Is It Time to Make the Switch to Online Work?

What to consider when deciding between working online and working in the office.


If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past couple of years, you are probably aware of the fiasco right now that is living and working during a global pandemic. Many industries have been able to accommodate the need for self-isolation by allowing their employees to work online from home. But, some businesses are simply unable to provide this option. If you work in healthcare, grocery, food, public works, manufacturing, or another segment that requires in-person work in order to function, you have no choice but to work in person. However, if you have ever considered switching to a job where you can earn from home, there has never been a better time than right now. The trick is knowing which option is right for you.


Like anything, there are pros and cons to both work from home and working at the office. Here are a few things to evaluate when deciding which path to pursue.



man on beanbag chair with feet up on coffee table works on his laptop from home
Working from home has its charm but is it sustainable?


Let's Discuss Working from Home!

Pros

Zero Commute

  • Traffic, road rage, construction, fallen trees, terrible radio shows, scraping snow off the car, spilling coffee in your lap, packed trains or buses... all of this can be a distant memory if you work form home.

  • Your new commute can be as short as 20 steps to the living room, leaving you more time for sleep, morning routine, breakfast, exercise, or anything else you like to do before you dig in.

  • Not using a vehicle will save you a lot on fuel as well and wear and tear. And you can feel a little better not contributing to air pollution quite as much.


More Independence

  • Without having coworkers or management aware of your every move, you are able to do take control of your workday more than you would in an office. You can decide to switch between projects a few times without people thinking you're scatterbrained.

  • You can walk around, stretch, jog in place, or anything else you need to be comfortable. You can really start taking advantage of the Pomodoro Method and not feel bad when you spend your break looking at memes. You can take charge of your unique work routine resulting in more productivity, morale, and sense of self-satisfaction.

  • If your job doesn't require you to work during specific hours, you gain the freedom to work when is more convenient for you. Finally you can go to the bank, grocery shop, go to appointments, and do other things during the day that would usually be a huge hassle.


Enjoy Home Life

  • Chances are you probably rent or pay a mortgage for the space you call home. When you need to leave for work, that's 40+ hours per week you do not get to enjoy the place you work hard to keep. Working from home gives you the ability to spend the whole day enjoying your space.

  • If you have a family and/or pets, you will be able to spend a lot more time with them. They might trouble you at times when you need peace and quiet for work, but in the end you might all feel closer to one another.

  • You might no longer need to pay for child or pet care during the day, if you and/or another family member can manage the little ones while balancing work.


Cons

Self-Motivation is a Must

  • Just because there is an influx of at-home work in covid-19, doesn't mean we all have suddenly gained the skills to be successful at it. If you are not a self-starter, a procrastinator, or if you need someone to remind you when they walk by of work you are supposed to be doing, then working from home would be incredibly difficult for you.

  • The internet has tips and tricks aplenty from experienced remote workers, including working regular hours, leaving the house once in a while, having a separate work phone number, and scheduling breaks. If these tips seem like something you will not be able to keep up with, working from home may not be for you.


Risk of Loneliness or Cabin Fever

  • If you live alone, one of the main points of human contact for you disappears if you stop going to the office. It might not sound like a big deal, but loneliness is a really hard thing to go through. Unless you make time to socialize, you might find yourself demotivated and depressed. Obviously, this would not only have a negative impact on your work but also on your long-term mental health.

  • Oppositely, if you do live with others (even though you love getting to spend more time with them), they might really get on your nerves and make it impossible to work.

  • A change of scenery is refreshing. It might be possible that you find it really claustrophobic to be in the house all the time, and that getting out and going to another location is a really important part of your day.


More Chance for Miscommunication

  • When you are in an office and you have a question for your colleague, you have the ability to communicate with them face-to-face to make you understand one another. When you work from home, there are more chances for miscommunication simply because texting, emailing, messaging, calling, and even video calls are not quite the same.

  • If you are not used to communicating this way, it can be frustrating to begin talking to a camera as if it's a person. Sure, they are on the screen, but you don't get the same energy as being in the same room. It takes a lot of organization and mutual communication methods to be sure that nothing is getting lost between words.




four women at the same desk collaborate on a project
Working in the office was the life before COVID-19. Do you want to go back to the old normal?


What About Working from an Office?

Pros


Designated Working Area

  • Where working from home gives you the ability to choose different areas of your home to call Office, having a place of work gives you a designated area to focus your working energy. It can be hard to get into "the zone" while working from home because that space isn't only for work. But your place of work is where only one thing happens: your job. Therefore it is easier to slip into work mode when in this specific place.

  • If you work in an industry that requires specialized equipment, like a photocopier or a kiln, and anything in between, it can be really expensive or not feasible to have an at-home setup. Having a place of work where all the tools you need can be found is vital.


Synergy!


  • As mentioned above, the office can be a good place to socialize and communicate well with fellow employees. There is nothing like having a really great and productive meeting that gets everyone inspired to do their best work.

  • Company lunches, spending time with mentors or "work spouses," and physically working together are really great morale-boosters that you just can't get while working from home.


More Unique Professions

  • Although working from home might provide more freedom of movement, it narrows down which jobs you can have. Although there are a lot of things that can be done from home, some simply cannot. Manufacturing, for instance, will never be able to buckle and give in to pandemic trends. It is simply not possible to have manufacturing laborers work from home.

  • Many creative, constructive, and exploratory fields are the same way. You can't build houses, excavate a tomb, or test rocket ships from home. This is all obvious, but something to remember if you have ever thought about getting into those industries; working from home will not get you closer to those goals.


Cons

Time Consumption

  • There are a million little things throughout the average workday that can cost you time. Commuting is number one, of course, but the processes of transitioning from being at home to being in the car to being in the workplace all take time and energy as well. It cuts into the time you can spend actually working.

  • This time consumption can bleed over into your personal life too. It is hard to get up so early to leave your home, then come back so late, and perhaps not have enough time to enjoy being at home at all before doing it all again. This can build resentment for work and decrease overall happiness.


Work Environment

  • Sometimes we have a team we love to be with. Sometimes we aren't so lucky. If you have what one might call a "toxic work environment," working from home might be a better option, since you won't have to spend as much time with people who bring you down.

  • When in an office, you're at the mercy of everyone else working there as well. The temperature might be too hot or cold, someone might yawn loudly and repetitively, and inevitably someone will microwave fish. At home, you can control these things and make sure you are comfortable, even wearing pajamas if you desire.


Productivity


  • Having to change gears when you're not ready to, or having to stay working on a specific thing when you just need a break are risks that come along with being in a space where other people have a say over your workflow.

  • Productivity goes hand-in-hand with the ideas above; if your time is consumed, and your environment is uncomfortable, you are going to be less productive. Of course, being in an office can increase productivity in some people, but that isn't always the case. You need to ask yourself in which environment are you going to work better.


Compromises

If you really can't do without certain aspects of office life, but also really can't see yourself working strictly from home, there are a few things that can be done to make the balance a little better for you.


Co-working Space, Cafe, Library or Studio

  • Maybe you don't want to be in an office, but you also don't want to be at home all the time. The creators of co-working spaces have you covered. Here you can rent space in an office setting, shared with others, but it's possible that none of you work for the same company. You get that same designated working space, with amenities like printers and wifi, but without having to see your boss.

  • Opt to work in a cafe or coffee shop, but be sure to grab a snack or drink at least once per day as "rent."

  • Another good option can be your local library, where the setting might be a bit quieter than the coffee shop, and a lot cheaper than the co-working space.

  • Finally, and especially if you're in a materially artistic field, a studio can be a good choice for you. You can rent a space to keep all of your tools and materials and lock it up for the night when you're done. Depending on the studio, you might also have 24/7 access for when inspiration strikes at 3 AM.


Co-working Online

  • If you miss simply having the presence of someone else who is also deep in their work, you can find a community online that is just that. Many different social media resources house communities of people who just like to be deep in work together, whether it's voice, video, or both. Find a community you feel comfortable in and you have yourself some new work buddies!


Flexible Schedule

  • Assuming you work in a company that is allowing people to come in right now, see if you can work out a split schedule with your manager. It might be possible to work from home 2 or 3 times a week and spend the rest of the days in the office when they need you to physically be there. If you enjoy both the work-from-home and work-at-office experience, this is a win-win.


So, what will it be?

With all of this information in mind, be sure to ask yourself which choice is right for you. Do you want to continue working in person? Do you want to transition to working at home? It all depends on your personality, lifestyle, and needs.