Home working has grown exponentially in the last decade. The proportion of home workers in the UK reached 4.2 million (13.7 percent of the workforce) in 2015, rising to 17.7 percent in the information and communications sector. Senior staff are more likely to be given the chance to shun the office, with the percentage of managers working from home increasing to 1 in 5.
If you’re given the chance to leave office politics, a long commute or worries about childcare far behind you, it seems obvious that you’d jump at the chance. But home working isn’t for everyone. We list some pros and cons to help you decide whether home or office will work best for you:
Pro: Better work/life balance
Working from home enables individuals much greater flexibility, allowing them to set their own timetable around other, family-based commitments. If effectively thought through, domestic activities can be planned around as part of a working day – a particular advantage to parents or carers who can be available much more readily when needed, giving them a peace of mind that would be impossible in an office.
Con: People are more productive together
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer made headlines back in 2013 for banning the previously entrenched practice of telecommuting, controversially claiming: “... Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home.” It’s a convincing argument, especially in roles which demand innovation and creative thinking, which often happen much more effectively in group settings.
Pro: Better communication
This may seem counter-intuitive given the vastly reduced face-to-face interactions that occur in a home rather than an office environment. But being forced to clarify your thoughts in an email or phone call can help vital information to be communicated much more effectively than in a waffle-filled meeting.
Con: Performance issues
This is one of the main reasons managers often cite for insisting more junior member of staff come into the office to work. It can be difficult, if not impossible, to monitor an employee’s performance if they’re not just down the hall or in the same room. In the worst cases, work standards and skills can deteriorate to a point that’s difficult to come back from.
Pro: Cost saving
Commuting times in the UK are getting ever longer. The ONS found 3.7 million people now commute more than two hours a day – valuable time that could be spent engaged in productive work. As well as the time and stress, the financial cost of travelling to work is borne by the employee, meaning working from home can amount to a significant pay rise.
Con: It can be expensive
While home working might work out well for an employee’s personal finances, the costs to a company can be considerable. If a role requires regular access to specialist equipment or tools, for example, teleworking may not be the ideal setup. A worker might also require costly training to ensure they can perform all their tasks satisfactorily outside the office, an expense not every organisation is willing to cough up for.