In a January 2022 Pew Research survey of U.S. workers, it was found that 61 percent of people who were working from home at the time said they weren’t doing so because they had to. They were working from home or working remotely because they preferred doing it that way. Only 38 percent of those surveyed were working at home or remotely because their workplaces were still closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic (or for other mandated reasons).
These new numbers represent a big turnaround from a couple years earlier. Back in October 2020, Pew Research reported that 64 percent of U.S. workers polled said they were working at home out of necessity, while 36 percent were doing so voluntarily.
The 2022 Pew Research goes on to report that working at home is something that more people are doing now, more people want to do it, and more people will do in the future. While working at home isn’t something everyone wants to do, and while not all jobs can be performed remotely, there’s no refuting the data–remote working and working from home are now a part of our business and job culture.
So, what are the pros and cons of working at home or remotely? What are the benefits and downsides? In this three-part series of articles, we’ll take a look at working from home in America, working remotely, and true working from home. We’ll also look at the upsides and downsides of working outside a traditional workplace, and we’ll provide tips for leaving your workplace behind in ways that still allow you to be healthy and productive.
Let’s first discuss the terminology. The phenomenon of working at a job from someplace other than a traditional, officially designated workplace is not a new one, of course. Thomas Jefferson drafted much of the Declaration of Independence on a portable lap-desk of his own design. Musical composers and artists of the 18th and 19th centuries almost always earned their living from their own dwellings.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic has really placed the question “what is a workplace?” uppermost in our minds. So, let’s begin by breaking down the various terminologies and alternatives to working at a workplace or office.
Telecommuting has been a business practice since the invention of the telephone. It’s simply the practice of conducting business from someplace other than your workplace, using tools and tech such as phones and networks. Most telecommuting can be done at home, but telecommuting and working from home are not necessarily the same. In fact, the term “telecommuting” is being increasingly used to refer to work that happens away from the workplace only temporarily or out of some kind of expedience. This might include working from a tropical resort while on vacation, working from your bed while sick, or working from a hotel while on a work trip. Smartphones, the Internet, and online productivity tools make it possible to telecommute from a McDonald’s or even the cramped seat of an airliner if necessary.
Working remotely is the term used more and more to refer to working from a place that is set up for work but is not the default workplace. This can include your home, a tropical resort, or the work-trip hotel room. However, “working remotely” can also refer to working from places that are set up for you somewhere other than your default workplace–remote locations. This might include sites where your company has a project underway, some reserved workspace at an associate’s office, or branch locations of your own company. Working remotely is usually not the term used for truly “working from home.” Even if you work remotely more than you work in your workplace, working remotely is, technically, still an alternative to the default of working in your own office or workplace.
While you can telecommute from home and work remotely from home, the term “working from home” is more often being set aside for jobs performed at a home workplace and nowhere else. Freelancers and home-business owners understand this. They’re not telecommuting or working remotely temporarily or expediently–their home is their default workplace. And while the overlap and interchangeability of the terms will likely continue for a long time, the true sense of the term “working from home” is probably more-accurately expressed as “working at home.” Working from home is also something more and more people aspire to. When Pew Research surveyed U.S. workers who held jobs that can be performed from home, 60 percent of them said they’d prefer to keep working from home most or all of the time, even after the pandemic allows them to return to their workplaces.
In part two of this three-part article, we’ll take a look at some of the pros and cons of working somewhere other than the office or workplace.