Career

Is Working From Home Really As Good As It Sounds?

Being able to work from home is the telltale sign of a modern and flexible workplace. It shows the world that you have a Cool Boss, not a Regular Boss. That you’re part of the 21st century. That you have the whole work-life balance thing sorted.

In my opinion, the rise of working from home was inevitable. It took us from open plan, to hot-desking, to raving about the benefits of indoor plants, to now, where we can just work wherever the hell we want. And on paper, it’s the dream situation.

I wanted to weigh up the good and bad that comes along with working from home. Sure, it’s a lot of comfy clothes and sleeping in. But what does it mean for your career? For a succinct version, see this comic from The Oatmeal. For a version that includes me eating lots of Shapes, see this.

The Pros

What if I told you that you could skip the morning commute and you get to wear your Ugg boots and trackies while you work. You also don’t have to prepare lunch because you can whip up something in your own kitchen, and take the dog for a walk in your breaks. Also, forget about having to move mountains to make sure someone lets in the internet guy because you can just do that yourself. “Oh you’ll come somewhere between the vague hours of 7.30 and 4? No problem!”

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Better yet, you’ll probably get more work done than if you worked in a traditional office because there’s no one around to chat to you, no office politics to wade through or exhausting social niceties to endure. All communication can be done via email or over the phone.

Yes, there are so many pros around working from home that it seems inconceivable that it wouldn’t be the best option. A recent study looked at a corporation in China that works exclusively from home and found that it made employees happier, richer and less likely to quit the company. In Japan, working from home is now a government supported activity because they found employees aren’t productive enough in the office.

Another study found that employees felt more valued and trusted if they were allowed to work from home. Smooth sailing, right?

The Cons

Look. I’m going to come out here and admit that I hate working from home. Like, I genuinely loath it to my core.

The last (and only) time I did it, I found myself eating lunch at 11am, staring into a corner of my living room for 5 very unproductive minutes and walking aimlessly around the house munching on a box of Shapes. Which I ended up finishing in their entirety, by the way, and quickly got a sugar-induced headache from. I missed my work buddies so much that I found myself overcompensating in Slack messages just to feel a little less isolated. To top it all off, the morning after I was greeted with a big fat chin pimple brought on by the day before’s excessive snacking.

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I thought about all the working from home pros that people had rattled off to me, and wondered why I was so bad at enjoying something so universally beloved?

I did a little digging around (literally googled ‘working from home bad????’) to see if there was anyone else on my side. Turns out, there is. There are even studies to back me up.

One found that most people are sent to work from home without being trained on how to do it properly, resulting in a bunch of problems. In case you were a bit confused, working from home properly means knowing how to manage your own output, keep up communication with your coworkers, stopping distractions from arising and managing them when they do. Without these tools, employees are left in the lurch.

Not to mention that people are on the clock for longer when they’re working from home. Without the coffee breaks and birthday cake, lunch hours and general chit-chat, it’s just a non-stop work marathon. For those who find a lot of stimulation from socialising (me!), it can get bleak quickly.

As the BBC pointed out, a study from the University of Arizona found 40% that worked from home felt disconnected from the company and one-third felt like they didn’t get any support. You don’t feel isolated just from your coworkers, but from your actual company too.

For all the pros that working from home gives you, the cons need to be considered too. But then again, it goes both ways. Some people just aren’t cut out for the office life, and that’s okay.

At the end of the day, it comes down to personal preference. If you feel like you can get more work done by yourself, and enjoy the flexibility of working from home, then do that. If you don’t, don’t.

Just try not to eat an entire box of Shapes. You’ll regret it.


Josephine is a writer from western Sydney. You can find her words in Junkee, The Cusp, AWOL, The Guardian and on food she bagsed in the fridge.