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The pros and cons of working from home

Working from home is a key employment alternative for growing businesses offering teleworking solutions, emerging entrepreneurs establishing a customer base, and small business owners seeking to minimise administrative overheads.

What are the key advantages and setbacks involved with working from home? For those seeking to take the plunge or weighing up the options, McCrindle Research analysed the lives of 250 ‘work-from-home’ workers, weighing up the pros and cons of the home office setting.

 

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Flexibility and work-life balance

The most significant advantage in working from home for respondents was having the flexibility to juggle other things, reported by almost half (45 per cent) of respondents. Another quarter of respondents felt that in working from home, they were able to create a work-life balance to enjoy life more. One in seven respondents (15 per cent) enjoyed being able to work undistracted from the interruptions present in an office-based working environment, and a further one in eight (12 per cent) felt that the most significant advantage in working from home was being able to take care of their children.

Other reasons that people chose to work from home included decreased commuter stress, lower travel costs, being able to work in solitude, and being their own boss.

For those who work from home, most love the flexibility and work-life balance that it allows. For 15 per cent, the biggest benefit was being able to work undistracted. Employers should note that while modern workplaces facilitate social interaction, project teams and meetings, the need to work solo and uninterrupted is keenly felt.

 

 

Top 3 reasons why people work from home

Working from home can facilitate enormous benefits; allowing more time with family, avoiding long commutes and offering better work-life balance, but is this always the best option? Social researcher Claire Madden shared her thoughts on The Today Show, discussing the benefits and sharing the downside of this growing trend.

While teleworking might have some benefits of flexibility for the individual, it can unintentionally create an isolated wasteland back in the office. It can significantly impact team culture by removing the intangible ingredient of collaboration and spontaneous interactions where some of the greatest innovations are sparked, problems are solved, and teams are energised.

With one in 12 people working from home, this growing trend is enabled by communication technologies facilitating far greater flexibility, connectivity and mobility. Our research found the top three reasons people work at home are:

  • Flexibility – to juggle other things, including managing the kids
  • Improved work-life balance – avoiding that 53 minute commute, which Australians do on average every day for work
  • Working undistracted – our workplaces can be busy hubs of activity and home can provide a quieter place to think and work. However, it also includes household distractions, like that sudden motivation that overtakes you to put a load of washing on!

Whilst working from home can facilitate these areas of life, it is not necessarily the most productive way to work. It can be a far more effective use of time to have a quick team meeting to get everyone on the same page, problem solve and generate ideas rather than everyone needing to be kept up-to-date on an email chain. Communication technologies can enable greater efficiencies – however they will never be able to replace face-to-face interaction and collaboration that occurs when teams meet together.

 

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The main concern respondents faced with working from home was with a lack of ergonomics in their home office.

 

Workplace health and safety issues

Whilst a number of respondents (75 per cent) did not report encountering any workplace health and safety (WHS) issues in working in a home office environment, others were faced with unique concerns.

The main worry respondents faced was with a lack of ergonomics in their home office set-up:

  • “I generally don’t sit at a proper desk so, while not currently causing any problems, my posture may cause issues in the future.”
  • “I don’t have proper desk and chair height, and I stay at the desk too long with bad posture.”

Others felt the weight of responsibility when it came to WHS issues:

  • “I am totally responsible for the health and safety standards and issues in my home, even when someone comes uninvited.”

Still others reported not taking appropriate breaks as an issue:

  • “I don’t take appropriate breaks and I lack sleep, working longer than I would in an office.”

The lack of space and unsuitability of the home working environment were other issues:

  • “I don’t have enough space to work properly.”
  • “The electrics in the house are not always the best set-up because I don’t have an office, and the kids can get under the desk playing with cables.”

With teleworking a growing phenomenon and working from home a key tool of workplace retention, managers not only need to provide for it, but also effectively manage it. This research reveals challenges along with the benefits, with almost half of Australians who work from home incurring some increased costs, and one in four experiencing some workplace health and safety issues.

 

If you missed our story on the benefits of having an ergonomic office, here is it again.

And, if you recently started a small business in your spare room, or have a personal project you’d like to focus on, here are six useful tips to working successfully from home.

If you work from home, do you have tips on how to stay focused?!

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Mark McCrindle

Mark McCrindle is an award-winning social researcher, best-selling author and influential thought leader. He is regularly commissioned to deliver strategy and advice to the boards and executive committees of some of the country’s leading organisations. Mark is also founder and Principal of Australian social research firm McCrindle Research.

The opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the author(s) and not necessarily those of Homeloans Ltd.