Some positions require you to work at an office, hold meetings or have face-to-face interactions with clients and colleagues – and these may not be as effective when done virtually.
For example, if you manage a large staff, handling sticky employee situations can be tricky if you’re working remotely. Also, when you start a new position, not being able to ‘read’ the room can be stressful.
On the other hand, there are millions of employees who navigate remote work quite well. And, there are some real benefits to both working for yourself at home and working off-site for an employer. I’m familiar with both the advantages and the drawbacks.
For most of my career, I went to an office, initially every day, and later, four days a week. For the past few years, I’ve worked from home, occasionally going to the office for meetings. Here are the five most important advantages.
The New York subway system reaches all parts of the city, and when everything goes smoothly, it’s great. But, the system is more than 120 years old. That means there’s lots of repair work, 24/7, which makes your commute longer.
Additionally, there are always unexpected delays related to weather, crime or something else that you can’t figure out since no one can understand the conductor’s announcements.
When you work from your home office – or a nearby coffee shop or library – you avoid the time, expense and hassle of driving or taking public transportation to an office.
When I’m on deadline or particularly busy, I can begin work at 4:30 a.m. and work until late in the evening, if necessary. I can roll out of bed, start the coffee pot and turn on my laptop.
On the other hand, since I am usually coordinating my schedule, I can also start work later if I want to take a break from work to exercise or run errands. If you set your own deadlines, then you do some of your errands during the week and catch up on your work on weekends.
Most people working from home end up doing longer hours than if they went to an office, simply because there’s no forced stop, i.e., having to catch a particular train.
Still, parents, grandparents and caregivers know how valuable the flexibility can be when you have to make frequent visits to a doctor’s office or want to attend a school function in the middle of the day.
And you can work anywhere with your phone and computer – from a vacation spot, a relative’s backyard or almost anywhere you happen to be.
Working from home is not entirely stress-free. After all, if you’re freelancing, you still have to hustle up work, deal with difficult clients and occasionally, battle to get paid.
But you don’t have to contend with someone micro-managing your work and tracking your movements from your bathroom breaks to time spent on the phone.
If you’re off-site, you’re less likely to be roped into additional work, and generally, you don’t get involved in office drama simply because you’re not there. Having more control over your time and working in a comfortable environment of your choosing definitely reduces work tension.
Assuming you’re self-employed, you can decide what projects to take on or what work to pass up. While you obviously need the income, if you’ve spent three months completing a consulting gig for a client who has complained every step of the way, you can choose not to work with this client again.
On the other hand, when you have clients who pay you on time and are satisfied with your work, hopefully, you can work with them again.
You save money when you’re not commuting to an office as you’re not paying for gas or a monthly train or bus pass. You don’t have to pay for an over-priced lunch at the salad bar down the street.
Your dry-cleaning bills are dramatically lower because you don’t have to wear professional clothes. In fact, you’ll probably save even more by not having to buy new clothing to wear to an office. If you’re comfortable, it doesn’t matter if you’re at home in pjs, sweats or those old threadbare jeans.
In a future article, I’ll discuss some of the disadvantages of working from home.
If you work from home, what other advantages have you found? Any drawbacks? We’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below.
Debra W. Englander is a writer, editor and book coach based in New York. She has written for numerous publications and managed a business book program for John Wiley. She writes “The Savvy Self-Publisher” column for Poets & Writers. Follow her on Twitter @DebraEnglander.