Is Working from Home Right for You? These Do’s and Don’ts Are Here to Help
I work a traditional 8-to-5 office job, and it is taxing in many ways. I have to get up early, make myself presentable and start my commute early enough to reach the office on time. What starts as an eight- or nine-hour workday easily morphs into 10 or 11 hours once I take preparation and commute times into account.
The average commute for an American worker is up to 26.4 minutes according to 2015 U.S. Census data — and that time increases if you live in a metro area. It’s no wonder more employees are asking to work remotely, either on a full-time basis or as needed. Working from home, or WFH, offers numerous benefits to employees — but, as it turns out, offering WFH options also benefits the employer.
Global Workplace Analytics evaluated thousands of studies focused on companies who offered work-from-home flexibility. While they found too many to list in this article, the main benefits included an increase in productivity among employees, fewer people calling in sick (and therefore less lost time) and a reduction in burnt-out employees.
Steve Pritchard, HR manager at Cuuver, brings up some additional benefits for employers. “Giving employees the opportunity to work from home if they wish is great for helping to retain staff, especially those who have quite a long commute to work,” he explains. “You can list it on your job advertisements as one of your company benefits, which will help to attract a high caliber of applicants.”
Another perk for employers concerns sick-day usage. “If a member of staff doesn’t feel up to coming into the office but they can get work done from home, this means you aren’t a man down – this makes for a massive perk for both the business and the employee,” says Pritchard.
As far as managing remote employees, Pritchard thinks it’s doable. “Naturally, it can be harder to manage remote workers, so the best way to do this is to implement a progression tool,” he says. “Whether it’s a Google Calendar or specialist software like Zoho or Trello, remote workers can feed into the system what work they are doing, how long it is going to take them and when it will be completed by. Phone calls also help everyone to stay connected when working from home.”
The benefits of working from home for employees are probably pretty obvious. You save time (and money) on your commute, you don’t have to adhere to a dress code (though some clothes are preferable) and you can hang out with your dog (or cat, no judgement here).
But there are hidden benefits to working from home that you might not have considered.
As The Muse points out, working from home doesn’t mean you’re stuck in your office all the time. It’s actually a great and flexible way to still get work done when you’re traveling. You can also take your laptop outside and get some work done when the weather is nice, instead of being stuck inside a stuffy office.
I spoke with Dahna Heineman, senior security program manager at DXC Technologies, to learn more about the benefits of working from home for employees. Heineman has been working from home full time for five years and loves the benefits it provides her.
Heineman has no commute and spends less than ever on things like makeup, hair products and dry cleaning. She’s also found that working from home has allowed her to become more attuned to changes in tone of voice.
Heineman also appreciates the ability to work uninterrupted from home. “No one randomly pops up at your desk to interrupt your train of thought while you are working on a security product workflow for multiple services and regions,” she says. “No office noise around or people chatting in the background make it easier to concentrate.”
Of course, just because working from home can be beneficial for workers and their employers doesn’t mean everyone can (or should) do it. While Heineman generally likes working from home, she acknowledges that there is also a downside.
No commute might sound heavenly to many workers, but it could actually be detrimental. “You have zero time from when you stop working to decompress,” explains Heineman. Rather, you go straight from work life to family life without stopping to take a break.
And while working from home gives you the peace to concentrate on the task at hand, it can also be lonely. “No one ever pops up to give you a break, a laugh or interact with you,” says Heineman. If you’re a social person this can be extremely demoralizing.
Working from home could also mean you take fewer breaks throughout the day. For lunch, Heineman says, “You tend to grab your food, eat it alone and not take a full hour as your break.” Additionally, you could end up “schedul[ing] back to back calls and never even stand[ing] up for six hours.”
This can lead to issues with your health — both mental and physical.
Do’s and Don’ts
If you’re lucky enough to have an employer that supports working from home, you need to be aware of some do’s and don’ts to make sure you don’t take advantage of the policy and potentially ruin it for your co-workers.
Do get ready for work in the morning.
Diane Gottsman writes in an article for HuffPost that getting dressed, brushing your hair and washing your face can help you get in the right mindset for the workday. It might be tempting to work in your pajamas, but putting on pants and a shirt will tell your brain that it’s time to work rather than lounge.
Do make sure you are available during regular business hours.
“Your availability to colleagues should be no different when working remotely than it would be if you were in the office,” Barry Chignell writes in an article for CIPHR.
Don’t skip your lunch break.
“You have the luxury of being more flexible with your day,” writes Gottsman, “but sticking to a routine, which includes planning for healthy meals, will enable you to work more resourcefully than wandering around the house for a cup of noodle soup or a few handfuls of chips.” You’ll enjoy the mental break and will return to work ready to conquer your busy afternoon.
Do create a home office.
“Preferably, you need natural light and a door, so that you can separate your work from your home life when the workday is done,” writes Bill Murphy Jr. in an article for Inc. It might be tempting to work from your couch, but having a designated office space in your home will help you focus on the task at hand.
Don’t get distracted.
Sure, it’s easy enough to do a few chores throughout the day when you’re working from home, but make sure you’re still putting in your hours. “Whether you work in a brick-and-mortar building, local coffee shop or your personal domain, it’s up to you to control your personal disturbances,” explains Gottsman.
That means turning off the TV, staying off social media and scheduling breaks if necessary to take care of things around the house.
Working from home isn’t for everyone, but if you have the right mindset it can be a very rewarding experience. Whether your employer allows the occasional remote day or lets you telecommute full time, make sure you stay productive and switched on when working away from the office.
Catherine Hiles works from home very occasionally in her day job, and as a freelance writer. She prefers the social aspect of an office environment, but appreciates flexibility when she needs to focus on important tasks.