There are many compelling reasons to work from home (and some challenges too). So, what are the advantages and disadvantages of working from home?
Being a remote worker is becoming a preferred option for millennials and Gen Z workers. Research from fuze shows that 78% of teens want to have the option to work from home, and 48% even said they’d happily work from their beds!
But there are both positive and less-than-positive aspects of having home-based jobs, work-from-home jobs, or running businesses and enterprises from home.
For women looking for part-time jobs from home or work-from-home jobs in India, this concept comes with a number of unique challenges and advantages.
So what are the advantages and disadvantages of working from home? Here are some pros and cons of work from home jobs and stories of Indian women who work from home.
8 Compelling Reasons To Work From Home
There are many advantages to being a remote worker. Here are 8 compelling reasons to work from home.
1. Avoiding contagion
With the coronavirus pandemic becoming a catalyst for the growth of remote work, studies by Gallup have found that many people would rather not go back to work in an office.
Three in five U.S. workers who have been doing their jobs from home during the coronavirus pandemic would prefer to continue to work remotely as much as possible, once public health restrictions are lifted.
Illnesses spread rapidly around offices. When one employee gets sick, it’s almost guaranteed that the rest of the office will catch whatever they are carrying within the next few weeks, halting productivity and heightening the number of sick days your staff takes.
For workers who are in the high-risk category – such as pre-existing conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma or compromised immune systems – the risk of contagion is a deterrent to working in an office, especially if they live with family and their old parents.
Until an effective vaccine or treatment is developed for the COVID-19 coronavirus, the fear of contagion is likely to be a primary reason for people wanting to work from home.
Many organisations, such as Twitter and Facebook are lending their support with a revised work-from-home policy, and many Indian firms and government departments are also shifting to the remote work culture.
According to Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s employees will be “allowed to work from home permanently, even after the coronavirus pandemic lockdown passes.”
2. Avoiding the commute
The commute is the most painful part of having to work at an office. In some cities, it can literally take hours out of your day – hours that can be better spent pursuing your own interests or being with your friends and family.
Transportation is also one of the biggest expenses that eat into your income. You can eliminate this expense and save money if you do not have to commute, which brings us to the next reason to work from home.
3. Saving money
Many remote workers or digital nomads from Western countries prefer to move to countries where their dollars (or pounds) can take them much farther than in their own country.
This allows them to earn in the currency of their home country and spend in the currency of their adopted country. As a result, many digital nomads enjoy a much better standard of living than they would in their home country.
When you work from home, one of the biggest expenses that eat into your income – transportation – significantly reduces. Whether you commuted previously by your own vehicle or by public transport, that much of your expenses vanish completely.
Not only does this help you save more money, but it also saves you time. The average commuter in Mumbai, for example, may spend anywhere between 2 to 4 hours simply getting from home to work and back.
As a remote worker, you can also save money in other ways. For instance, lunches at home will cost significantly less than food outside or from office cafeterias. All of this adds up to significant savings over the course of time.
4. Flexible working
Flexibility is by far the biggest advantage to working from home. Women are in a better position to take sabbaticals and return to work without missing out on promotions and opportunities.
As a remote worker, you can work at your best times – the time at which you’re most creative or unencumbered – not when your boss wants you to work.
Granted, you may sometimes have to make yourself available for conference calls and customer support (if that’s your job). But most remote jobs offer an enviable degree of flexibility.
Short-term leave for emergencies such as illness, family issues, and bereavements can also be far more easily accommodated in one’s schedule as a remote worker.
Flexibility exists even on a more day-to-day basis – the number of hours you work, the assignments and projects you take on – and the running of your business can be adjusted against the other priorities in your life much more easily than would have been possible in an office.
5. Decreased stress levels
As a gig worker or freelancer working from home, you don’t have to face the stress of worrying about whether you’re going to be given an increment, promoted, transferred, downsized, or even fired.
You can also take on as many, or as few, clients as you want, and retain your motivation to grow in your profession while being free of the stresses of an often-politicized “performance not satisfactory” report from a colleague or boss. This is one way in which work-from-home jobs can drastically decrease your stress levels.
Also, as this article in Techcrunch notes, remote workplaces help alleviate the “cohabitation annoyances” that come with sharing the same space, allowing employees to focus on how to best work with each other, versus how their neighbour “talks too loud on the phone, listens to bad music or eats smelly food.”
“I think the best part about working from home,” says Samaya with a laugh, “is that I no longer have to deal with office politics! It’s incredibly freeing when you don’t have to worry about who’s saying what to whom and then stressing about what effect that’s going to have on your job.”
6. Increased productivity
Is there any evidence to suggest working from home improves efficiency or productivity? Indeed, there is! A 2-year study conducted by Stanford professor, Nicholas Bloom, showed an astounding productivity boost among telecommuters, equivalent to a full day’s work.
He found that remote employees work a true full shift (or more) versus being late to the office or leaving early multiple times a week and found it less distracting and easier to concentrate at home.
Additionally (and incredibly), employee attrition decreased by 50% among the telecommuters, they took shorter breaks, had fewer sick days, and took less time off.
Many introverts thrive on alone time, and being in an office environment can reduce their efficiency and productivity. Personally, I find I work best late at night when I can do my “deep work” with no distractions, and for long stretches of time. That’s only possible for me because I’m a remote worker.
So, how can you maximize productivity when working from home? That’s a topic for another article, but the first step is to ensure that you set up a comfortable space to work and have all the home office essentials you need to work effectively.
7. Be there for your family
Work-life balance has given way to work-life integration, and as a remote worker, family life is an integral part of your workday.
If you’re a family person, you’ll know that kids fall sick, parents need to take days off to attend school functions or doctor’s appointments, or go on vacations.
As a remote worker, you don’t have to ask your boss for leave. You can take a break to do what you need to do anytime as long as you get your work done.
8. Combine work and travel
Not having to take leave from work in order to travel is every millennial’s dream. According to AND CO’s data, marketing pros are the ones most likely to cite the desire to travel more, as a reason for becoming a remote worker. Creative people also love being able to work from wherever they choose.
While the travel industry has taken a beating thanks to COVID-19, the allure of digital nomadism is likely to return after the pandemic is over and more remote workers discover the fun and freedom of working from any place in the world with an internet connection.
11 Challenges Of Working From Home
Yes, there are some disadvantages of remote work, too. It’s not for everyone and people are not always understanding or accommodating of the challenges of moms who work from home in India.
But there are also ways to manage most of the difficulties you’ll face as a remote worker. So what are the biggest challenges of working from home?
1. Learning new skills
If you’ve never worked in your life, or want to change your career to find work from home jobs without investment, you’ll probably have to learn new skills and take a course or two to get up to speed on the new career you want to pursue.
However, with the growth of online education and online courses, this is not difficult. You can learn almost anything online and get a certificate to display on your LinkedIn profile.
2. Managing distractions
We can all empathise with Professor Robert Kelly, whose interview for the BBC went viral when it was interrupted by his kids. But this sort of distraction is quite common for people who work remotely.
So, how do you keep focused when working from home? Being able to manage distractions is an acquired skill that comes with figuring out one’s own ability to shut out distractions and manage within the limitations of the place we choose to work from.
3. Isolation & loneliness
According to the AND CO survey, 30% of respondents said that isolation challenges their happiness most. Newbies (those who’ve been working remotely for less than a year) are more likely to experience loneliness.
CIGNA’s Loneliness and the Workplace: 2020 U.S. report found that living and working from home can increase the risk of feeling lonely and that remote workers report feeling lonelier, especially if they would prefer to be in the office.
It does get better with time, however, and “those who’d worked remotely for over 7 years seemed to have overcome feeling left out, but were more likely to overwork themselves.”
Remote work does actually involve socialising with fewer people. In an office, you have several colleagues surrounding you during the entire workday, with whom you may have established professional or even personal friendships. Especially in the early days of working from home, you may miss this social aspect of work.
Social distancing during COVID-19 has exacerbated the problem of loneliness and isolation for those who live and work alone. If you’re struggling with loneliness in your work-from-home- job, read my article on how to manage loneliness when you work from home.
According to former U.S. surgeon general, Dr Vivek Murthy, understanding the difference between loneliness and solitude — and establishing more respect for the latter — is a good place to start.
There are a lot of measures organisations can take to support and improve the mental health of their remote employees. These 10 remote employee tips will help you build morale and prevent loneliness in your remote employees.
4. Self-discipline & motivation
According to the AND CO survey, those who’ve worked remotely for less than a year are more likely to find it difficult to stay motivated without a boss looking over their shoulder than long-term remotes.
When you work from home, you’re essentially your own boss. In an office, a senior or an authority figure holds weight in terms of your motivation to get things done.
When working from home, you need to be able to constantly self-discipline and align yourself to methods that create the targeted results you need.
You also need to exercise self-discipline in the related and all-too-common challenge of balancing your personal and professional needs. Domestic and personal issues may get in the way of your work, and you need to deal with this by staying focused.
Time, task, and goal management are crucial in order to separate your work from your personal life when working from home and to keep it that way.
5. Balancing work & family
When you work remotely 24/7, there’s no off button. Given the convenience of working from home, it’s easy to go overboard with your tasks and allow work to creep into your family time.
You may find yourself working at times when you should be spending time with your kids, or trying to catch up on work late at night when you should be with your spouse.
Being ambitious and driven is not a negative thing – overextending yourself is. If you find that your working hours are eating into family time, you may need to reconsider the way you work.
Samaya Dharmaraj, a personal coach who works from home, says:
The issue is an extremely personal one, though – what I consider a balance between family and work time may not be something you might think would work for you. It works for me because my family and I are on the same page. You need to be in that sort of state with your family, no matter what your individual idea of ‘balance’ may be.
Managing the time creep can require a bit of discipline and a conscious decision to give your family priority when they need it.
6. Setting boundaries
When you tell people that you’re a remote worker, not everyone will understand. A few will be envious and wish they could do what you do. A common challenge most women face when working from home in India is not having one’s time respected.
What started off as a disruptive issue for Sana Khan, a freelance writer, turned into a bigger problem over time:
When I first started working from home my friends seemed to have no qualms about dropping in or calling during hours I planned to work. It’s not as if they didn’t know that I was working – they felt that I could simply postpone my plans because I was ‘working at home anyway.’
I even had a close friend eventually tell me off for growing ‘distant’ from her – she thought I wasn’t paying as much attention to her as I should. The irony was that I spent no less time with her when I worked from home than when I worked at an office.
Friends and family need to understand that you’ll be working, even though you’re at home. Additionally, it’s important for them to also understand that your move – from working in an office to working from home – doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve gone from a full-time office job to a part-time work from home job.
Setting boundaries with family and friends is an essential skill if you want to work from home effectively. Sharing your challenges and discussing your limitations with them well in advance can help avoid situations like Sana’s.
7. Maintaining a professional persona
The temptation of working in your swimming trunks or pyjamas and taking breaks anytime you feel like it can make it somewhat difficult to maintain a professional persona when you work remotely.
Managing this is a very personal thing, however, and depends on how comfortable your employer or client is with a casual attitude. Most employers who hire gig workers or freelancers don’t mind the casual dress, as long as you get your work done and meet your deadlines.
The only thing you need to be conscious about is being properly dressed on video calls, where your attire (at least that above your waist) can be seen by others. Sometimes this makes for unintended hilarity as in this funny tweet by industrialist, Anand Mahindra.
On a lighter note, this is from my #whatsappwonderbox. And I have a confession to make:On some Video Calls from home, I DID wear a lungi under my shirt. Didn’t have to stand up at any point during the meetings, but I suspect my colleagues may ask me to do so after this tweet! pic.twitter.com/e1IElefNaa
— anand mahindra (@anandmahindra) April 5, 2020
8. Building a personal brand
When you work from an office, the workplace automatically lends you credibility by dint of the fact that you belong in an organisation. As a remote worker or freelancer, you need to build a personal brand to create credibility for what you do.
With the economy being what it is, branding yourself has become essential because it’s what helps you stand apart from the competition and get noticed by those who matter, whether your clients or employers.
My free personal branding course offers actionable steps to take you from no digital footprint at all to a well-established online presence and go from unknown to well-known.
You’ll also get access to free personal branding ebooks, videos and worksheets to learn how to market your services to be seen as the authority or expert in your field.
9. Poor infrastructure
Working from anywhere isn’t always easy, says the AND CO survey. Perhaps that’s why the large majority of remote workers still work from their home country.
1-in-5 remote workers blame time zone discrepancies for productivity troubles, and many cite problems with infrastructure not currently being up to scratch.
One way to overcome infrastructural issues is to work from a coworking space where you have access to super-fast internet, business-class printers and free refreshments.
10. Lack of benefits & perks
Critics of the gig economy state that it targets people who are already on the fringes, lacking a safety net. Unlike full-time workers, remote workers don’t get benefits like health insurance, retirement savings and tax assistance.
However, many organisations are working to alleviate this by partnering with companies that will provide these services to their remote workers at discounted rates.
11. Low wages & burnout
An article in the Telegraph notes that even the best workers struggle to raise their wage rate because of intense competition. As a result, they have to put in longer hours at anti-social times to improve earnings, leading to 18-hour days and weeks of 70 hours or more.
The AND CO data shows that over 80% of gig workers earn less than $100,000 a year, with over 50% earning less than $50,000. Engineers outearn other professions, with 19% earning $100,000 per year or more as a remote worker.
This may have more to do with their skill level, so if you want to boost your earnings as a remote or gig worker, it pays to do an online course and acquire advanced skills.
The good news is… the longer you work remotely, the more you love it. Those who’ve worked remotely for more than 7 years were far more likely to intend on working remotely forever than those who are freshly remote.
Remote working is gaining popularity and it’s here to stay. Nearly 80% of respondents want to work remotely as long as possible; only 4% are doing so on a temporary basis.
So, did you find these work-from-home reasons and challenges useful in deciding whether to take up home-based work or home-based jobs?
If you’re looking for part-time work-from-home jobs in India, learn how SHEROES helps women achieve financial independence from home.
About the author:
Priya Florence Shah is the Group Editor at SHEROES and author of Devi2Diva, an emotional self-care book for women.