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The Pros and Cons of Working From Home

The number of Americans who work from home at least some of the time has risen steadily over the years. In 2015, Gallup found that 37% of Americans have telecommuted, up from 9% in 1995. Technological changes have made it easier to work from home and still participate in meetings and shared workplace tasks. Also contributing to the trend is increased awareness of people’s need and desire for flexibility. But what are the pros and cons of working from home?

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Pro 1: Increased Flexibility and Comfort

Working at home provides employees with more flexibility. They can wake up a little later because they don’t have to commute. They can get a head start on cooking dinner, taking a quick break to pop something in the oven rather than waiting to start cooking until getting home from the office. They can walk dogs, accept deliveries, let the plumber in, provide care or run errands more easily and quickly from home. Plus, they can stay in their pajamas and slippers instead of donning ties, heels or other workwear. No wonder employees value some work-at-home flexibility along with workplace benefits like 401(k)s and vacation days.

Pro 2: Better Employee Retention

The Pros and Cons of Working From Home

When employees are happy with their benefits and work-life balance they are more likely to stay with their employer. Boosting employee retention rates can, in turn, help boost company profits and morale. That’s why some employers are offering employees the flexibility to work remotely some or all of the time.

Pro 3: No Uncompensated Commute Time

Many Americans commute for at least an hour round-trip, and some unlucky workers have “mega-commutes,” defined as traveling more than 90 minutes and more than 50 miles each way. Commute time is generally uncompensated time. Because the employer isn’t responsible for the employee’s choice of where to live, employers generally don’t feel responsible for paying employees for commute time. That leads American workers to spend hours of work-related time without being compensated for it. But if you work from home, you’re only doing the hours of work you’re being paid to do, not the unpaid hour(s) of uncompensated commute work.

Pro 4: Saving Money

Working from home can save employees money in addition to saving them time. If you go from commuting by car to working from home, you’ll save money on gas, tolls, parking fees and wear and tear on your vehicle. If you commute by transit, you can buy fewer passes or downgrade from an unlimited transit pass once you start working from home. Telecommuting can also save employees money they would have spent on special work clothes, lunches out, coffee drinks and post-work happy hours. In short, it can be great for the household budget.

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Con 1: Lack of Social Time

Some people who work from home report that they miss the social interaction workplaces provide. Even if your coworkers aren’t your absolute favorite people, you still derive benefits from the water-cooler chats and other casual social interactions that take place during work hours. Working from home can be lonely.

Con 2: Uncertainty

Working from home increases the level of uncertainty in the employer-employee relationship. Employers can’t be certain that their employees are staying focused and productive during the workday, and employees can’t be certain that their contributions are visible to their managers. Employees who work from home may worry that their in-office colleagues are getting opportunities or praise unavailable to remote workers. Employers might worry that their employees are working less diligently than they would if they were in the office. That’s reportedly the reason Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer ended the company’s work-from-home benefit in one of her first acts after taking over the company.

Con 3: No Barrier Between Work and Home

For some people, having a separate work life and home life can be healthy, allowing for mental and emotional separation between the two realms. Those who work from home might have a harder time “turning off” and find themselves doing work at all hours. Employers might also expect employees who work at home to be available at odd times – creating different expectations for those who are in the office and those who telecommute.

Con 4: Potential Career Stagnation

The Pros and Cons of Working From Home

According to Gallup research, telecommuting is more common among those with higher levels of education. This makes sense – it’s easier to do an office job remotely than it is to wait tables or provide elder care remotely. However, those who telecommute, while they may start with a high level of education and career prestige, may find it harder to move up the career ladder. If you’re not in the office to volunteer for extra tasks as they come up or to catch the eye of management as you’re exceeding expectations, you may stagnate in the same role. For some employers, workers who telecommute are out of sight and out of mind.

Related Article: 7 Ways to Stay Productive While Working From Home

Bottom Line

When asked, Americans overwhelmingly say that they would like the option of working from home at least part of the time. Full-time telecommuting, though, isn’t for everyone. While it offers greater flexibility and potential savings, it can be isolating and limiting. Plus, it requires a high level of self-discipline to keep productivity levels high when there are so many potential distractions.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages, ©iStock.com/gpointstudio, ©iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages

Amelia Josephson Amelia Josephson is a writer passionate about covering financial literacy topics. Her areas of expertise include retirement and home buying. Amelia's work has appeared across the web, including on AOL, CBS News and The Simple Dollar. She holds degrees from Columbia and Oxford. Originally from Alaska, Amelia now calls Brooklyn home.
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