As of March 5, 46% of organizations had implemented a work-from-home policy because of the COVID-19 epidemic, according to Willis Towers Watson — a percentage that has almost certainly increased since then as experts have advised people to social distance as much as possible.
Many workers already have experience with remote work — as of 2016, 43% of American workers were working remotely, at least sometimes, according to a Gallup poll — but for some, this is a novel experience. While there certainly are benefits of working from home, you’ll also want to check out some drawbacks to working outside of an office.
Best Things About Working From Home
There’s a reason why 90% of employees who work from home said they want to continue doing so. Actually, there are several reasons. These are some of the biggest perks of escaping the 9-to-5 office grind.
You Save Time by Not Commuting
The average American’s commute time is roughly 26 minutes, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That means that most people spend just under an hour driving to and from work every day. That’s extra time you could use to get in an at-home workout or spend with your family.
You Can Avoid Distracting Co-Workers
Working in an office environment means you’re opening yourself up to constant interruptions from co-workers. Some actually might want to chat about something useful, but others might just want to talk your ear off about what they did this weekend or what their kids have been up to. When you work from home, you avoid these daily interruptions.
You Can Work From Anywhere With an Internet Connection
You might be confined to your home, but you can work anywhere in your house that has Wi-Fi access. If it’s nice out and you have outdoor space, consider working outside. Even if you’re confined indoors, you can make the most of your home by setting up a cozy at-home office space. Consider taking meetings while standing up by a counter to switch things up.
You End Up Saving Money
By working from home, you save money on gas, public transportation or Uber costs by cutting out your commute, and you save money in other ways too. Since going out to eat is no longer an option in many places, you’ll save on going out for lunch every day. Plus, with no co-workers to impress with your outfit of the day, you’ll save money on clothes and dry cleaning.
You Don't Have To Get Dressed Up
There’s no need to put on a suit or spend an hour fixing your hair and putting on makeup when you work from home. Not only is it more comfortable to work in your sweats, but you save the time it takes to get ready.
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You Can Take Phone Calls Without Co-Workers Listening In
Many people now work in an office with an open floor plan, making it nearly impossible to have a sense of privacy at work. When you work from home, you can freely make and receive phone calls without having to worry about nosy desk neighbors.
You Can Make Your Own Schedule
Depending on your job, you might be able to choose your own work hours when you work remotely. This means you can have a leisurely morning or get the kids off to school and start your day later, or you can bang out all of your tasks first thing and have the rest of your day free.
You Can Literally 'Phone It In' During Meetings
If you’re a remote worker, it’s especially important to be engaged during phone or video meetings, as these are your main opportunities for “face time” with your managers and co-workers. However, when you’re obligated to attend a meeting that’s really a waste of your time, you can just call in, put your phone on mute and work on a task that’s a more productive use of those minutes.
You're Home To Accept Packages
It’s always a bummer when you’ve been eagerly awaiting a package, only to come home to find you missed the delivery person and you now have to wait an extra day or two to get the package or retrieve it from a pick-up center. When you work from home, you’re always there when FedEx or UPS shows up.
You Can Blast Your Music as Loudly as You Want
There’s no need for headphones and low-volume listening when you work from home. You can blast your favorite playlist at a louder volume since you’re at home, but be courteous of your neighbors who might also be working from home.
You Can Create Your Dream Office Space
Whether your dream office is full of pink, fluffy details or is dark and austere, you can create the vibe that you want when you’re in total control of the decor.
It Forces You To Become More Independent
When you work in an office and you encounter a problem that you can’t find an easy solution for, you can ask your co-workers for help or constructive feedback. However, this can sometimes be used as a crutch, and leaning on others all the time can prevent you from gaining independence and growing your skills and confidence in your work. When you work remotely, you’re forced to be independent and figure a lot of things out on your own — which can definitely be a good thing.
Communication Tends To Be More Efficient
When you don’t have access to your co-workers all the time and vice versa, you can’t just pop by each others’ desks to ask for clarification about something you discussed earlier. Knowing this, you might spend more time crafting emails to make sure they’re clear or be more effective at communicating all the important points during a meeting. This more efficient communication can be a major time saver and can free up your time to take on more tasks during the day.
You Can Stay Out of Office Gossip
With everyone working remotely, it’s less likely that office gossip will be as prevalent. This can help you avoid sticky situations that could potentially arise with co-workers.
Worst Things About Working From Home
Sure, working in your pajamas every day can be great. But there are some real negative aspects of working from home, too.
A Lack of Face Time Can Make It Harder To Get a Promotion
Research has shown that actually being present at work and being observed by others when working has positive outcomes for employees, including receiving better work assignments and being able to advance more quickly. When employees work remotely, it is more difficult to show commitment to their jobs and therefore could make it harder to get promoted. If you’ve been waiting for a promotion and are now working from home, this could delay that from happening.
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You're Always 'On'
Some remote workers compensate for their lack of face time by always being “on” as a way to show their commitment. This means you might get stuck responding to emails and attending meetings outside of your normal work hours. To avoid this, try to set boundaries and stick to your usual work hours even though you’re now working outside the office.
It Can Feel Isolating
Most Americans spend the majority of their waking hours working, and if you work by yourself, that means you spend most of your time by yourself.
It's Harder To Know What's Really Going On at Your Company
Working in an office makes you privy to water cooler gossip you don’t get when you work from home. While some of this info is worthless, sometimes you get tipped off to major company shifts that you wouldn’t otherwise have time to mentally prepare for or react to.
You Miss Out On Work Friendships
In addition to feeling isolated, working by yourself can cause you to miss out on developing or nurturing valuable personal relationships with your co-workers.
Many of your co-workers are probably feeling as isolated as you, however, especially if they’re also new to working from home. Continue cultivating work friendships through email or interoffice messaging apps during this time.
There's No Real Sense of Separation Between Work and the Rest of Your Day
When you work in an office, you often can leave the workday behind you once you walk out the door. Home is your sanctuary where you can escape from work stress and truly relax. However, when your home is also your office, it can be harder to make that mental shift.
It Can Turn You Into a Hermit
If you don’t make a conscious effort to step outside and away from your desk during the workday, you can spend the entire day at home. That easily can turn into multiple days of being cooped up if you’re not careful.
While it’s important to stay out of public gathering places as much as possible, try to get some fresh air. Schedule walks into your workday so that you are at least leaving the house.
You Have To Deal With Tech Issues Yourself
If your internet goes down or your laptop malfunctions, you have to deal with it yourself. Someone from your company’s IT department might be able to help you remotely, but even then, it’s not the same as being in the same place as your tech support.
You Have To Be Self-Motivated
It’s easy to stay on track when you work in an office environment and your manager or boss could step into your office or cube at any moment. When you work at home, it can be tempting to take long breaks or get sucked into doing tasks not related to your job. Unless you’re self-motivated and self-disciplined, working from home can kill your productivity.
It's Harder To Collaborate On Projects
Thanks to video meetings and interoffice messaging apps such as Slack, it’s easy to communicate with co-workers instantaneously and virtually face-to-face. But sometimes there’s no real replacement for actual face time when you want to bounce ideas off your co-workers or get their honest feedback.
It Can Hurt Your Social Skills
If you spend most of your days by yourself, you might find it increasingly harder to have normal social interactions when you are around other people. To prevent your social skills from declining, force yourself to have at least one social interaction each day, like FaceTiming with a friend or family member.
You Could Fall Into Poor Eating Habits
When you work from home, you have easy access to everything in your fridge and pantry at all times, which means you might find yourself mindlessly munching on chips and other unhealthy food items throughout the day. To prevent this, set meal and snack times and stick to eating only at those times.
Your Roommates and Family Might Not Respect Your Work Hours
If you don’t live alone, it’s likely you’ll now be sharing your work environment with roommates or family members who might want to chat or interrupt you constantly. It’s important to set boundaries to let people know that your workday is no different even though you’re not currently in the office. Establish “do not disturb” hours that are interruption-free.
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About the Author
Gabrielle joined GOBankingRates in 2017 and brings with her a decade of experience in the journalism industry. Before joining the team, she was a staff writer-reporter for People Magazine and People.com. Her work has also appeared on E! Online, Us Weekly, Patch, Sweety High and Discover Los Angeles, and she has been featured on “Good Morning America” as a celebrity news expert.