Working from home (WFH) became the new normal for many of us during the pandemic. For some, it has proved a blessing; for others, not so much. We look at those pros and cons, and how you can help make WFH truly work for you.
Once upon a time, working from home seemed like a dream. After all, who wouldn’t want all their home comforts on tap in the workplace: comfy chairs, better snacks, a shorter commute and rolling out of bed as late as possible. Then along came COVID, and what seemed a distant prospect suddenly became an everyday reality.
Yes, WFH during the pandemic changed the whole outlook of our working lives, and continues to do so (this article is being written at home right now). And however ideal it sounds, there are always more sides to the story. But before we delve deeper, let’s look at how Kiwi businesses and their employees got on with the whole change in work environment.
How we’ve fared
According to the Southern Cross Workplace Wellness Report 2021, over half of those NZ employers surveyed have introduced more formal policies around working from home (56.9%) since COVID began, with 35% now changing their views to offer it as an option to employees.
Of those who started using it for the first time during this period, 58% said the response had been largely positive. Yet alarmingly, 73% also reported some employees felt isolated.
Good v bad
Of course, such a high figure may also have been a reflection of the pandemic and lockdowns in general, when many of us naturally felt alienated and scared. But it also serves as a powerful reminder that while WFH is never simply ‘good’ or ‘bad’ – or even an option for many, especially smaller businesses – it’s important to get the balance right.
With this in mind, we’ve summarised some of the pros and cons here, with a few added tips for getting WFH working for you. Let’s start with some of the positive stuff:
1) No daily commute
WFH saves you both time and money. When your office is just a few steps down the hallway, it means you can avoid all those wasted hours travelling to and from your workplace. Plus you reduce all those daily petrol or public transport costs, which is good for the environment too.
2) Less stress
No commuting means fewer possibilities for traffic frustration, or worrying about whether you’re going to be on time. If a busy office atmosphere isn’t always your cup of tea, WFH also carries less risk of personality clashes with colleagues, and fewer workplace politics games to get involved in. Plus you don’t have to clockwatch all day, or feel that there are prying managerial eyes on you.
3) More flexibility
WFH enables you to work when you feel most productive, on your own terms. It also gives you the opportunity to get other stuff done within working hours – as long as you make up the time, of course. So putting on a load of laundry becomes a possibility, and school pick-ups aren’t quite as rushed. Plus you can avoid queues at the doctor or dentist by setting appointments at quieter times of day.
4) More family time
Spending more time at home naturally opens up opportunities for more quality time with your family. For a start it can save you on time spent getting ready for work. We’re sure we don’t need to tell you by now, as long as you look decent from the shoulders up, you’re still good for a video call. As a result, some committed WFHers also claim wardrobe savings, although this may be pushing things a little. Also, as soon as you finish for the day, you’re right there for your family.
5) Healthier eating
Instead of hunting around for a healthy option from takeaways close to your workplace, now you can just raid the fridge instead. Even if you usually take a pack lunch, there’s no need to prep the night before - it’s all right there in your kitchen. No queues for the microwave either.
6) Fewer distractions
It’s easier to get into ‘the zone’ when you’re in your home office. There are no colleagues dropping by to a chat, and no loud phone conversations or music to distract you. Little wonder, then, that as a WFHer you may often find yourself more productive – as long as you can avoid too many of those unnecessary video meetings.
1) No set routine
Going in to the workplace comes with set working hours, even if they’re just guidelines. But when you’re working from home, clocking in and out is something you have to do mentally. As we know, staring at a screen all day can be all-enveloping, so you may even find there’s a temptation to overwork and ‘get things done’, adding to your stress. All of which makes separating your work and leisure time even more important.
2) New distractions
There may be less banter and fewer loud phone calls to break your concentration, but WFH carries with it a whole new range of potential distractions. Children, pets, noise from neighbours or even just the temptation to scroll on your phone or computer can eat up time in your day. It’s all about self-discipline.
3) No work perks
While you can definitely save on travel by working remotely, there are other considerations that may crop up on the financial front. These include simple things like electricity, office furniture, stationery and printer ink (gram for gram more expensive than champagne!). But you’ll also potentially miss out on those other freebies such as work gatherings, or even tea, coffee and snacks on tap.
4) Less exercise
If you’ve ever worn a fitness tracker, you’ll know that achieving those 10,000 steps during a working day is not usually a problem. Switch that scenario to home, however, and the immobility of it all suddenly comes into play. You’re just not moving enough. So if you do decide to WFH, make sure you take some exercise on those days – even just a lunchtime walk – to help balance things out.
5) Overdependence on tech
One serious downside to remote working is that you are fully dependent on your technology. If the internet goes down, or your computer has a meltdown, you’re pretty much stuffed. So if the worst does happen, it might be a good time to head back into the workplace for a while. And hopefully you’ve backed everything up.
6) Loneliness and isolation
This is probably the biggie. We humans are social creatures, so we often miss that workplace vibe and camaraderie when stuck at home. There’s always the screen of course, but it’s never quite the same as that personal touch. So try bridging the gap and topping up those face-to-face interactions you’d normally get at work by setting up outings with family and friends, in person.
Working from home can be a great way to be more productive. Just remember to keep things professional, be responsive, check-in with your colleagues on a regular basis – and enjoy the pros, without letting the cons get on top of you.