Money & Career
The Perks and Perils of Working from Home
5/3/2018 10:08:12 PM
Working from Home

The digital age has transformed the American workforce in ways few imagined a generation ago. What began as interoffice email back in the 1990s has evolved to texting and instant messaging from a smartphone. The chirping, buzzing of the fax machine, once an office staple, has been silenced by PDF files that can be edited and signed with a digital signature.   

Much of this has resulted in the so-called paperless office. Laptop computers, iPads, and smartphones have saved more redwoods along the west coast than all the environmentalists in Seattle, Portland, and Berkeley combined. But the digital age has also left its imprint in the office itself. In fact, as the 20th century came to a close, many businesses and executives wondered if an office would even be needed in the 21st century world.
Thus began the work from home era; we’re still in it today. Last year, The New York Times reported 43 percent of Americans spent at least "some time” working from home, a four-percent increase from 2012 to 2016. But no matter how enticing the idea sounds, there are benefits and drawbacks to working from home, and experts say it isn’t for everyone.

For those who like their workspace free of water-cooler gossip, mindless chatter, and office drama, a work-from-home arrangement might be an attractive alternative. The trade-off for many who prefer the silence and solitude of home (provided they don’t have kids, pets, needy spouses, or a combination thereof) is the lack of camaraderie with peers. Sure, we all need quiet time to focus, but down time alone after the deadlines are met, day after day, can be a lonely experience. Often you eat your lunches alone in your kitchen. What’s more, work-from-home employees may miss out on building lasting professional relationships they might need in the future.

Working from home also requires a lot of self-discipline, even in your pajamas. You don’t get to sleep in until 9:45 every morning when your colleagues back at the office are logging onto their computers at 8:03 a.m. Indeed, some people with home offices work more efficiently than if they were sitting in the middle of a cubicle farm. But deadlines are still deadlines; Skype meetings begin when they begin; and phone calls often need to be made to get the job done. Successful home workers begin their days on time and work throughout the day, as if they were back at the office. 

So, if feeling the pressure to get to work on time is something you need to get you out of bed in the morning, then working from home might not be for you.

The absence of a boss looking over your shoulder can have its pros and cons, too. On one hand, you’re free to work at your own pace and in your own manner. You can focus on getting the job done your way. On the other hand, the absence of your boss’ physical presence means your hard work and, perhaps, the extra hours you put in will go unnoticed. 

Finally, you don’t have to commute every day. This, of course, will be a money saver in both the short and long-term. But, again, you’ll forfeit time spent with both your boss and colleagues, which could stunt your professional growth. Face time is indeed important in getting ahead in the corporate world.

Working from home can be a rewarding experience in many ways, but it’s not for everyone. Before you talk to your boss about work-from-home opportunities, even if it’s only for a day or two each week, make sure its benefits outweigh its disadvantages. Like many aspects of today’s 21st century world, working from home is another lifestyle choice that must be considered carefully, with both eyes opened and focused on productivity and, ultimately, success.
Posted by: Frank DiCesare | Submit comment | Tell a friend

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