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Work From Home: Employee and Employer Pros & Cons

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The topic of working from home — what it is, who should do it, and whether it’s better than working in-office — has been on everyone’s mind recently. And it’s no wonder why. The topic is deeply personal to many people who have strong feelings for or against working from home. 

Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Well, it depends on who you ask.  The way you feel about working from home is likely influenced by whether you’re an employee or employer. One of the easiest ways to explore the pros and cons of WFH is to look at it through the eyes of both employee and employer. They say you can’t judge before walking a mile in somebody else’s shoes, so let’s set off on a little stroll.

Working from home: a not-so-new concept

It feels like everyone started working from home overnight in March 2020 when the novel coronavirus started to rage worldwide. 

It was one of those pivotal moments in societal history where you can probably remember where you were when you found out that you’d be working from home. For some of us, our companies had the foresight to let us know that it would be for the “foreseeable future”. For most of us, though, we were told to go home and prepare to be back in the office two weeks later.

Of course, those two weeks turned into two years and then some. 

While it’s true that there was a huge explosion in remote work at this time (by April 2020 40% of Canadians were working from home), we weren’t witnessing the birth of the concept. 

It might surprise you to know that the beginning of remote work is usually traced back to 1973. This was the year that Jack Nilles, an engineer at NASA, first started experimenting with what he called “telecommuting”. 

At the time, many of Nille’s colleagues and contemporaries thought that working from home was just a fad. And who can blame them — the technology and equipment at the time must have been, for lack of a better word, “clunky”. But we’ve come a long way since the 1970s and it’s safe to say that remote work is here to stay. Don’t believe us? The data doesn’t lie — and in fact it says that around 74% of companies plan to keep at least some of their workforce remote on a permanent basis. 

While some workers (usually employees) sing the praises of working from home, employers see it as a challenging adjustment to have to make. We’ll use this article to go over the benefits of working from home (WFH) as well as the potential negatives that both employees and employers might face.

Working from home through the eyes of an employee

Man teleworking wearing shirt, tie and pajama pants

Flexibility

One of the top reasons why employees look for working from home jobs is for the flexibility. Throughout recent years, “work-life balance” has become a major talking point for companies and workers alike. Working from home allows workers to have greater autonomy over when they start and end their day, and even allows them to choose when to take breaks throughout the day to go to their favourite local coffee shop or throw in a load of laundry. 

Comfort

Don’t underestimate the magic of being able to spend the day in your comfy clothes. Many people find that being able to wear whatever they want and work in the comfort of their own home is a huge benefit that would be hard to translate into monetary terms. Depending on your work place dress code, employees can also save time and money by not needing to dress formally everyday. 

More free time

Prior to the pandemic, the average commute time for Canadians was only 24 minutes. However, nearly 1 million people spent around an hour commuting to work. Working from home eliminates this commute time which leaves workers for more time to spend on themselves or their families. 

Trust

Nobody likes to feel like they’re being watched. But for many workers in offices, sometimes the way that their workstations are set up can make them feel that way. When working from home, there is a lack of surveillance culture that allows for a strong sense of trust to grow between employer and employee. 

Communication 

One of the major concerns over remote work is that communication will become frayed. However, in most cases, the exact opposite happens, because remote work forces everyone to refine their communication skills. By using technology for quick check-ins like hopping on a call or a huddle, employees are able to maximize their time effectively as they are collaborating to problem solve.

Working from home through the eyes of an employer

Group of employees working in office

Employee retention

The ability to work from home at least some of the time is something that many Canadians look for in their job search. Employers who are looking to reduce turnover late and improve employee retention should consider providing flexibility when it comes to working from home. 

Team happiness

The best employers know that happy employees are the best employees. Even if an employer has reservations about switching to a work from home model, the fact that it will make their team happier is a huge benefit. 

Larger talent pool

When your hiring process isn’t constrained by geography, you can have your top pick of who you’d like to have working on your team. Employees are no longer forced to hire within a commuting distance from the office. Not only does this allow for a larger selections pool of quality employess, but it also opens the door for  amore diverse workplace. 

Reduced costs

Remote work can be financially beneficial to employers. Overhead costs like office space is a major concern for business owners. You can help improve your company’s finances by forgoing the expense of renting an office. One study estimated that businesses can save up to $11,000 per year on part-time telecommuters as a result of increased productivity, reduced office space requirements, and increased employee retention.

Ghost quitting

Not all of the factors related to working from home at positive in the employer’s eyes. Lately, there has been a lot of talk about the concept of “quiet quitting” or “ghost quitting a job”. Basically, this happens when employees aren’t physically quitting their job, but are mentally checking out.

Ghosting your job isn’t a new concept. But some employers argue that the working from home phenomenon makes it easier for employees to resort to ghosting an employer. While ghost quitting has implications both for productivity and for the quality of life of fellow employees (who may have to pick up the slack), it’s something that can often be cured by better workplace supports (and maybe even a pay increase).

Working in-office through the eyes of an employee

Social interaction

One of the best parts about working in the office is the social time spent with coworkers. Although Zoom hangouts are an option, there is just no comparison for the impromptu conversations that come along when you happen to grab a coffee at the same time as your coworkers in an office. Spontaneous collaborations allow for creative ideas to form and the ability to learn from and problem solve with co-workers.   

Separation of home and workplace

One of the most common things that remote workers complain about is the lack of separation between home and work duties. This can make it difficult for our brains to “unplug” and shut off once working hours are done. 

City immersion

For some of us, working in the office meant travelling to our city’s centre. This allowed us to immerse ourselves in all that the big city had to offer, including cafés, lunch spots, and of course, happy hour establishments. 

Working in-office through the eyes of an employer

A sense of teamwork

Many office managers and bosses appreciate being able to have all of their employees together in one place so they can foster a sense of camaraderie. In an office, it is also easier for employees to interact and collaborate with people who are not on their team. 

Welcoming area for guests

If a company has clients visit on a regular basis, they can appreciate having a functional office area to welcome them into. A physical office gives employees a chance to show off their organization’s personalities and values. 

Branding

If your company sells products or services to the general public, having a physical office is a great way to build trust with your audience by establishing that you are a real, legitimate business with a physical presence.

Visibility

As a manager, having an employee physically in the office means that you have a first-hand view of how productive an employee truly is during their 40-hour work week. An employee’s physical presence in the office means employers can better monitor work quality throughout a workday and easily  work tasks.

Final thoughts

While working from home is, at the end of the day, a personal preference, there are some benefits that seem to be universal. However, as this is a new way of working, it means that employers have to find new ways to structure their business to avoid the dreaded “ghost quitting”. Working from home isn’t a new concept, but we’re still in the infant stage of it being in the mainstream, so it makes sense that we all have a lot to learn.