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The benefits of working from home

Working from home

Yahoo recently announced that employees who were working from home would soon be required to work from their offices instead. This stirred up quite a lot debate online.

With all the technology that’s currently available, it’s certainly never been easier to work from home. Faster broadband connections and a greater number of mobile devices (smart phones, tablets and laptops) mean that you can take your office where ever you go.

The topical issue seems to be around whether employees are more or less productive at home. There’s a range of factors that come into play if you want to measure productivity. But there’s another interesting aspect to the debate – could it actually make you happier?

The up side

There are certainly a lot benefits when it comes to working from home. One of the most obvious is the lack of commute. For anyone familiar with getting stuck in traffic or sardine-packed public transport during peak hour – it’s a huge bonus. Not only do you save time but also money.

Many people cite convenience and flexible arrangements as being a top benefit. You can be at home to let in that tradie to fix the sink or squeeze in an appointment at the dentist down the road.

If you’re used to working in an open-plan office, working from home can be quite liberating. There are fewer distractions – like listening to other colleague’s phone calls or conversations – and interruptions.

Employers also benefit from employees who work from home. For instance, there are less overhead costs when a staff member doesn’t need office space, a desk or other facilities.

Depending on your work arrangements, there may also be potential tax advantages to working from home so check with your accountant.

But is it for you?

Before you take the leap and start setting up your home office – there are three important factors to think about: personality, preference and practicality.

Some people love to interact and bounce ideas with colleagues. They enjoy chatting, networking and dealing with people face to face. If you’re one of these people you may find working from home a little isolating. Of course there are ways to stay connected like using conference or video calls. And you can always schedule a day in the office when there’s an important meeting… or it’s cake day.

Ideal working environments also differ from person to person. A quiet office is an opportunity for some to focus and get work done, while others find the hustle and bustle of a busy workplace invigorating.

And when it comes down to it, for certain industries or specific roles, it’s just not practical to work from home, especially when there’s a hands-on component.

Tips for Pros

  • Self-direction and management are central to being effective at home – or the office.
  • Set up a routine. Just starting the day on time can do wonders for productivity.
  • Stay organized and maintain regular contact with colleagues regarding your projects and tasks.
  • Whether you’re doing the afternoon school run or working from the local cafe – your work colleagues will appreciate some certainty around how and when they can contact you.
  • Friends and family need to appreciate the difference between work mode and being at home. Sometimes a sign helps.
  • Don’t get distracted by home chores. Putting on a load of laundry can become a very tempting procrastination tool. Just shut the door.
  • Make sure your home computer network is set up correctly, especially if you’re using multiple devices such as a smart phone, tablet, laptop or personal desktop computer. If you’re unsure about your set up or would like help you can call a Techii who will come out to your home.
  • If you run a business from home, we have a range of services to help small and medium sized businesses.

A good friend who has worked as a freelancer for over three decades once gave me a golden piece of advice about working from home: Don’t work in your pyjamas. There’s a certain level of psychological professionalism that can only come from a shower and clean set of clothes.

Do you work from home? What do you think are the benefits or down sides? Let us know in the comments below.

 

6 comments

  1. Fred says:

    For about 5 years until my retirement I worked almost exclusively from home and it was the best thing I ever did. Saving 1 1/2 hour of travel each way and starting work at the same time as I would normally leave home added 15 hours a week to my productivity at no added cost to my employer. My home routine was left unchanged – mealtimes were planned for the time I would normally arrive home with the added bonus of not being delayed by traffic or public transport problems. Instead of funding two cars we were quickly able to cut this down to just one with a corresponding reduction in expense.

    Best of all, because of the nature of my work I was actually able to work more efficiently at home than I could in the office. All our communications were done using Skype so my employer knew when I started work each day and when I knocked off.

    Now I am retired I still do some work from time to time for my old employer so that he has not lost years of experience and I don’t need to leave home to do the odd hour or so of work.

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  2. Steve says:

    Lots of good points. Especially about routine starting-times, pyjamas, & distractions. I’ve been trading full-time on the sharemarket from home for several years, while also running a small mooring inspection & maintenance business. Living on Russell Island Qld, means I seldom have to visit the mainland. Wonderful!

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  3. Austin says:

    I have worked from home for over 11 years running a small life insurance broking business. The best thing about it is the fact you don’t get stuck in traffic. I alawys arrange meetings in or around the City for between 10.30 and 3 pm so I’m always in flowing traffic. The main thing you need is discipline especially when world cup rugby is on or the Olympics. The thing I miss most is having a team to work with as I had in 23 years working for mulitinational companies.

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  4. Andrew says:

    I would love to work from home however unsure how much work I would achieve. In my line of work I wouldn’t want to have my customers coming into my personal world. My home is better resource wise than my current work place. It is satisfying that although I have to stay at my desk until 5:00 p.m. that I am being paid to use company resources to do my Coles online shopping, read Mac Rumours, play Battleship, playing practical jokes and chatting with a really good work mate.

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  5. James says:

    My employer allows me to work from home occasionally, although they have got stricter on it more recently. They have lately introduced a policy whereby it can be done for no more than 1 day per month and it can’t be to look after kids, let tradies in etc.

    Personally I find I am a lot more productive working from home than the office. My desk at home is about 5 times the size, I have better IT equipment and more space. I also don’t have people interrupting me every 5 minutes. Who ever thought open plan offices were more productive?

    Unfortunatley I don’t think my employer recognizes the opportunities they could gain by rethinking this policy. They could solve their desk shortage problems for a start.

    Is this a generational thing? Are the baby boomers fixated on the notion that work is for work and home is for rest? Meanwhile gen Y have commenced a work life with iPads and Blackberrys, where work follows you 24/7 and the line isn’t so clear cut? Maybe in the future we will all work from home and ‘hot desk’ it when we need to go in for a meeting?

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  6. Joy says:

    A large amount of self-discipline, honesty and responsibility is an absolute necessity to be able to work from home. Every employer knows that not everyone has these qualities, and that is why work-from-home needs to be up to the employer. Those playing computer games etc at work are clearly not self-disciplined, honest, mature and responsible enough. Distractions are many at a home office, but you must remember you are at work and not available for anything else. In so saying though there is leeway for flexible hours as its not a matter of time spent working, its a matter of productivity, and I know I can get through my work much quicker at home without all the distractions than I can in the office. My tip is to get up and dressed as usual early every morning as if you were to attend the office, this puts you in a business frame of mind and you are ready should you need to attend the office or an outside meeting. Working in your pyjamas all day is a definite no-no, but ok at night.

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