Home working has never been so popular, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the growth in remote productivity.
If you're thinking about switching to home working – whether permanently or as part of a hybrid arrangement – then it pays to weigh up the advantages and potential pitfalls of this innovative new method, especially as they'll be different for every person and every job.
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We've explored the significant pros and cons of home working so you can figure out if it'll work for you. And if you do decide to take the plunge, you'll want to get properly prepared with our guides to avoiding home working distractions and creating a healthy work/life balance.
The numbers don't lie
There's no denying that working from home works well for many people – and if you need some extra convincing, just look at the numbers. A study by the Stanford Graduate School of Business found that employee performance was boosted by 22% by working at home, and consultancy firm Mercer surveyed 800 employers with 94% of them saying that productivity was the same or better since employees began working remotely.
It's not just about productivity. Owl Labs surveyed workers, discovering that 59% of them are more likely to pick a job where home working is an option, 23% of people would take a pay cut to keep working from home, and that people save an average of 40 minutes daily and $500 per month by not commuting.
In addition, home working can be great for employee happiness: the same Owl Labs survey reported that home workers were 22% happier than on-site staff with lower stress levels and better focus – despite often working more hours.
Home working wins
There are plenty of reasons why people report greater happiness and productivity when working from home.
One of the key reasons why it's a big boon? The increased flexibility it gives employees. As long as they get their work done and work the right number of hours, you can allow your staff to work when it suits them – so they can pick and choose hours that fit around the rest of their life, like school runs and doctors appointments.
If you let them have that extra agility then people's stress levels will drop and their productivity will probably rise. Similarly, cutting out their commute will save your people time, money and stress – and those savings can contribute to happiness and productivity elsewhere.
Allowing people that extra freedom also leads to loads of extra benefits beyond productivity. Your people will be happier, with a better work/life balance, leading to improved staff retention and motivation across the company. You may find that staff members who can work in a more comfortable, flexible environment have fewer sickness concerns, too – they may experience fewer mental health problems and people won't catch as many viruses as they would in an office full of people.
Having happier staff can even lead to better recruitment – word of mouth about your progressive working practices will spread, and more people will be tempted to apply to your business when they see open vacancies. You'll also find that remote working will enable people to apply from a wider range of locations, so you can recruit from a larger pool of talent with greater diversity.
You might even save money if more of your staff work from home. You could reduce spending on rent, bills, technology and office supplies if you simply don't need as many office desks. If you've got an eye on the planet, cutting out commutes and the need for office space can reduce your company's carbon footprint.
There are loads of benefits to remote working – but, at the same time, your business could meet some serious issues too.
The main one is pretty simple: working at home simply doesn't work for everyone. Many people are far too social to feel comfortable working at home alone, while others prefer the routine of a commute and office because it puts them in the right mindset for work.
Lots of people respond more positively to in-person contact, and remote working might just not be possible for folks who don't have the right home environment. Others may find that they just get too distracted at home, surrounded by TVs, games consoles and snacks, so they prefer a more regimented office environment.
Situations like these are why your business shouldn't just move to a complete home-working model – you'll find more success if you let people choose what works for them instead.
Indeed, the isolation, disconnection and blurred boundaries that people can experience while working at home can lead to mental health issues and burnout. Those are potentially terrible issues for your staff members and they're no good for productivity either.
On a practical level, having your staff scattered around the country – or even the globe – can make it harder to monitor their performance and develop their skills when compared to having face-to-face opportunities for meetings and training. And, similarly, you may find that your company's morale and team spirit suffers – it's no good having a group of social, outgoing people who are all forced to work at home.
While home working can decrease costs in some areas, it could also lead to higher costs too. Your business may have to invest in computers, smartphones and office furniture to help set staff members up for remote working, and you could also consider paying for improved broadband services too – it's no good hiring a great employee if their internet connection is awful.
The blending of home and work technology means that there's a definite information security risk, too, especially when workers have to remotely access services, so you may have to invest in security training or extra security software.
And, finally, there's the simple fact that remote working doesn't suit all jobs – you'll have to weigh up whether it's a sensible option for your workflows before you start investing in technology and giving your staff remote working options.
There's no doubt that home working has undergone a revolution recently, and there are loads of huge reasons why it's so popular – it often enables staff to be happier, more productive and more flexible, and it can save your business cash. But with some serious disadvantages on the table, too, you need to weigh up your options before you make any big desk-related decisions.