Working from home or ‘home office’ is an increasing trend in today’s working world, facilitated by advances in communication technology and mobile computing. For many employees, especially those working in IT, digital or online sectors, the option to work from home at least part-time is becoming as common and expected as a lunch hour.
Recent studies show that in the US, for example, the number of people working from home has more than doubled since 2005, demonstrating the dramatic increase in this method of working. However, other recent studies are conflicted on the real benefits of working from home. Some claim increased productivity, whilst others cite serious implications for psychological well being.
So, working from home – is it as good as it sounds?
Advantages of Working from Home
Of course, there are many great benefits working from home can provide.
- Flexibility in the working day, allowing you to run errands, pick up children or work according to your natural schedule.
- No distractions from other people in the office.
- No need for a time consuming, unhealthy and costly commute.
- Communication with colleagues can be maintained by a host of online tools such as Slack, Google Hangouts and Skype.
- Money saved by employer on rent and upkeep of work premises.
One of the more surprising results of a recent survey by the Harvard Business Review showed that people who work from home can actually be more productive than those in the office. In the particular case they followed, home office employees answered 13.5 per cent more calls than regular staff, equating to almost one extra working day per week. Those who worked from home also reported a higher level of job satisfaction.
So all is well! Let’s pack up our stuff and head home to start our new modern work life.
Well not everyone is in agreement that working from home is without problems. Here’s why.
Why working from home might not be such a good thing
Despite the rise of working from home, there has been increasing caution issued on the supposed benefits of this style of work. A new study by Psychological Science in the Public Interest has cast shadow over the idea of working from home, claiming the lack of human contact stifles creativity, reduces productivity and lowers the morale of employees.
The study claims that whilst working from home now and then can be beneficial, permanent home office could be costing companies millions of dollars in lost productivity and innovation.
Critics of the home office trend point to the most successful companies in tech, the likes of Facebook and Google who encourage interaction amongst their colleagues and have created large, pleasant working spaces with the goal of fostering ideas and creativity.
There are other psychological problems with working from home, most notably the inability of people to differentiate between work time and free time.
Working from can blur the lines between work and social and those working from home can find it difficult to switch off at the end of the day or switch on at the start of the day. Many underestimate the benefit of going to a designated work space and the way the commute can focus the mind into work mode.
5 Tips for Working at Home
With these challenges in mind, here are five ways you can improve you working from home experience and ensure you are productive yet balanced in your work and home life:
See our infographic for a more visual representation.
1. Have a designated working area
Even if you live in a small flat, dedicating one part of your desk or table to work can do wonders for your concentration and focus. Try not to work in places you normally relax and socialise. If you’re struggling, go to a cafe or shared working space to simulate the office environment.
2.Get up, get dressed and have a routine
Whilst it can be tempting to stay in bed all day when you’re working from home, this is the worst thing you can do. Get up and get dressed as if you’re going to work to kid your brain into getting itself ready for a full day’s work.
3. Leave the house at least once during the day
Being cooped up all day in your home can lead to a ‘cabin fever’ type feeling and ultimately is quite an unhealthy way to spend your day. You should always aim to leave the house at least once during the day, to do the shopping or run an errand to get a change of scenery.
4. Have a to-do list
With no-one there to watch over you it can be tempting to put work off or to spend too long on one thing at a time. Having a to do list not only keeps you focused in your unsupervised state but also prevents you from doing too much and gives you the satisfaction of having achieved your tasks.
5. Take advantage of the flexibility to the things you really want to do
Finally, if you’re feeling isolated or unproductive, make sure you are fully benefiting from the freedom and flexibility that working from home offers. Spend time with your family, visit a friend or take a stroll round the park to remind yourself how you lucky you are to be able to do such things whilst others are at work. A break of this kind can also help refocus the mind and increase your output when you head back to your desk.
All in all, it’s difficult to find a consensus on whether working from home is a good thing or a bad thing and it almost certainly depends on the individual, the company, and the type of work. What is clear, is that work is changing with the rise of different kinds of technology. We would love it if you told us about your experiences working from home. Does it work for you? Please get in touch.