Working from home

Written May 1st, 2019

Working from home. That is one major benefit that I have with my current job. You can think of it as the option to work from anywhere, really. Who's going to know if you're working from home, or a coffee shop, or even a different country (except laws may probhibit that, but that's besides the point)? For me, the requirements are a company issued laptop with VPN software and a stable internet connection. That's all I need.

If I have a sensitive package coming in the mail then working from home is great. If I'm waiting for a contractor to do work on my house then working from home is great. If I wake up and the weather didn't turn out like the forecast said it would be, working from home is great. I think you're starting to see my point. Working from home is a nice perk that comes with a lot of flexibility.

Working from home instills a lot of trust. Your boss is giving you more control in exchange less oversight. You're given a lot of power just by working in an alternative location. I'm sure many of you communute to an office and do work there. Does your boss stay in your area a lot? Do you feel like you're being watched by your boss or coworkers? Micromanaged, maybe? Working from home removes a lot of that pressure.

If you have an important project that just needs to get done today I would urge you to work from home if you have the option. First and foremost you are isolated from your main distraction: your co-workers. Now this isn't to say that you are completely isolated; they can typically reach you by phone, email, or even IM. One expectation that comes from working remotely is that you must be available. No turning off your phone, no disabling email, and no disabling IM for extended periods of time. But using those methods takes significally more time than walking up to someone and asking a question. If someone is available in person to answer a question then the person that may have originally asked you might ask their other neighbor instead. You'll be interrupted significally less by working from home.

Sounds like working from home is perfect, right? There are so many positive benefits. But as with most things in life there are tradeoffs.

One of the important things you miss out on is the social aspect. Usually when you're working from home you're by yourself. Maybe you have a cat or a dog to keep you company, but I wouldn't consider it the same as talking to a real human. Virtual conference calls might help alleviate this, but conference calls are usually kept professional, making it hard to really connect with someone. I think IM has the same effect. It isn't impossible to build strong relationships remotely, but it is significally more challenging.

The second biggest downside is the reduced motivation to do work. I know what you're thinking. How can this possibly happen with fewer distractions? It's the lack of oversight. If you stepped away from your computer for five minutes, took a break, then came back your co-workers likely won't know the difference. It all ties back into trust. You're still expected to deliver results. Personally I find it easier to keep focusing on my work. Taking breaks slows down time and distracts you from getting real work done. That doesn't mean you should avoid taking breaks at all, however. If you need a break then take one. You'll find that taking five minutes to calm down and gather your thoughts is more valuable than the five minutes you would have otherwise been working stressed.

If you're considering or even have the option to work from home, whether for a day or permanently, I hope you have a better insight into what to expect from it. I think it is a powerful perk of my job and should not be taken lightly. Consider IBM, who once had 40% of its workforce working remotely, recently told every employee that you must work in the office. It was hard to develop personal relationships with so many people working remotely.

In my personal opinion I would not want to work full time as a remote worker. I just use the perk as I need it. I know some people may disagree or have different opinions on the matter and I do want to hear from everyone on their experience. Doing it full time is just not for me. I enjoy face to face interactions.