With email and chat, video conferences and whiteboards, a growing freelance workforce, and countless cloud-based collaboration tools, it’s easy to conclude that working from home leads to higher productivity. But, is this really the case? If working from home is more productive, then why don’t companies just get rid of their office spaces and save the expense?
We Feel More Productive at Home, But…
The Association for Psychological Science notes that there’s a big difference between perception and reality. While people working from home might feel like they are more productive, that isn’t always the case. Part of the problem in asking remote workers whether they’re more productive at home is the “work at home bias,” or the preference for working at home regardless of actual performance.
The bias against working in an office appears in a couple of different ways. First, people who don’t want to go into an office may self-report higher productivity levels even if an increase doesn’t actually exist. Often, staff working from home also end up working longer and harder to justify their work-at-home lifestyle, which can eventually leads to lower productivity and burnout.
9 Challenges in Working from Home
There’s no doubt that working from home has become a growing trend in many industries. Anyone who uses a laptop can use B2B software and online work tools regardless of where they are.
Buffer—a company that helps customers build their brands and businesses on social media—recently surveyed 2,200 remote workers from around the world to learn the benefits and struggles of working from home. Some of the biggest complaints people had about not having a traditional office include having to live and work in the same space, a lack of face-to-face connections and working longer hours compared to their in-office peers.
The survey found that the most common problems with working from home were:
- Unplugging from work is difficult without the traditional 9 to 5 boundaries.
- Trying to create personal connections online can breed loneliness.
- Residential internet is often less reliable than a professional office with an IT department.
- Home-based workers experience increased difficulty in collaborating and communicating.
- Working in the same place as you live may have more distractions.
- Coordinating and scheduling with team members in different time zones can be challenging.
- Staying motivated can be more difficult.
- Remote employees may miss the benefits that many companies provide, such as breakfast, lunch, water and coffee.
- It can be harder to take time off when there’s no set schedule.
Benefits of Working in an Office
Working from home is more expensive in both time and money than many remote workers realize. In addition to being easier on the bank account and maintaining a more normal work-life balance, there are also other important reasons why working in an office is better.
When you work from home, there are certain things that you can’t control—like construction noise, children, and pets. On the other hand, offices are specifically built to meet business expectations and designed around centralization to help employees focus.
Because your supervisor can’t watch you when you work from home, you’re judged only on what you produce. However, promotions are also based on intangibles, like soft skills. As such, it may be more difficult for remote workers to prove their leadership and collaboration skills; they may even be excluded from sudden or impromptu meetings simply because they’re not there.
Working from home also puts major limitations on social interaction. Online collaboration tools like Slack and Flock have helped, but they’re not a substitute for meeting people face-to-face. Moreover, it’s much more difficult to network and be part of the community when you can’t develop relationships through the random interactions that happen throughout the office, like getting to know other team members or people in other departments that you wouldn’t have otherwise had contact with.
Motivation & Feedback
Working in an office also provides positive peer pressure to keep you motivated and to do your best. Furthermore, being around people who are intelligent, knowledgeable, and maybe even better than you can provide motivation to take your work to the next level. Office-based projects also run smoother and deadlines are easier to meet. For example, you can get immediate feedback just by walking across the room—instead of waiting for a return message from a boss who’s on the other side of the world.
Working from Home Will Likely Remain the Minority
At first, people may be excited about working from home. However, for many, productivity, morale, and work quality slowly but surely begin to decline.
While companies may save money on the front end, having employees work in an office may also save money by reducing turnover increase productivity. In particular:
- Working in an office creates a work-life balance, which leads to higher productivity and lower turnover.
- Upward mobility and employee development increase when workers aren’t judged exclusively on their end results.
- Social interaction and positive peer pressure encourage staff to continue learning and to take their work to the next level.
Working from home definitely has its benefits, but it may not be ideal for the majority of the workforce.