The idea of contemporary remote working sprouted from the term telecommuting, which was coined by NASA engineer Jack Nilles in his book “The Telecommunications-transportation Tradeoff: Options for Tomorrow” in 1973.
Six years later, in 1979, tech major IBM permitted five of its employees to work remotely as an experiment and increased the count to 2000 employees in 1983. Meanwhile, clothing behemoth JC Penny allowed its contact center employees to work from home and started to hire more home-based call center executives.
In the following three decades, from the late 80s through the early 2010s, the extensive internet usage, advancements in telecommunications, and exponential rise in startups brought remote working to the mainstream.
However, it was the COVID-19 pandemic, which made working from home the new normal. According to the American Community Survey, less than six percent of Americans worked from home before the pandemic. After the pandemic, the number increased to 35 percent.
After more than two years, as things are getting back to normal, some companies are considering whether or not to call their employees back to their offices. Many of them are weighing the pros and cons of working from offices vs. working from home. This blog post explores both the sides of office-based working and remote working. Read on to know more.
Pros of working from home
In the last two years, working from home became the norm rather than the exception. What began as a necessity to keep operations running during the pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns, has become the Holy Grail of improved productivity and job satisfaction. Many businesses are beginning to realize its many advantages. Here are some of those.
Many studies have found that working from home has enhanced the productivity of a majority of workers. A Stanford study found that contact center executives who worked from home could enhance their productivity by 13 percent. Another study by the World Economic Forum revealed that the average productivity of remote workers increased to 78 points in 2021 from 70 points in 2020.
A FlexJobs survey of over 2,100 employees found that 51 percent of the respondents reported being more productive after working from home. The decrease in commuting time, increased flexibility, and healthier lifestyles enhanced the productivity of work-from-home employees.
- Greater autonomy and flexibility
Working from home gives greater autonomy and flexibility compared to working from an office space. Employees who work from home enjoy a lot more freedom to work from anywhere. Instead of working from 9 am to 5 pm, they can choose the working hours that fit their schedule as well as organize the day that works for them. This can enhance their productivity and make them less stressed.
- Saves time on commuting and unproductive activities
As per the U.S. Census Bureau, the average one-way commute time in the states was 27.6 minutes in 2019. That means an average American spent almost an hour only on the commute to and from work. Another research found that the commuting time is even higher in other parts of the world.
Remote workers don’t have to spend time on commutes, going out for lunch, and interruptions in the workplace. Speaking of interruptions, as per research by UC Irvine, an average office worker gets interrupted every eleven minutes and takes 25 minutes to get back to work.
- Saves transportation and miscellaneous costs
Working from home reduces transportation costs and several other costs such as restaurant bills, laundry bills, parking tickets, and more. As per FlexJobs, the average annual savings of a remote worker can be to the tune of nearly $4,000. Apart from workers, businesses can save a lot on rent, electricity bills, internet bills, facilities, parking spaces, and more.
- Less stress and a healthier lifestyle
Working from home is less stressful compared to working from an office. When the situation gets stressful, a person working from home can reduce the stress by taking short breaks, meditating, and relaxing. Employees working from home can lead a much healthier lifestyle by eating home-cooked food and investing time in physical activities such as going for walks and working out.
- More time to spend with family
Working from home gives one of the greatest perks that working from the office can’t provide. That’s more time to spend with family. Family is as important as a career, if not more, and the secret of a happy and balanced life is to spend quality time with family. As per a study, 85 percent of respondents said that working from home gave them time to focus on family.
Cons of working from home
Along with all those pros, working from home has its share of challenges. After all, it’s not easy for some to make the sudden shift from an office-based environment and strong company culture to an isolated workstation at home. Here are some of the cons of remote working.
- Lack of workplace amenities
Let’s be honest; the amenities in a typical office are far superior to the ones in a regular home. If a remote worker doesn’t have a proper home office setup, then it can affect their performance. Also, creating an optimized workstation will involve huge upfront costs.
- Lack of structure and routine
Some people prefer routine and order in their lives and they thrive in an organized and structured setting. While working from home gives immense flexibility and freedom, it lacks the order and structure of a formal workplace. This lack of routine and structure can be chaotic for some.
- Communication gaps
The communication gap among remote workers is a huge issue. As per a Statista 2021 report, one of the biggest problems with remote work is the issues with communication and collaboration. But leveraging communication tools and technologies such as VoIP, video conferencing, and instant messaging can help employees to communicate and collaborate better.
- Lack of work-life balance
As the fine line dividing work-time and ‘me time’ gets blurred in the work from home setup, many employees struggle to find a work-life balance. Several studies have found that remote workers work longer compared to office workers, which affects their personal lives. As per the Statista’s struggles with working remotely 2020-2022 report, a quarter of the respondents said that their biggest difficulty with remote work is their inability to unplug.
Distractions are probably among the leading challenges of remote working. While working from home, it’s easier to get distracted by family members, kids, pets, household chores, or external stimuli such as loud music or TV programs. As per the Statista survey, nearly half of respondents find it difficult to manage distractions as they work.
Pros of working from the office:
While remote working became the norm only a few years back, working from office has been around for a long time. It wouldn’t have been so ubiquitous if it didn’t have so many benefits. Here are some of those.
- Better setup, infrastructure, and order
Office space provides a better setup, work infrastructure, and order to workers. All office spaces are designed to maximize performance. Most office goers get better facilities and amenities than they would get in their homes. The ergonomically-designed chairs allow them to sit comfortably and work for longer hours. Also, the distractions in the office are less compared to that in a typical home.
- Access to sophisticated technology and support
If truth be told, the hardware, software, and support systems in a typical office are far superior compared to an average work-from-home setting. A 2020 survey found that internet connectivity, data security, and immediate tech support were the major issues with remote working. Office workers get access to advanced technology tools and support services.
- Communication and networking opportunities
If you learn that most people prefer face-to-face interactions over virtual communication you shouldn’t be surprised. Several studies have proved it. The former is instantaneous, more spontaneous, and natural than the latter. Working from the office provides immense networking opportunities that spur collaboration and teamwork.
- Company culture
Company culture is one of the most important and valuable assets of a business. It’s built when a group of employees collaborate and participate in team-building activities. As per Jobvite data, 40 percent of workers feel company culture is extremely important and over 80 percent of job seekers consider it before applying for a job. Working from the office helps in building a strong company culture, which working from home cannot provide.
Cons of working in the office
Some recent studies have shown that working from home has worked for many employees than working from office. Even though working from office was the norm two years back, it’s being replaced by remote working due to some of its disadvantages. Here are some of them.
Work commute is one of the main reasons for psychological stress, reduced job satisfaction, and certain health problems. A study conducted by the University of the West of England in 2017 revealed that each additional minute of commute decreases job satisfaction. It also said that 20 minutes of extra travel time daily has the same effect as taking a 20 percent pay cut. As per a research, many daily commuters experience many psychosomatic and physical health issues ranging from stress, sickness, and
- Exposure to viruses and pathogens
Working at the office exposes workers to various kinds of pathogens. Those with strong immunity aren’t as susceptible to diseases as those with a slightly compromised immune system. Unless someone is in a customer-facing role it makes more sense to work remotely. One research conducted by McKinsey found that close to 30 percent of work in the US can be done from home with equal or greater efficiency and productivity.
- Less autonomy and flexibility
Working from offices provides less autonomy and flexibility to employees compared to working from home. Employees don’t have the freedom to think outside the box and the rigid structure and style can stifle creativity.
Both remote working and working from office have several advantages and some disadvantages. In the last few years, however, working from home has proved to be far more effective and feasible compared to working from home. With rapid technology advancements and innovations in telecommunications, the future belongs to remote working.