3. Interpersonal skills
In an office, you’re surrounded by other people. Therefore, when you hit a roadblock or simply need to take time out to talk to another human being, you don’t have to look far.
Offices have spawned countless friendships that last a lifetime, and the ability to mix hard, collaborative work with the good times such camaraderie brings is what makes working with others so special.
At home: Working from home is a solitary affair. At times, it can be wonderfully liberating to have your thoughts to yourself and the ability to take breaks whenever you need to without fear of upsetting the apple cart.
Do it for too long, though, and you may miss having your colleagues close by. Human interaction in business fosters productive relationships, builds confidence and ensures we don’t lose sight of how important collaboration is in business.
Traditional office working – the downsides
Offices can be very trying places in the digital age.
1. Endless meetings
If you’ve ever had a meeting to discuss the meeting you had moments earlier, you’ll know just how problematic the modern workforce’s obsession with organised discussion is. Too many meetings dent productivity – it’s as simple as that.
At home: Save the odd Skype call or remote session, you won’t have to contend with meaningless meetings while working from home – your time is your own.
2. Procrastinating colleagues
If you think the TV is a dangerous distraction when working from home, compare it with the office worker who appears to spend more time meandering from desk to desk catching up on the latest gossip. For all the benefits of working with people in an office space, there’s always a small minority who will do nothing more than keep you from working due to mindless chitter-chatter.
At home: You’re alone! Those colleagues only ever arrive in the form of emails and the occasional call – both of which can be curtailed far more easily (or ignored entirely).
Unless you’re lucky enough (or unlucky – depending on your outlook) to live within a short walk of your workplace, you’ll have to conduct some form of commute every day. That may be in the car, on the train or by another form of transport, but whatever it is, it’s time spent not working.
Commutes are often the most stressful part of the working day, which is ironic because its the time when you should be either gearing yourself up for a busy day or winding down after a long slog.
Time spent in a vehicle is also time you could otherwise invest in being productive.
At home: For the home worker, the commute usually consists of the short walk from the kettle to the spare bedroom or dining room table. It takes just seconds and means zero time is lost to getting to your place of work.
Working from home isn’t for everyone. If you’ve read this post and have come to the conclusion that the distractions are still too big an issue, that’s absolutely fine – the traditional office isn’t going anywhere.
However, for a growing number of people home working is fast becoming the norm, and as we’ve hopefully proved in this post, striking a balance between that and working in the office gives you the best of both worlds.