the pros and cons of working from home: is it right for you?

Your alarm goes off. You bid a silent thanks to your automatic coffee maker as you make your way to the shower, then dress for work. Do you reach for your suit and tie or do you slip on your yoga pants and fuzzy slippers? An increasing number of employees whose companies allow them to work from home are choosing the latter. Technology has created an open workspace where we can work from virtually anywhere in the world. That may be your dining room table.

In order to determine whether or not you're a good candidate for working remotely, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you self-directed?
  • Do you have self-discipline?
  • Are you easily distracted?
  • Are you a good time manager?
  • Are you an organized person?
  • Can you work alone or are you one of those people who need people?
  • Do you prefer to work autonomously or do you need regular feedback?

Once you’ve honestly assessed your work style, you’ll have a better sense of whether working from home is even something you should consider. To further help in your assessment, here are some advantages and disadvantages to think about.

tips to work from home

the pros of working from home

short commute.

This is especially beneficial if you live in a remote location where transportation is unavailable or unreliable, or in a climate where winter seems to last forever, which is an unfortunate reality for a number of Canadians! Working where you live saves time and the cost of transportation, including costs associated with car ownership, maintenance, and insurance. And if science backs up the claim that people who live close to work are happier, working from home should ensure you’re quite happy, indeed.

tax benefits.

Depending on tax laws where you live, you may be able to write off a portion of your home and office expenses. Your accountant will be able to counsel you on how best to apply tax advantages to your specific situation.

flexibility.

Working from home improves your work-life balance, Especially for families with small children. In most cases, as long as the work gets done, you’re able to determine when. You may be able to see your children off to school and welcome them home afterward and be available through the day for emergencies as long as the work gets done. Keep in mind that may be long after everyone’s in bed or weekends.

autonomy.

No one is watching, micromanaging or commenting on your work unless you ask them to. You’re the boss of you as long as you get your work done on time and well. You’ll need to find a balance that works for you and who you report to about how, when and how frequently you’ll report in.

the cons of working from home

short commute.

Yep, a short commute can be a downside, too! Many people use their commute to decompress, plan dinner, doze or read (if you’re not driving, that is!) If you’re working from home, you have no transition time between work and home built into your day. You’re always home and available, especially once people know you work from home.

no human interaction.

Working from home can be lonely. There’s no water cooler to gather around; it’s just you. You have to make time and an effort to get out, head to the gym or a coffee shop, walk, or meet friends. It’s up to you to prioritize tasks that take you away from home and your desk at reasonable intervals through the day.

working in a bubble.

Because you work alone, you may not always get immediate attention or a quick answer to questions. At home, you have to reach out by phone or electronically, and wait for a response; not a big deal unless you’re working on a tight deadline and you need answers fast.

flexible work-life comes at a cost.

People often think they’ll save on daycare costs if one parent works from home. That’s not often the case. If not full daycare, at the least you’ll need someone who can keep your toddler entertained and away from your workspace so you can speak with clients, supervisors, and colleagues, and get your work done without distraction. Regardless of where you work, remember you’re a professional and that means your work will require your full attention at times.

no clear work day.

Your workday is often less clearly defined and can easily bleed into personal time if you’re not careful. It’s too easy to go back to your computer after dinner and answer just one more email. If your clients are in different time zones, that could significantly impact your personal or family time.

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tips to work from home successfully

  • Set up an office space away from where your family gathers and where you don’t have to collect your work and move when you have to set the table for dinner.
  • Treat your workspace like a real office, even if it’s a space under the stairs. Set it up as you would an onsite space; keep it neat and organized so you can find things fast and easily. Add touches to make it comfortable and efficient. Taking care of your workspace reminds you and tells others that you take yourself and your work seriously and professionally.
  • Shower and dress for work every day. It doesn’t have to be a shirt and tie, but make sure it’s clean, neat and professional looking. The tone you set for working at home affects your outlook, how you work and how seriously others take you.
  • Create a reasonable schedule for how you want your day to unfold. Make time for breaks, a walk, interaction with others, lunch, etc. Create a to-do list each day for the next day’s work, prioritizing and making sure you’re not overly optimistic about what you can accomplish successfully in a day.
  • Stay in touch with your bricks-and-mortar office. Report in often or consider working on site one day a week so people know you’re working and accessible even if you’re not in their presence full time.
  • Don’t get caught up on emails, Facebook or personal calls during your workday. Reduce distractions by setting aside time through the day to manage your calls so they don’t manage you. Often, friends and relatives will call during the day if they know you’re working from home.
  • Make sure you build time into your day to gather helpful information, research or learn new skills. We learn from our peers in the workplace even if we’re not aware of it. That’s something you don’t have when you’re working from a distance. Keep networking and uncovering new learning opportunities.

At first, working from home sounds great. And for many people, it is! But it has its drawbacks and it’s definitely not for everyone. Not sure working from home is the lifestyle for you? Test the waters, by starting with one or two days a week, to see if you’d thrive in a home office setting.

If it goes well, and you’re ready to go all in working from home, we have one piece of crucial advice: treat yourself to a coffee maker with a timer!

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