Working from home (WFH) has always been seen as a bit of a doss: colleagues tend to think you’re pulling a fast one and shirking not working. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that homeworking can lead to increased productivity. Some years ago, an experiment by a team led by Stanford professor Nicholas Bloom looked at productivity among call centre workers in China. They found that those who worked from home tended to work harder and more effectively; this was partly attributed to the workers taking fewer breaks and sick days, and partly to the quieter and more convenient working environment.
The home workers in the Chinese study also reported improved work satisfaction, and there are certainly advantages to WFH. These include:
Not only is money saved on petrol or fares, but for many workers there can be a substantial time saving if they don’t need to travel to work, as well as a potential reduction in stress.
You can choose whether you have music on, what type it is and how loud it is, as well as controlling other elements such as furnishings and décor, or even allowing pets into the home working space.
There’s no need to find a meeting room for private conversations and no one is listening to your phone calls.
Many of us self-identify as larks or owls and, even when core hours must be fulfilled, WFH can facilitate working at the time that best suits our own body clocks. The flexible schedule also lets us fit in personal tasks and domestic chores.
With full access to a kitchen that you have stocked yourself and without any possibility of a colleague snaffling your lunch, WFH offers the possibility of maintaining far better eating habits.
But WFH also brings with it some definite challenges and disadvantages, both for the worker and the employing organisation. Things to consider here include:
Infrastructure and technology
Not only does the home worker need a dedicated space and equipment, but security issues need to be considered, particularly in this age of cybercrime.
The home environment offers a host of potential distractions, not just housework and errands. And if family members or guests are also at home, they can be hard to ignore.
For those living alone, the social contact provided by going out to work can be vital to good mental health. Without contact with others, they may suffer from cabin fever: impatience, lack of motivation, difficulty concentrating, food cravings…
The ideal situation is that we eat better when we’re at home but, in reality, it’s simple to keep making coffee, to eat the whole packet of biscuits yourself and just keep snacking as no one is watching or judging.
Combined with the monotony and easy access to a kitchen, lack of exercise and lack of social contact can easily lead to weight gain.
The big advantage of going out to work is that most workers still recognise a cut-off point to the working day: even when you have to work late, you do eventually close the office door and go home. Working from your own home, this is far more difficult to achieve.