Working from Home, the Case for and Against
When work-life and home-life get Tangled Up
Working from home sounds like a dream. Rolling out of bed at 8:59 AM and turn on your laptop while enjoying your morning coffee in your PJ’s. Take a relaxing lunch hour and then calling it a day at 5:00 PM.
The reality is much different.
Having a job where I spend nearly 30% of my time working from home or remotely, I can tell you there are pros and cons of working from home. Let’s start with the Pro’s so I don't sound like a complete whiner.
Pros of Working at Home
Avoiding the Commute
Hands down the very best thing about working from home is not having to get in my car and drive 40 minutes each way to and from work. If I were to work from home every day, I would save nearly 8 hours per week (one full work day). It is gross to stop and really think about how much of our time we waste sitting in traffic every day.
I live in Canada, the last thing I want to be doing to start my day is going out in my driveway at 6:30 AM in February and scrapping the ice off my windshield.
On days I work from home, I get nearly an hour of extra sleep. As a result, my mornings are more productive.
Productive Lunch Hours
When I am working in the office (particularly in the winter) I usually end up working straight through lunch, despite that fact that I am allowed an hour off for lunch every day.
Why do I do this? Mostly because there is nothing much better to do at the office which is in a “business park”, which means there are not too many worthwhile places to walk to during my lunch hour.
When I’m at home, I spend a good chunk of my lunch hour knocking off some of my chores around the house. whether it be taking out the garbage, unpacking the dishwasher, sweeping or laundry, I manage to get a whole lot of these tasks down during my lunch hour.
I also have a home gym in my garage and sometimes I can squeeze in a 30-minute workout during lunch. It’s a great feeling to clock out of work, already be done by daily workout and have no time wasted driving back home.
The rest of the day is mine.
Or at least you would think it is…
Cons of Working at Home
Work Follows Me Everywhere
The reason I can work from home is that technology allows it. Between my company laptop and my company smartphone, I have everything I need to do my job regardless of where I am.
30 years ago, the work phone was a landline that was in your office. Once you left the office you were done taking calls (unless you gave out your home phone number). This allowed people the opportunity to stop thinking about work when they got home.
Today, I have my work cell phone with me at home. If it begins ringing at 7:00 PM, chances are I will pick it up.
If I hear the distinct E-Mail notification setup on my phone, chances are I will open it up.
Some days I feel less like I have a 9–5 and more like I am “on call” 24–7. I’ve spent countless hours checking email and taking phone calls on evenings and weekends.
In my first few years at my current job, I welcomed this workload and went out of my way to make myself always available to handle work-related problems. I wanted to build a reputation as a hard worker and someone who brings tremendous value to my organization.
The hard part is once you have set the precedent that you are always available, it’s difficult to reverse course and claim back more of your personal time.
Lately, I have been setting limits by putting my work phone in a drawer and on silent starting at 7:30 PM. No calls or e-mails can find me after 7:30. In 2019, I am considering moving that down to 7:00 PM.
I mentioned I live in Canada. There are some days I work from home during a blizzard where I do not step outside once in the entire day. I know that is not good for my physical or mental health.
Why would I go anywhere if I don’t have to when there is a snowstorm raging outside my window?
Recently, I’ve been trying to combat this by signing up for more recreational sports leagues and fitness classes with my wife. Scheduled activities that will ensure I have to leave the house no matter how bad the weather.
Even still, some days waking up and spending all day working from home has me feeling antsy by the end of the day. I imagine this would be much worse if I worked from home every single day.
In 6 years at my current job, I have officially logged 1.5 sick days. I woke up on a Monday feeling very dreadful but went into work anyway. The flu took hold and after I vomited at lunch, I took the rest of the day and the next day off.
I have had other days where I feel dreadful, but rather than taking “sick days” I simply work home from. I may be working at a slower pace, but I am taking phone calls, returning e-mails, writing memos and trying to provide as much value as possible given my condition.
If I had no ability to work from home, I would have taken much more than 1.5 sick days over the past six years.
All in all, I value the flexibility of being able to work from home when needed. I know some of the drawbacks of working from home are within my control and I need to take more active measures to mitigate these pitfalls.
Have you ever worked from home/remotely? What are your thoughts, did you enjoy the experience? Did you fall into the same issues I have? Let me know in the comments.