Remote work and work from home was a movement well before we were all hit with this pandemic but the coronavirus forced many who were unwilling to give it a try. Low and behold, there are many benefits to work from home. This gave the work from home (WFH) movement steam but people have been writing about "the changing workplace" for several years. In some cases, businesses will finally make the transition to a permanent work from home stance or at least the option to work from home if you'd prefer that. But WFH isn't all rainbows and butterflies. It comes with its own set of challenges. Here are the pros and cons of WFH.
Work from home can also be work from anywhere. If you want to spend your mornings at your favorite coffee spot, the local park, your basement, or in your home office, great! You're an adult. Your physical location is up to you as long as you're mentally present at your job. Sometimes getting out and taking a walk in the middle of the day or hitting the gym in between meetings is just what the doctored ordered. If your work is done by 4 pm, there is no need to stay in a physical location until you are dismissed. These old school (pun intended) policies might take you back to your days in middle school when the teacher had to dismiss you from class. Read more about that here.
The average American spends 26.1 minutes commuting to work one way. That's nearly 5 hours every week spent in a car neither working nor spending time with your family. A wasted 5 hours. And that number goes up when you get into densely populated urban areas. Working from home allows you to take back that 5 hours and reallocate them to work or personal activities. Not to mention the mental toll sitting in traffic every day.
Less Distraction (or at least different distractions)
I know a lot of people that like to get into the office early or stay late because they can get more work done when no one is around to bother them. I am actually one of them. At some point, the office has become a place full of distractions from your actual job. Your co-workers, needless meetings, looking over your shoulder for your boss, and your co-workers' pets that wander around the office are all distractions that you can avoid by working from home. However, working from home doesn't mean you won't be distracted by other things like your family or chores around the house.
Since you don't have to spend 5 hours per week commuting and you have the flexibility to make your own daily schedule, you'd think you would have plenty of time for your personal life. Turns out, WFH makes work-life balance even harder. That commute that you hate is actually a great bridge between work life and personal life. It's much easier to transition from one to the other when there is physical separation between the two. It can be much more difficult to "turn off" your work self when your "office" is a few steps away from "home life". It can also be difficult for families to create those boundaries between work and home. Until families get used to you working from home, every day feels like the weekend.
Obviously, there are plenty of tools for the remote workplaces to communicate. Messaging, chatting, and video conferencing are all effective ways to communicate but none of them match communication that occurs within a physical office space. You can't bump into co-workers in the hallways of a Zoom meeting or Slack with someone around the water cooler. These natural, in-person interactions are completely eliminated from a typical communication routine. Remotely, all communication is more intentional. As a manager, you might walk around and swing by members of your teams' desks and sit and chat for a couple of minutes. Remotely, that is a more concerted communication effort and can be awkward. Being new to this environment can quickly feel like you are out of the loop.
Impromptu gatherings at lunch or around the water cooler are now completely eliminated. These are actually a really important aspect of team-building. Now, all communications are planned and structured and the natural encounters are within the group are gone. Also, there are plenty of relationships built within an office between people who don't actually work much together. If you started as WFH, you may never meet the person in accounting who you get along really well with. Team-building events like happy hours become more difficult as well. Typically, the happy hour is at a bar or restaurant near the office but everyone may live several miles from the office so picking a central location for a team-building event can be a challenge.
To be honest, working from home isn't for everyone. Some people actually get energized by being around people. Some people enjoy being a part of a physically present team. Some people prefer face to face meetings rather than web meetings. Some people still see value in looking a person in the eye and reading body language. Some people look forward to building interoffice relationships with people and that can be tough without meeting in person.
It's likely that the coronavirus pandemic has changed the workplace forever. Some companies have already permanently moved to a work from home model. Other companies will adopt a hybrid model where employees will have the option to work from home or come into an office. So the question is, if given the choice, would you be strictly a work from home employee or work from an office?