The Pros and Cons and Tips for Working at Home or Remotely (part 2)

Amanda Luzzader

We’re discussing working outside of traditional workplaces.

In this second part of a three-part article, we’re discussing working outside of traditional workplaces. Now that the COVID-19 pandemic has transformed our ideas about where we should and can work, remote working and working from home are suddenly very important. In part one of this article, we discussed the differences between telecommuting, working remotely, and true working from home. Now we’ll discuss the kinds of jobs people are doing in their pajamas, from their porch swings, or while visiting their favorite coffee shop.

Obviously, not all jobs can be done from somewhere other than the workplace. For example, there is almost no way factory workers, construction workers, restaurant servers, and employees of retail stores could ever work from home, even temporarily. However, a lot of jobs in the United States can be performed from somewhere besides an office or workplace. The exact number depends on whom you ask, of course, but according to a 2020 article from Forbes, about 37 percent of jobs in the United States can be done at least partially from a location other than the officially designated workplace. The Forbes report was based on research conducted at the University of Chicago, but other reports and surveys generally agree–just under 40 percent of U.S. jobs can be performed outside a traditional workplace. Moreover, recent research from the Pew Research Center reports that, of the workers in America who are able to work from home, most of them want to (at least part of the time).

What jobs are best suited for working from home or remotely?

The answer to this question will also vary according to whom you ask, but the answers might surprise you. Many sources say that freelance writers and programmers are currently in high demand across the United States. According to a blog article published by mortgage and banking site Bankrate, the top three work-from-home jobs are virtual assistant (ranked third), computer support specialist (second), and (coming in at first place) web developer. Pretty predictable and generally “ordinary” jobs. According to technology news site Techradar, the top three work-from-home occupations are (1) writer, (2) developer, and (3) marketing specialist. Again, generally ordinary. The top three pics of Entrepreneur Magazine, on the other hand, might seem a little out-of-the-box: in third place is baker/caterer, in second place is visual effects animator, and in the first place is affiliate marketer, a job that is definitely on the rise, but requires a bit of explaining.

What are the pros and cons of working from home or remotely?

Surely, some of the upsides of emancipating yourself from the office are self-evident. Working from home gives you more flexibility during the workday, more time with family, and reduced expenditures on things such as commuting, office attire, daycare, and business meals. On the other hand, the downsides are just as easy to list–isolation and loneliness, household disruptions to productivity, and a blurring of the line between work and leisure.

However, there are many other pros and cons to consider, some of which are fairly esoteric. Here’s a list of a few of each that you may not have considered.

Upsides to working from home or remotely

  1. Reduced personal carbon footprint. Yes, you’ll definitely save money when your commute consists of getting out of bed and proceeding straight into your workplace, but you’ll also save the planet a lot of hassle, too. An article in the journal Nature reported that daily global carbon dioxide emission decreased by 17% by early April 202 compared with mean 2019 levels. A study reported in Forbes found that working from home four days per week could reduce the amount of nitrogen dioxide (the pollutant generated by traffic emissions) by around 10 percent. If you’re someone who is conscientious about carbon emission, this will be a big plus for you.
  2. Increased productivity. While some work-from-homers might be interrupted by the dog, baby, or neighbors, some office workers report increased productivity because office interactions are at a minimum. Without Phil asking you about your weekend and Sandy inviting you to golf, you might find that you’re getting more work done. Also, you may find that working from home allows you to find your productivity sweet spots. Instead of going to work at 8:00 a.m., then taking an hour for lunch, and working again from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m., maybe you’re most productive very early in the morning, lazy in the afternoon, but ready to go again after dinner.
  3. Less missed work. Think about it–if you’re working at an office and you wake up with a sniffle and a sore throat, office policies and your own ethical code will probably prevent you from going to the office that day, even if you feel well enough to get some work done. If you’re already working at home, gulp down some cough syrup and open up your e-mail. Additionally, errands, breaks, and other short absences from the office don’t count as such when you’re working from home.

Downsides to working from home or remotely

  1. Less facetime with supervisors–and friends. This one may not matter for contractors and freelancers, but everyone knows that promotions, raises, and other office benefits are often based on more than simple reviews and productivity stats. Friendly relations with decision-makers, which may have once helped to earn you a raise or a new job, may deteriorate during extended periods of remote work. And friendships, even those that are strictly professional, enhance teamwork, facilitate productivity, and can make a job very enjoyable. Office friendships, some of which may take years to nurture, may break down and even vanish.
  2. Increased costs. Being a contractor or freelancer who works strictly from home may save you money when it comes to commuting and buying office-appropriate outfits, but it may increase other expenses. Computers, connectivity, printers, and office supplies (all of which are provided by an office) are now your responsibility. Other costs may be even more drastic, such as insurance and financial management.
  3. Communication breakdowns. There are a lot of good reasons that entrepreneurs and business owners first began to aggregate their employees into offices and workplaces during the late 18th century. It’s because people working together, coordinating, sharing tasks, and collaborating get more work done. The same holds true today. Even in the electronic era, in which we e-mail the guy sitting twenty feet away, or page someone in an office next door, interpersonal face time will always be useful. While a computer programmer or tech writer can, technically, be as productive at home as they would be at an office, nuances such as gratitude, intention, sarcasm, and attitude may be difficult to trace solely by e-mail and phone calls. This probably explains why many people wish to work from home only part of the time. Visiting the office can “round out” the experience of working as a team.

In the final part of this three-part article, we will list tips and hacks that will help to make your work-from-home experience healthy, productive, and happy.

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