Business First | Working from the office vs. working from home

Working from the office vs. working from home: 11 reasons working from the office is better

30 Mar 2016 –– News
Do you prefer working from home or working from the office?

Working from the office vs. working from home - who wins?

Working from home is viewed by a lot of people as the goal. Something to aspire to in their work-life. It cuts commuting time from a work week, enables you to stay in your pyjamas all day, and sometimes encourages higher work-rate and productivity.

Working from home is viewed by a lot of people as the goal. Something to aspire to in their work-life. It cuts commuting time from a work week, enables you to stay in your pyjamas all day, and sometimes encourages higher work-rate and productivity.

However, despite the innate desire many people have to stay at home and still get paid, working from home isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be.

Having worked from home and from the office, I myself, prefer to work from work than from home. Here are my 11 reasons why.

Your work day actually has a pre-defined cut-off point

Granted, I do respond to emails from my phone when I’ve finished work and am in the gym, or when I’m technically on holiday but see something that needs to be actioned immediately. It would be remiss of me to do otherwise. But, the key point here, is that though I decide that some emails are too important to ignore when I’m not in the office, in general, when I leave for the day, that’s it.

When I have worked from home I have found it hard to turn off. This is for two main reasons: primarily because your colleagues can have a habit of seeing you as ‘always-on’. You work from home, so don’t have a start and finish time; you’re always working.

Secondly, this can become true for you as well if you aren’t careful. Without the time to switch off between work and home, it can be difficult to convince yourself that you’ve left work for the day, as well.

There are fewer non-work-related distractions

Ok, so there are obviously still the occasions when a colleague will interrupt what you’re doing and you get pulled in another direction for a period, but this is still work related. Although it may leave you putting a project on hold for a time, your actual productivity isn’t affected because the thing you’re dragged away to do is still work.

When you get distracted at home, though, the likelihood is that the thing you’re distracted by isn’t work. It could be a young child that’s at home, a pet, a delivery, the milkman. It could be something on the T.V, it could be the sudden need to tidy the kitchen or do the washing.

Whatever it is, it isn’t going to be work-related and will adversely affect your productivity. Working from the office, none of these possible distractions are present, leaving you able to get more done, in less time.

People can see when you’re available

Not only can they see when you’re available, they can see when you aren’t. This stops people from assuming that because you work at home you’re always available.

I find that when working from the office, if I’m elbow deep in an important project, I can ignore my phone without it being an issue. People can see that I’m working and don’t find it as unusual. If working from home, though, there is a sub-conscious – perhaps sometimes even conscious – need to answer the phone every time it rings to prove that you are working and not sitting watching T.V. This can harm your productivity and also your morale.

This is just one example, but in short, when you work from the office instead of from home, you can dictate when you’re available, rather than have other people dictate it for you.

Working from the office can improve creativity

Personally, I have always done a lot of my best work when I have other people to bounce ideas around with. Even if their input is something as simple as merely listening while you say it out loud, before you realise it wasn’t a good idea, or still sounds sensible and you can then run with it.

When you work from home you miss out on these seemingly insignificant opportunities to further innovations and improve your creativity. And as Marissa Mayer of Yahoo famously said: ‘Those things don’t come together unless someone from Flickr runs into someone from Weather in the hallway.’

It’s easier to manage from the office

It’s also easier to be managed. When you work from home and hold a position of management, you can’t be as effective a manager as you could from the office, where you would be around your team.

Equally, whether you’re responsible for a team or not, when you work from home, it is more difficult for your manager to manage you. These may seem like petty reasons, but whether you’re the manager, or someone needs to manage you, having to work around your absence from the office can affect the overall streamlining and productivity of the business as a whole.

You can interact with real people

One of the things I found I missed the most when working from home was interaction with people. I’m not an overly chatty sort, but neither am I a recluse, a hermit.

Working from home, at first, was brilliant, but the longer I did it for, the more I found having only the cat for company to be a little irksome, to say the least.

Having the opportunity to interact with your colleagues in a face-to-face setting not only helps you to retain your sanity, it also helps to build a better team ethic. This increase in cohesion itself has two subsidiary benefits: people who get on well tend to work better together, resulting in an increase in productivity and; having the ability to share the occasional joke with your friends/colleagues at work increases morale which, again, can lead to improved levels of productivity.

Guidance and development is achieved more easily

This really is similar to the penultimate point, prior to this one. Along with finding managing a team to be easier from the office, it is often easier to provide or seek guidance and engage in developmental activities that can contribute to your CPD and help you to rise through the ranks and achieve faster career progression, as well.

For example, when working from home, if I needed to ask a quick question of one of my directors, it could be a long-winded process, of an hour or more, to wait for them to respond to an email, or to try to catch them on the phone.

Working from the office, however, enables me to simply turn round to see if the person I need to speak to is at their desk, and walk down the office (we have a large whole-floor, open-plan office) to ask a question. Thus cutting circa 58 minutes from the process.

Not all employees have the requisite skills to work from home

When working from home you need an enormous amount of self-discipline to ensure your levels of productivity are maintained.

Not all people are capable of this.

If you, or your staff can’t retain the necessary level of motivation when working from home, then working from the office makes much more sense.

Some people just don’t want to

I enjoyed working from home… for a while. And I’m glad I got the opportunity to do it. It has allowed me to make an informed decision when judging the merits of it for staff, and about whether or not I’ll be doing it again.

But the fact remains, that in possession of the requisite skills or not, some people just don’t want to work from home. This could be for any of the reasons above, any yet to come, or something else entirely that I won’t cover here. It may just be that they don’t want to lose the routine of actually going to work. Whatever it is, for people who like to be in the office, it is logical to allow them to work there.

Communication and trust can become an issue

As I’ve already touched upon, communication that would be relatively simple when in the office, can become difficult when working from home.

Not only do you lose the ability to quickly nip down the office to see someone, you also lose the ability to read any non-verbal signals during conversations.

In addition to the possible breakdown in communication, some people find that they don’t trust the work-rate of employees working from home. This can lead to even greater breakdowns in communication and team ethic and affect productivity levels negatively.

Not all remote working tools are very good

If you’ve ever tried to hold a meeting via Skype, and some of the team have dodgy internet connections, or you’ve tried to explain a complex task over an instant messenger, without being able to elucidate with directions and visual aids, then you’ll know all about this.

The success, or otherwise, of remote working relies very much on the technology available. Although there are some great tools out there, they aren’t always available. And if your company uses systems that aren’t entirely fit for purpose, it can make remote working more of a chore than a pleasure.

The simple answer is yes. Although many people prefer to work from the office, there are also people who prefer to work from home, and as long as they are motivated and can avoid – or deal with – the pitfalls, then it can be successful.

From a business perspective, in the modern world, for a business to be successful and attract the best staff, then it has to offer a range of flexible working options. The office is not at risk, and will definitely remain an integral part of business operations, but to make the most of your business and your staff, the office must become a more fluid entity.