Home vs Office: where’s best to work?

Posted 21st Aug 2015

We’re all familiar with the Monday morning routine. Tired from the weekend, you get up early and ready yourself for the usual commute. An hour or two in the car or on public transport, perhaps, if you’re lucky, you can cycle to work and provided you don’t get sideswiped by a bus or experience a little road rage, you’ll arrive at work sweaty, but a little bit fitter. Once you reach the office you then have eight to ten hours of office politics, sticky IT issues and probably the lunchtime rush to get your favourite sandwich etc. Sound familiar? This is the typical start of the week for commuters across the globe.

For many other millions of people, this is the stuff of nightmares and not part of their Monday morning. Over the last two decades there has been a shift in the outlook of many organisations, allowing employees who can work from home to work from home. Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), June 2014, show that in the first quarter of that year there were 4.2 million home workers in the UK. This represents a massive increase from when records started in 1994 and each year the numbers keep rising. Of this 4.2 million, 63% were self-employed and 34% were employees. Telecommuting, as it’s known, is on the rise.

The thought of not having to commute, fight for a sandwich or deal with endless office politics is appealing to many, but working from home is not for everyone. Here are the Ibell Recruitment & Staffing pros and cons of home vs office working.

The Pros

  • Although there are incidental costs involved with allowing employees to telecommute, the financial benefits to an organisation can be substantial. Reduced rent and energy costs can have a significant impact on a company’s bottom line.
  • More productivity - a 2013 Stanford study (Nicholas Bloom) found that home workers considerably outperformed their office-based colleagues.
  • Better mental and physical health - more time with family and less time commuting is a huge benefit.
  • Better pay - on average a home worker’s median hourly rate is £13.23 per hour, compared to other workers who have a median hourly rate of £10.50 (ONS statistics 2014).
  • You can wear shorts and flip flops, a super hero costume or whatever you feel most comfortable in (no one will judge you)
  • Choose your hours - of course, you will most likely have to be available during office hours, but the option of working when you feel you are most productive (whether that’s 1pm or 1am) is yours to exercise.

The Cons

  • Loss of social contact - humans are innately social creatures and not being surrounded by others can have detrimental effect on some.
  • Cabin fever - being in the same place, morning to night, can cause physiological problems - this can lead to irritability, restlessness and a loss of focus.
  • Self-discipline - the biggest killer of the home worker - if you’re naturally inclined to idleness then you’re not really suited for home working, however, if you have drive and motivation you will nail home working with little difficulty.
  • Stifling creativity - when Marisa Meyer took charge of Yahoo, she also brought an end to home working. She understood the necessity of having people in the same location to bounce ideas and nurture a creative work environment.

The Unavoidable

  • Bosses like to have employees to boss - some companies like to keep their employees close at hand to keep control over their operation. Perfectly reasonable, but not a great commercial decision if you want your staff to feel loved and trusted.
  • Trust - if you’re allowed to work from home then you have your employer’s trust, if you can’t, you don’t.
  • Your family life will improve significantly with increased, meaningful contact, however, having young children has proved problematic for many home workers. Babies and toddlers do not make for a conducive home working environment.
  • Work-bleed - the thing that happens when your working hours merge into your spare time. Laptops and mobile phones have off buttons, but not everyone seems to be aware of this. Not striking a good work/life balance can see employees taking on more work than they would in the office and working longer hours, resulting in a negative impact on the one thing that one set out to improve - your work/life balance.

BT was one of the first big employers to encourage home working as far back as the early 1990s. Amazon, Dell, Xerox and a plethora of large companies have all incorporated telecommuting into their business models and more will follow. However, people came together and created societies over thousands of years based on human interaction and cooperation - this is vital part of the human experience. Ultimately home working isn’t for everyone, but neither is office working.

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