13 Pros and Cons of Working Remotely

Shanna Lindinger
April 12, 2024

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The remote work shift is here. And even if Elon Musk is not a fan - working at home and working remotely is not going anywhere - not anytime soon, if ever. This is evident by the growing number of remote work job boards and companies specifically hiring remotely.

The pandemic is arguably the fundamental catalyst to the rate of change in remote work, where just about anyone can work from home or almost anywhere. Remote work and the option to work from home have become preferred options for many. Working remotely or work from home (WFH) rather than from an office provides various benefits.

I am a firm fan of WFH and remote work, with over seven years under my belt. What I know, though it is for a growing many: as my mum would attest, remote work is not for everyone. Suppose remote work or WFH piques your interest, though? In that case, I hope the coming list of benefits helps you better determine whether these options align with your career goals and preferred lifestyle.

This post will start by defining remote work and WFH, which at this point, are interchangeable. We'll list the ten benefits of working remotely and WFH, explain some challenges, and provide a few handy tips to boost your remote work experience.

When I get stressed out with work, I'll put on the kettle and zone out to some classical or meditative music. My dog, Ru, doesn't mind either, so it helps. Currently, by day, I work from home for an AI-based transcription and captioning services company, so I dip into a number of these stress-lessening strategies as and when needed without disturbing anyone.

Until recently, even the idea of working from home was in the "maybe one-day" territory for most employees. It was the stuff of nostalgic longing at end-of-year gatherings. The Joint Research Centre found as of 2019, only 5.4 percent of those employed in the EU-27 worked from home, and this number remained constant from 2009 to pre-COVID-19.

Since then, the workplace, not only in the E.U. but globally, has undergone a profound shift. Lockdowns across the globe forced all but essential workers to embrace working remotely pretty much overnight. People from all corners of the big blue frantically tried to get home offices set up and adjust to side-by-side virtual meetings and online collaboration tools.

Global Workplace Analytics ran one of the most extensive international post-COVID employee surveys. They found that nearly 72 percent of employees globally (78 percent in the U.S.) said they have the resources they need to be successful at home. The reality, though, is that a 30 to 60-second commute from your bedroom to your home office (or dining room table, in my case) is a tad more complex than the fantasy. There are obvious advantages to working from home for many people. Still, the truth is there are a couple of disadvantages and challenges too. So without further ado, let's take a quick glance over the pros and cons of working from home (WFH) or remotely so you can decide where you'll thrive best.

The Benefits of Working at Home

If the following advantages illicit a sense of excitement or thoughts of "I could get into that," WFH may be a good fit for you. But do keep your current and future circumstances in mind. Remote work and WFH are only absolute for some.

You gain greater flexibility in your schedule, making day-to-day life easier to manage. The VP of Marketing and Analytics at Education Dynamics, Heather Bostwick, a higher education enrollment growth agency, says with remote work she can sleep in a little later and get up and make sure her kids are moving along and she can go to the gym every morning. Before the pandemic, remote work was not an option for her. Post-pandemic, the company is 100 percent WFH and only maintains office space for monthly meetings.

Flexibility is one of the main reasons I gravitate so heavily toward working remotely. Flexibility is, without question, the top of the pops for me. I can use my mornings to go for a run with my dog or get laundry done, and this allows me an opportunity and space to spend time as I prefer once my day is done. This can be as straightforward as making dinner, reading up on a topic that piqued my interest (which is many), or watching the sunset.

Many remote jobs come with flexible and asynchronous hours, giving you even more control over when and where you get your work done. This, of course, depends on your position and employer. Working remotely means I can pop out to the licensing department or deal with any other matter whenever it suits me versus only during traditional lunch break hours. If you have kids, this means making it to a school event without any real fuss or picking up a sick kid from school with a simple message to your boss.

I know my mum is getting older too, and though I do live with her currently, the time I spend with her as a new normal is so valued. And though my current role is challenging and time is of an absolute premium, the fact that I work remotely has been a priceless benefit to the challenges I've faced since. The truth is, I can take a break to just go outside and breathe in the ocean air or go that extra-kilometer run with my dog. I can work from bed if I have to. The reality is if I had an office job during the past five to seven years, it would have made this past chapter so much more challenging and, knowing myself, unworkable.

8 Advantages of Working Remotely

1. Zero Commuting Time

Working remotely from home, anywhere else for that matter, you don't have to deal with increased stress levels because of taxi drivers, traffic jams, rude drivers, or breakdowns. Research using Understanding Society data shows us that a longer commute reduces job satisfaction and worsens your mental health. At the time, working a 9 to 5, my daily commute was more stressful than the job itself.

I calculated on my daily commute when things were going perfectly; I spent a minimum of ten hours a week in traffic alone. That's 43,4 hours a month. It's no question that lost time adds up. Working from home gives you time, and you can decide how to use it. Youcouldcrunch in more work—but I want better for you. My zero commute has allowed me to go for a daily run or walk, which has made all the difference.

Highway Shanghai, China
Photo by Denys Nevozhai on Unsplash

2. Productivity

Working remotely without question means you get more work done. A Chinese travel agency did a pre-pandemic experiment with their employees, and the group randomly chosen to WFH showed a increase in productivity of 13 percent. This was attributed to their quieter work environment and more minutes worked per shift. A survey (2021) by Nicholas Bloom,  Jose Maria Barrero, and Steven J. Davis found that six in ten remote workers found themselves more productive working from home. This was compared with 14 percent of people who said they got less done.

In-office distractions and interruptions are also minimized when working remotely from home. This is likely due to the following:

  • Consistent open-plan office noise and activity.
  • Talkative coworkers whose conversations have no time limit.
  • Spur-of-the-moment meetings that run overtime.

Some distractions come along with remote work, of course. Still, for many people, myself included, in-office distractions are much more disruptive to productivity.

One of the things I do really love about working remotely is the ability to take a break when it's natural for me to do so. So instead of the standard office-hour lunch breaks where a gap is forced, I get to match my natural peaks and dips.

Suppose you usually hit an afternoon lull at 1:00 PM or 2:00 PM, for example. When you're working remotely, you can either take a quick power nap or go out for a walk to get back in the groove for the rest of your workday. You, like your coworker, will likely need to power through at the office. Still, these micro-breaks can up work involvement and, thus, productivity.

Productivity - remote work desk
Photo by Carl Heyerdahl on Unsplash

3. Comfort

I don't miss heels, and I don't miss the blazers, and I definitely don't miss fitted shirts, and I don't see any of those things coming back into my life. Ever. Unless it's a special occasion, I'll don a relaxed fit blazer—maybe. I've adapted to boyfriend jeans, joggers,  crop tops, T's, and loose fit everything, and I have never been happier. What brings you day-to-day comfort is very personal, but the greatest things about working from home is it gives you choices beyond typical office attire—especially on days that are light on virtual meetings.

The greatest thing to come out of remote work is that people with disabilities, like chronic back pain or mental illness, benefit from WFH gear and settings adapted or personalized to meet their needs. For example, people with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can shift their desks near a window to get more sunlight. Someone with chronic joint pain may feel more comfortable in their ergonomic home desk chair. Someone who moves or often fidgets throughout the day is free to do so without worrying about distracting others.

For me, greater comfort during my workday means shifting between the dining room table and the deck outside and working from the couch in the living room space with my dog at my feet. If we're talking about work perks, that's priceless.

Girl holding a mug in a comfy sweater.
Photo by allison christine on Unsplash

4. Less Spending

According to data collected by Flexjobs, the average person can save up to $6,000 working from home just half the time in a hybrid role and up to a dazzling $12,000 per year by working remotely full-time. A further survey by Bankrate found that 57 percent of people said remote work positively impacted their finances. When I worked in travel and tourism, working a 9 to 5, I spent a lot of money on cortados and lunches. Now working remotely from home, I don't even pay close to the amount of money because I make my coffee and lunches and coffee.

Depending on the type of spender you are, things may vary, but here are a couple of examples of where you may save money:

  • Commuting: Whether you drive your own car or take public transportation—gas, tolls, and monthly passes for the train, bus or ferry can add up.
  • Clothes: You're good to go with comfy joggers, leggings, and a turn of relaxed, tidy tops. There's no saying you can't get dressed up if you want and don the ol' business garb for fun.
  • Food: Getting ready for work and making your lunch simultaneously is first prize, but not everyone can fit their meal prep into their weeks. When you work from home, you have a fridge with your favorite snacks and meals on hand. Bonus points, you no longer have to label all your food, so [insert name here] from the cubical down the aisle mistakenly grabs it every second day.
  • Childcare: Depending on your situation and your child (or children), and if you're a parent or caregiver, you could save a bunch of money on daycare or afterschool programs.

There is a caveat here, though. If you're home more often, this potentially means using more power than if you were at the office. Also, buying home-office furniture and accessories could add up. An idea to save money if you work from home is to ask your boss if they offer any reimbursements to offset any one-time buys. This could be for furniture or recurring expenses like increased electricity bills or the need to pay for higher-speed internet.

Scrabble letters spelling the word, Spend.
Photo by Frugal Flyer on Unsplash

5. Location Freedom

According to an Upwork study, 4.9 million people within the U.S. continent alone have relocated due to remote work since 2020.

[image] https://www.upwork.com/mc/documents/WFH-post-Covid.png

Many fully remote workers who were no longer connected to a physical office could keep their jobs and move to a location with a lower living cost. Some could move closer to family or a dream location. (Potentially all three!) This is, of course, not a one size fits all scenario. Many companies have stuck to the hybrid model, which would prevent anyone from moving too far away as ties to the office would remain. An important thing to also check is whether the company you are employed with has any legal requirements depending on the country or state you're looking to move to.

Girl in mountains of Crested Butte, United States
Photo by Holly Mandarich on Unsplash

6. Creative Workspaces

The reality of cubicle life is that you can only bring so much oomph with plants, family pictures, and your objet d'art. But in a home office, there are no rules. You can make your home office space everything you want and be as minimalist or maximalist as you like. The only rule is to bring whatever makes you happy to the fore. The thermostat can be as high or as low as you want. Background music is whatever you feel like for the day. You can go from clubhouse tracks to classical by the hour. Work in your favorite beanbag chair like a pretzel if you like. There are no rules to matching whatever enables you to do more in your day.

Creative Workspace. Nantes, France.
Photo by Elsa Noblet on Unsplash

7. Climate Awareness

Within the United States alone, Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from transportation make up around 27 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions. So no commute means fewer greenhouse gasses being pumped into the atmosphere. Within your WFH environment, you still do your bit. Things like turning off lights in your home, setting your office equipment to power-save mode, and using surge protectors. Within the U.S., there are further federal and state incentives to boost your home's energy efficiency.

Remote work is not a sure thing in terms of sustainability. Researchers have found that sustainability is not an automatic byproduct of WFH. Your daily commute may fall out of the carbon equation, but what is happening inside your home must be added. A study taken from the Carbon Trust and the Vodafone Institute for Society and Communication found that hybrid working could create a "worst-case scenario." They reported that this split could result in utilizing more energy and emitting further emissions as both homes and offices are operating fully to allow teleworkers and office workers to do their jobs. The main takeaway? Being aware and intentional about your consumption on all levels.  

Group in Union Square, with posters, There is no planet B.
Photo by Li-An Lim on Unsplash

8. Opportunities for Diversity and Inclusion

Remote work and WFH policies open the door to more work opportunities for people with barriers to working in an office environment. It was no clearer that during the pandemic. Remote work increases job possibilities and improves job satisfaction for a gamut of the global population, including:

  • People with mental and physical challenges or chronic health conditions where a commute to work or spending the traditional office-based 9-to-5 would be difficult or impossible.
  • Women who find themselves as the primary caregivers of young children and elderly parents.
  • Minorities who note greater ease working from home. In a survey conducted by Future Forum, Black employees reported a 64 percent increase in their ability to manage stress and a two-fold sense of belonging when switching to remote work. This is because working remotely reduced the need for 'code-switching' and reduced specific experiences involving microaggressions and discrimination.
  • People who are unable to cover the costs of transportation or childcare.
  • People who may live far from a company's physical location. Remote work opens up possibilities for people who may not be able to live in a major city where a company is located due to personal responsibilities or affordability.
Two women to represent diversity and inclusion.
Photo by Microsoft 365 on Unsplash

5 Disadvantages of Working from Home

Now let's look at the not-so-great aspects of working remotely or WFH. These apparent disadvantages may be doable with some perspective and habit shifts. Still, it's essential to be honest about where you work best—so you make the right call for you.

1. Separating 'Work' and 'Life' Hours

The boundaries between your job and life can blur when you work from home. Based on research from NordVPN Teams, remote employees in the U.K., Canada, and the U.S. put in an average of two-and-a-half extra hours per workday in the first year of COVID-19. As you may know firsthand, when work seeps into your free time in this way, it can totally throw off your work-life balance and increase your burnout rate.

Working from home and, in many ways, working remotely means that your work and life are intertwined. But you can use your time better and create daily boundaries to ease the effects.

Here are four ways to create a better balance:

  • Schedule shorter meetings. There is no reason to spend an hour on a meeting that only needs 30 minutes. And for the love of sanity, take breaks in between sessions.
  • I'm terrible at this one but take a lunch break away from your desk. Because I work from the dining room table, I sit at a different seat to create a division between my workspace and living space.
  • Try and keep your day-to-day work schedule as consistent as possible. Try and start and end your day as close to the same time as possible.
  • Create a ritual to end your workday. This is challenging for some of us as we work in varying time zones with demands outside traditional work hours. What I do with this is I have a sleep setting on my phone which automatically snoozes any notifications between set times. I also pack my laptop away after a particular time to ensure I don't get sucked into any issues that can wait till morning.

2. Isolation and Disconnection

The social media company, Buffer did a bit of digging into the data and, according to a 2020 report, found that social connection and collaboration were one of the main struggles for remote employees. The positive end to this story is that while isolation may be consistent in terms of experience if you work from home, it's nowhere near the gravity of the lockdown's early days.

Here are a few ways to prevent being isolated:

  • Make plans with friends and family regularly.
  • Schedule in-person meetups with locally based colleagues.
  • Versus all-hands-on-deck meetings, which tend to be more stressful, make time for in-person, remote one-on-one, or small group meetings with colleagues.
  • Try picking up a hobby or seeking out a passion outside of work. Start kayaking or rock climbing with friends or join a hiking club. Learn to crochet or play an instrument. Join a book club. Whatever floats your boat.
  • Bring more of you to work. Share your passions and other quirkiness with your colleagues (if you're comfortable) and show off that inner geek outwardly. Share that secret singing voice during an impromptu meeting. Start a pet owners group and share remote work tips with each other. You'll all become more connected when you share your true self and learn what makes each other tick.

3. Experiencing Bias

Bias comes in all shapes and sizes. For example, there can be bias against people working fully remotely in a hybrid work environment. For example, your superiors may notice and appreciate your achievements less, or you may not be invited to meetings that affect your work. Working remotely will also mean you miss out on spur-of-the-moment conversations that can strengthen your workplace relationships, build trust, and potentially lead to promotions.

So the question is: How do you compensate for this? First, you can ask hiring companies how their team communicates, evaluates, and identifies performance if you're out job hunting. Also, what strategies or policies do they have to ensure all employees, including remote employees, have opportunities to advance within the organization. They should be open to these questions and have clear answers about their efforts. Assume you think that remote workers are getting overlooked in terms of opportunities at your current company. In that case, you can bring up your concerns, share the research, and speak up for more intentional inclusion of WFH employees with your superior, H.R., or a trusted higher-up.

4. The Creative Spark

Whether you're on Zoom, Teams, or Google Hangouts most days, the reality is you can't have the same almost instantaneous side conversations on a video call as you would in person. And whether we like to accept it or not, these impromptu interactions often produce results not gained virtually. There is a certain kind of magic when people bounce ideas and problem-solve in person, which is often lost in the remote work setting.

Many companies now schedule monthly face-to-face meetings, team building, and brainstorming sessions to counterbalance the potential ideation loss. An article published by Melanie S. Brucks and Jonathan Levav cited how this shift away from in-person interactions affected innovation. They looked across five countries, namely, Europe, the Middle East, and South Asia, at how videoconferencing inhibits the production of creative ideas. They found that virtual interaction, versus in-person, comes with a cognitive cost for creative idea generation.

What is worth understanding is that working remotely is only gaining traction and not slowing down. Therefore, it's worth taking on what may help teams collaborate and still be creative and innovative while working across continents and time zones. One-on-one calls, collaboration apps, walking brainstorming sessions, and video-based meetings are worth integrating and noted as significantly more effective in bridging the creative gap.

5. At-Home Temptations

You're aware that laundry needs to go in the machine, but you're on the final episode of your favorite streaming show. Your partner works from home, and you'd prefer talking to them rather than doing the laundry or responding to the 55 emails in your inbox. Though there are distractions, these kinds of pulls aren't around you in an office setting. Also, you don't have management hovering and keeping you on track—if that's something you need. You're not pulled for attention at an office.

Suppose you are one of those easily distracted by temptations while working remotely or working from home. In that case, it's essential to create a routine. My morning coffee starts my day. After that, I do a quick clean up and then go for a run. This is really helpful in keeping me aligned and within my workday pattern. Second, create a space within your home or wherever you're working from that is dedicated to your workday. I literally sit at a specific seat at the dining room table, which means work mode. Talking temptations, take them in small doses. 10 to 15 minutes of online gander will give you the fix without the guilt. If you're inclined to get sucked down a rabbit hole on any given day, set a reminder on your phone to keep you in check. Outside of maintaining work focus, it's also important to take time out to enjoy your at-home time. Things like walking your dog, sitting out in the sun, or having a lunch date with a friend are all essential in keeping your work-life balance.

Wrapping Up

Working remotely and working from home is here to stay. It has given me a sense of flexibility and appreciation for work-life balance, and I know it's done that for countless others. But, like my mum would attest, the pros for some individuals are cons for others and vice versa. Imagine your perfect work environment and seek out or advocate for those conditions that suit you best; you'll set yourself up for success no matter how or where you work.

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