Working From Home vs. Office: 16 Pros and Cons to Help you Decide
You’re deciding between working from home vs. office and want to know exactly the pros and cons of each.
What are the advantages of working in a professional office environment?
What are the real challenges of working from home?
Which of the two is better for your career and work-life balance?
In this article, we will answer these questions and more. Keep reading to decide which work environment is best for your personal and professional needs.
Between the advent of new technology and a global pandemic, working from home vs. office is now an option for more professionals than ever before. Once the urgent season of social distancing subsided, many companies gave workers an option to work from home, come back to the office or even enjoy a hybrid arrangement. There is some data to support how employees feel about these options, with a hybrid—or combination of remote and in office—exceeding the alternatives in popularity.
In a survey of over 1,000 workers, conducted by Robert Half, 49% of employees claimed they would prefer to work a hybrid job, which means half remote and half in the office.
While initially, the idea of a 20 step commute sounded idyllic, for many, the challenges of working remotely full-time have become all too real. These include increased stress, technological issues and even a wear on mental health.
Of course, heading back to work at the office also presents a source of stress and significant readjustment. When faced with the choice, it can be useful for employees and employers alike to weigh the pros and cons of working from home vs. office. This consideration should begin with an assessment of office space needs.
Assessing Your Office Space Needs
The coronavirus fundamentally changed the way people work. At the end of 2020, 71% of Americans were still working from home. From news stories to memes, the whole country is now aware of what it feels like to accidentally mute yourself, wait for work server logins to connect and sequester yourself away in a corner of the house during important meetings or calls. Of course, even if we haven’t returned to the office yet, most of us still have the memory of shared challenges there as well: from meetings that could have been an email to the disruption of drop-ins or noisy cubicle neighbors.
The reality is that, post-pandemic, small business owners and owner-operators need more flexibility as their business needs, goals and challenges have changed. For that reason, the working situation and environment they provide needs to change as well. The tantalizing goal of decreased overhead may not outweigh what a company loses in terms of culture or productivity when working from home is allowed to extend indefinitely.
Business owners have their own set of values and priorities to assess as new protocols are drafted. Employees, too, need to consider what they want and need in an office space. The bare minimum of an internet connection, headset and webcam are hardly the full picture. To dive deeper into whether remote work or in office is right for you, it’s vital to understand your priorities.
What are Your Priorities?
When it comes to working from home vs. working in an office, there are benefits and drawbacks. We’ll shed more light on those pros and cons in a moment, but to set context for your own needs, it’s important to engage in some reflection:
- How happy are you either at home or at work?
- How much does a commute take out of you each day?
- Do you miss the networking opportunities you had in the office?
- Do you feel distracted at home?
As an employee who may have a choice about whether to work from home or work in an office, you must first consider what is most important to you. It may be that your productivity is clearly impacted one way or another, or your overall quality of life. Some people have struck a far better work life balance by working from home; for others, this is only possible when work is entirely separate from their home life. All of this is immensely personal and worth considering. If the choice is before you, it’s key to know whether it’s time to make the change.
For employers and employees alike, a delineation of the pluses and minuses of each of these arrangements merits attention.
Pros and Cons of Working From Home
Once you know your priorities, it’s far easier to see the relative value of every pro and con of working from home. What started as a response to the pandemic has lasted well over a year, and there is now plenty of insight into both the good and the bad.
Pros of Working from Home
Here are some pros to working from home.
Save on Time
Having no commute is a huge advantage to working from home, and definitely supports the priority of spending more time with family or engaging in activities that support mental health and wellness. For some people, losing the commute has literally restored 2-3 hours of time to their day, which they are free to do with what they wish.
While there may be meetings you have to video conference in for, and you may be expected to work 9-5, there is usually some independence in when you do tasks and maybe some flexibility in how you do them. This can give some power back to you as an individual, enabling you to organize your day with greater autonomy.
Food budgets, travel budgets and even the environment get a boom from work from home arrangements. The difference in cost between eating out and eating at home is noteworthy, and can add up over time. Not driving into work everyday is a huge source of cost savings. Fewer cars on the road translates into less spent on gasoline and maintenance.
When schools closed en masse, working parents everywhere faced the reality of what to do with their kids all day. Often, this looked like a split-shift with another parent or calling in the help of family and friends. Now, many parents who work have come to enjoy seeing their kids more often or being available for key moments. The flexibility afforded by working from home may make it possible to do drop off, soccer practice and other family activities.
Cons of Working from Home
Here are some cons to working from home.
For some people, a cup of coffee and the paper, the drive in and being “on the clock” during working hours is a desirable way to live life. This kind of routine is utterly lacking in work from home environments, which can create a kind of external and internal chaos. Working in an office provides structure that virtual work simply cannot.
In general, it is possible to become disconnected from your place of work when you are only working remotely. Loneliness, minimized networking capacity, poor team communication and more are contributing factors to this. Most businesses adapted quickly to allow employees to work from home, so the infrastructure to make you feel better connected may be lacking.
Related: infographic on working from home.
Without the enforced parameters of office hours, many work from home employees work a lot more than they did in traditional environments. In fact, by late 2020, as many as 70% of professionals reported that they work on weekends and 45% say they work more hours a week than they did before the pandemic. It can be very hard to “log off,” when the line between work and home is nonexistent.
Employee wellbeing is a key factor that employers must consider when they are enacting workplace and work arrangement policies. There is some significant evidence to suggest that long-term work from home arrangements are not always in the best interest of the mental health of an employee.
The truth is this: even the largest companies in the U.S. are tired of remote work.
Pros and Cons of Working in an Office
Executives are leading the way, with as many as 75% planning to be back in the office by July 2021. For other workers, at least 61% are expected to be back in the office around mid-summer. With this return to the office seemingly inevitable for well over half of the workforce, it’s important to analyze the pros and cons, and consider how to adapt.
Pros of Working from an Office
Here are some pros to heading back to the office.
Better Time Management
The aforementioned structure that is woefully absent in a work from home environment is easily found in the office. Set work hours, a defined schedule, even a designated desk and workspace can all ease the transition and satisfy a need for order. When working from home, the time available to complete tasks may feel endless. The office provides more enforceable and globally understood deadlines and expectations that can promote productivity.
There is power in numbers, and that power isn’t just about collective decision-making: creativity thrives in collaboration. This has been hard, and sometimes impossible, to match through virtual meetings. Working in an office restores people’s ability to make meaningful connections that result in innovation.
One of the stated reasons Google is encouraging employees to come back to the office is the measured risk of losing company culture. To have a tech behemoth, for which remote work is a very doable option, making a statement like this should cause all business leaders pause. Culture is a very challenging thing to build, and the loss of it could hinder everything from ingenuity and advancement to profit.
It seemed for a while that the jury was out on productivity for remote workers, with available data leaning in both directions. When it comes down to decisions based on priorities, it’s important for employees to know themselves: for many, working from home is just downright distracting and fraught with challenges to getting things done. Coming back into the office can alleviate the burden of self-discipline and provide easier, ready-made structures for completing a to do list.
Cons of Working from an Office
Here are some cons to heading back to the office.
The timing of everything in a typical day may shift ever-so-slightly when you head back to the office. Coffee breaks, lunch breaks, meetings and even task pacing may not be up to you in the same way, or at all. This inflexibility can be a deterrent for some people who are being asked to come back into work full time.
Back to the Commute
“The grind,” for many people, includes a daily commute to work. Whether by car, carpool, train or bus, losing the time of a commute can cut into newly prioritized family commitments, hobbies, sports and more. This can feel like a loss, especially if your priorities have supported your wellbeing through the pandemic.
Part of being on a team in an office inevitably decreases your autonomy as a worker. For most of us, this means joint projects, collaborative efforts and even a more structured schedule. While this can be appealing if you’ve felt a major lack in this area, for other people, this represents a drawback to in office work.
Exposure to Illness
As of May 2021, at least 50% of surveyed U.S. workers are worried about exposure to illness in the workplace. This is a legitimate concern, and one that employers are getting serious about. New measures to enhance workplace health and safety aren’t just about sanitization and daily cleaning. Business owners are reimagining workplace setup and interior design by dedensifying workspaces. While the threat of exposure is real, it is truly mitigated when employers make strategic investments that protect their people.
Related: read this study, which synthesizes data from reliable sources on why the office as we know it won’t go away.
Other Considerations for Home Based or In-Office Work
To be productive, employees need to thrive. As you consider working from home vs. office, there are numerous factors that will impact your ability to do well in either context:
- How is your overall well-being currently?
- How self-driven are you?
- How much does socialization impact your daily life and creativity?
- What portion of work would you miss in either context?
- What would you gain in either context?
More and more, employers are tuning into what their employees need and making provisions that support employee health and wellness.
Related: read an article on employee wellbeing, specifically as it relates to workplace conditions and mental health.
There are unique advantages and disadvantages of working from home vs. office. Post pandemic, work trends are changing. Companies are offering options related to in office, hybrid or remote work. Ultimately, if you can decide, it’s vital to do so in a way that honors your personal priorities and satisfies your needs.
When it comes to deciding to work from home or in an office, carefully weigh your pros and cons and you will find what will best position you for success.
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About the author:
Sarah Hoopes is Marketing Coordinator at Hartman Income REIT. She is a graduate of Utah Valley University with a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing and Business Management.