Should you switch to hybrid or home working?

Woman wearing headphones using a laptop.
(Image credit: Shutterstock: fizkes)

Working from home sounds brilliant – who wouldn't want to hang around in the house, wear comfortable clothes and eliminate the commute?

There's no doubt that home working is becoming more popular, too, with more businesses now offering permanent home working options alongside hybrid systems where staff split time between their homes and the office.

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It sounds great on paper, but you've got to do some serious thinking before you move to one of these arrangements – because home working doesn't work for everyone.

We've explained some of our reasoning below and, hopefully, it'll help you make a more informed decision. And if you'd like some more home and hybrid working advice, don't worry – we've got a guide to avoiding home-working distractions and ten tips for building a productive workplace at home or at the office. 

Home working wins 

There are plenty of reasons why you'd want to consider moving to a permanent home-working arrangement.

The increased flexibility of working at home can make your whole life easier to manage: you can work early in the morning or late at night if that suits you best, or handle school runs or other vital trips out while making up your hours at other times of the day. You can work in an environment you prefer, with your own furnishings and décor, and take breaks at suitable times.

Compared to the regimented schedule of office life, it's a far more pleasing and agile approach. Studies show that this fundamental change makes many people who work at home happier and more productive.

Working at home can save you time and money, too, because you don't have to commute to the office, and it can even improve your health – reduced stress and pressure can contribute to better mental health, and you won't pick up the bugs and illnesses that can be rife in busy office environments.

Home working can also lead to more career opportunities, because you'll be able to apply to a wider range of jobs thanks to companies offering more remote positions.

If you decide to work from home, you could find yourself happier, less stressed, more productive, and with more money in your pocket. When it's put like that, you can see why so many people are prepared to make the switch.

Serious downsides

It's not all sweetness, though, because working at home does have issues and simply won't work well for lots of people.

If you're the kind of person who thrives on social contact then home working likely isn't a good idea. You could easily start to feel isolated, depressed and unmotivated if you don't see your colleagues very often – lots of people find that their mood and productivity improve when they're around people.

You'll have to do some honest introspection to work out if you'll be better in the office, and you might have to consider your personality in other areas if you want to weigh up if home working isn't the best choice for you. If you're easily distracted, home working could be difficult, and you may find yourself more productive if you have a regular commute and an office trip to get your brain into a working mood.

Similarly, working at home might not be the best choice if you're keen to progress your career. Being isolated at your house or apartment means it might be trickier to engage in training and development, which can hinder your career.

And, finally, consider the practical aspects. If you don't have a suitable home working environment, you may struggle to get things done. You might not have the right technology or fast enough broadband, and many companies don't offer employees help in this area, so you might struggle to afford home working, too. It's also worth remembering that some jobs are simply impossible to do from home.

Is there a better way?

Home working is great for some people but it doesn't work for others – and that's always going to be true. In order to address this issue, lots of companies now offer hybrid options that allow employees to divide their time between the home and the office.

This is becoming the norm in many businesses because they recognize that giving their staff the autonomy to work in the environment that suits them is ultimately the top option for ensuring happiness, productivity and staff retention.

Indeed, there are many ways in which hybrid working's middle ground trounces home or office-based routines.

Staying at home for a few days per week means you can still save money on commuting, enjoy the increased flexibility that enables you to fit other things into your life and work in a familiar, casual and relaxed environment. And you may still benefit from the increased career opportunities provided by hybrid working because of the reduced number of office trips you'll have to make – it's easier to plan a longer trip if you're only having to commute on one or two days per week.

The key thing here, though, is that you'll still be making those office trips, which means you can benefit from increased social interaction, training and meeting opportunities and the chance to just get out of the house – for many people, that's vital in managing their mental wellbeing and their productivity levels.

It's clear that home working is a brilliant move for many people, but it's equally obvious that it doesn't work for everyone. It's also pretty obvious that simply working in the office all the time isn't a suitable option for the majority of people, even if that's just because it's not particularly flexible.

So, should you switch to home working? For lots of people the answer to that question will be quite simple: yes, absolutely. But if it's not for you, don't worry, because hybrid working is another option that's just as effective thanks to its keen balance of flexibility and routine.

No matter what you choose, though, the world of work has changed and shows little sign of going back – so you're probably going to have to choose between one of these systems before long if you haven't already.

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Mike has worked as a technology journalist for more than a decade and has written for most of the UK’s big technology titles alongside numerous global outlets. He loves PCs, laptops and any new hardware, and covers everything from the latest business trends to high-end gaming gear.