deciding whether it's better to work at home or in an office.
Remote work is a hot topic among professionals across the world. As the pandemic settles, employers are faced with a decision: bring employees back to the office or allow them to work remotely. For many Canadian employees, there's no comparison — the majority believe it's better to work from home. If you're still on the fence, it's helpful to weigh the pros and cons. That way, you can make informed decisions as you move forward in your career.
attitudes toward office work and remote jobs
Working from home has become more common since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Before 2020, about 4% of employees in Canada held remote jobs. In early 2022, the Survey on Employment & Skills found that 46% of employees had remote or hybrid work schedules. Of that group, 78% prefer working remotely to going to their regular workplace.
If you're wondering how a work from home job could affect your professional trajectory, you're not alone. Although the majority of Canadians want to continue working from home, they still have concerns. A Cisco Canada survey conducted in October 2022 discovered that 46% of Canadian employees believe that people who are doing in-person office work will get more chances to build their career.
Even with the potential risks, workers aren't quite ready to give up on flexible work schedules. In a recent Hardbacon survey, 80% of employees said they'd rather quit and find a new job than go back to the office full-time.
pros and cons of remote work
remote work: pros
For many employees, flexibility is the biggest benefit of remote work. You can work in your pajamas all day or join the morning meeting from the comfort of your couch. If you love to travel, simply load up your laptop and work from a hotel or vacation rental. Since you're not restricted by location, you can apply for a broader range of jobs.
Remote work also has significant economic advantages. When you're not driving back and forth to the office, you can save money on gas and vehicle wear and tear. You'll also spend less on work clothes, car insurance and restaurant meals.
Is work-life balance a priority? Without a commute, you gain extra time that can be used for sleep, personal tasks or family activities. If you have a 30-minute commute, that amounts to 5 extra hours per week. Plus, you can take care of tasks such as laundry and dishes during the workday, freeing up more time in the evening.
Work from home jobs make employment more accessible for a bigger group of people. If you have a health condition or disability, you can design a home office that's tailored to your needs. Parents also benefit; there's no need to find a babysitter if the kids are sick or home on school breaks. LGBTQ professionals have reported that remote work creates a more diverse and inclusive workplace.
remote work: cons
Remote work also has drawbacks. Since many employers are relatively new to the practice, they haven't figured out how to offer equal access to opportunities and employee engagement. That might result in a slower career progression for employees, but it's likely to resolve as companies find their footing. In the meantime, you'll need to work harder to stay visible and get promoted.
When you work from home, you may find it challenging to separate your personal and professional lives. According to the Survey on Employment & Skills, 45% of remote workers feel like they're always on the clock. And while some employers allow flexibility as long as the work is done, others expect employees to maintain their active status throughout the entire workday.
Regardless of whether your employer is monitoring your activity, remote work takes a great deal of motivation and discipline. No one is looking over your shoulder — it's up to you to figure out how to work from home effectively.
If you're a social person, remote jobs can come with a sense of isolation. Without casual in-person conversations, it takes conscious action to engage with colleagues. Collaboration can also be a struggle, particularly if part of the team is in the office.
pros and cons of on-site work
on-site work: pros
One of the most important benefits of working on-site is the ability to connect with your colleagues and supervisors. You can build relationships through informal conversations in the break room and before meetings. It's also easier to collaborate with off-the-cuff discussions. These face-to-face interactions can help you feel engaged and invested in the business and the work itself. Over time, it may lead to reduced burnout and faster career advancement.
The constant conversation that goes on in the workplace also helps you build professional communication skills. Watching your boss navigate a discussion with a challenging client can provide valuable insights that are hard to replicate in an online setting.
In the office, there's a constant awareness that other people can see you. This oversight, even if it's not direct, can help you stay on task. Plus, when you leave your computer and desk behind every evening, it can be easier to disconnect.
on-site work: cons
Working on-site comes with a daily commute, which leads to increased costs for gas, car maintenance and insurance. Icy roads and heavy traffic boost stress levels, even before you get to the office.
Every workplace comes with an assortment of personalities. In a remote setting, it's easy to avoid or truncate unwanted conversations with colleagues. That's not the case in person, which means you'll spend more time and energy on unproductive interactions.
Meetings are a major time sink for many on-site employees. They can eat up a good portion of the day and make it harder to stay productive. If your company uses an open floor plan, you'll be faced with even more distractions once you're back at your desk.
are hybrid jobs a happy medium for employees and employers?
If you're torn between on-site and remote work, hybrid jobs can offer the best of both worlds. On the days you work from home, you can enjoy the comfort and flexibility; when you're in the office, the in-person interactions will feel even more meaningful. You also have the opportunity to socialize with colleagues at in-person holiday parties and retreats.
The arrangement isn't right for everyone. If you're looking for a remote job because it will allow you to live anywhere or travel more frequently, a hybrid job may be too restrictive. Depending on the schedule, it could also limit the number of jobs you can apply for.
In some cases, the appeal of hybrid work comes down to the schedule. Some employers want employees to come in a few days per week, either at their discretion or on a set schedule. Companies with employees living at a distance might consider allowing workers to spend 1 or 2 weeks in the office and the following month or two at home.
Despite the potential challenges, employers are increasingly leaning toward hybrid solutions. In the Cisco Canada study, 58% of respondents reported that their companies would be using a hybrid model in the future. Just 14% are planning to institute a fully remote arrangement.
For additional reading on remote jobs, check out these pertinent articles: