Millions of Australians are participating in an experiment by working from home, hoping for a better work-life balance with fewer interruptions and flexible hours. While many are loving the benefits of working from home, some are struggling with the drawbacks.
- Increased levels of isolation and its toll on mental health are frequent topics of conversation among remote employees.
- People who take remote jobs often feel invisible, unproductive and distracted – all while spending more hours at work.
Today I’ll take a closer look at whether working remotely can be a net positive on your life.
(Related: The Only Work-From-Home Checklist You Need).
1. Better Flexibility (Not Work-Life Balance).
I hate the term “work-life” balance. It’s one of those truisms that the mainstream media loves to wax on about because it’s uncomplicated enough for mass production and digestible enough for mass consumption.
- Some of the most fulfilled and happiest people I’ve met live the most unbalanced lives imaginable.
- Some of the most “balanced” people I know are empty and miserable, despite arriving at work precisely at 9 am and leaving on the dot at 5 pm.
Of course, other permutations are also possible. There are plenty of miserable workaholics and blissfully happy unemployed hippies.
That’s exactly my point.
You don’t need better balance, but more flexibility to help you design – and built – the kind of life that you want to live.
Now that you’re not being measured by the number of hours you sit at your office desk, how about you:
- Figure out how to improve your productivity, so that you complete everything expected of you two hours earlier, and
- Use those hours to build your new business?
2. Less Time On The Road.
One of the biggest advantages of working from home is the elimination of the daily commute.
That’s 5-6 hours every week, or 20-24 hours every month, that can be used for more productive activities such as:
- Working more to grow your career faster.
- Building that side hustle I mentioned earlier.
- Spending time with family.
- Pursuing a hobby.
(Related: Complete Guide To WFH Ergonomics).
3. Location Independence.
Working remotely gives you a lot of freedom. As long as you have a laptop and an internet connection, you can get your work done from any city or country in the world.
As someone who has done the remote job “digital nomad” thing for 6 years before resettling in Sydney, I can speak to its pros and cons from experience.
- The main benefit is the opportunity to see the world. I visited about a dozen countries during those 6 years, learned to speak (very basic) Spanish, learned to dance salsa and learned a lot about the world (and myself) by meeting and observing people.
- The main drawback is that travel makes your life frustratingly inefficient. Flying sucks precious time, as does finding apartments and coworking spaces in new towns. You’ll end up doing a lot more admin than you’re used to, all of which eats into your workday or your free time.
Plus, many overseas adventures can’t be squeezed into a weekend, so if your job demands 40-50 hours of your time, you’ll have to say no to a lot of cool stuff.
More likely than not, you’ll end up living the same urban life as you did back in Australia, except you’ll be in Porto or Playa Del Carmen or Koh Samui.
4. Fantastic Home Office Environment.
You can set up the home office of your dreams, customising it exactly to your taste.
No more soul-sucking corporate offices, however “open plan” they may be.
- You can set up a decent home office on a budget, or you can go all out on an ultimate setup with multiple monitors and microphones.
- Remember that a good ergonomic office chair and sturdy standing desk are the foundations of a good home office. Don’t cut corners on those.
5. Increased Productivity.
Several studies have found that people are more productive when they work from home.
For example, this study by Stanford University found that employees who worked from home were 13% more productive than their office-based counterparts.
It takes a person about 20 minutes of focused work to enter a peak productivity state.
If you work in an office environment where colleagues frequently ask you questions, you may never enter this state at all.
6. Reduced Environmental Impact.
Working from home can also help reduce your carbon footprint. With no commute, you’ll be responsible for emitting far less CO2 into the atmosphere.
Did You Know?
If you live in Sydney and work from home, you could reduce your annual carbon output by 1,000 kilograms.
7. More Money In Your Pocket.
Without the need to purchase “work clothes” just to signal status to your coworkers, and spend money on driving or public transport, a remote job can save you a lot of dough.
8. Better Opportunities For The Disabled.
People with disabilities face a lot of challenges in the workplace.
- Remote work can open doors to opportunities that were previously unavailable or unworkable.
For example, a person with a hearing impairment can avoid the challenges of a face-to-face workplace by communicating via transcription-enabled video chat.
9. Access To Global Jobs.
You can score a plum gig with an overseas company, but continue to live and work in Australia.
More and more businesses are offering remote work opportunities to the best talent, no matter where they live.
Internet privacy matters, especially when you work remotely. Hackers can steal your passwords and log into your company CRM, ERP and HR systems. Always use a premium Australian VPN to prevent data breaches.
5 Downsides Of Working From Home.
Remote workers get a lot of perks, but those are not without a cost. Let’s examine the main challenges that come along with WFH arrangements.
1. Psychological Isolation.
Remote workers report stronger feelings of loneliness when working from home.
Conversely, if you’re a highly logical, introverted person who loves the grind, working remotely may provide you with an optimal level of psychological stimulus.
2. Poor Ergonomics.
The coronavirus pandemic hit, and everyone was suddenly sitting slouched behind their kitchen tables or draped over their couches.
- Those are not workable long-term solutions.
3. Blurred Boundaries.
How do you know that work is finished and family time can start?
Mainstream advice suggests that you deal with this by establishing clear boundaries between work time and personal time. For example, you might designate specific hours for work and make sure to clock off at the end of the day.
- This advice doesn’t work for most jobs – especially in performance-driven environments, or positions of high responsibility.
- Your “boundary” will fly out the window as soon as the boss asks you to fix a crisis.
Esther Perel has a quote – “it’s not a problem to be fixed, but a dichotomy to be managed”. I suggest you adopt her view on this issue.
Not all problems have clear-cut solutions – and instead require ongoing oversight to ensure you fulfil on your commitments and remain flexible enough to make reasonable exceptions.
Set up a dedicated workspace in your home so you can physically leave “the office” at the end of the day.
When working from home, there are a million potential distractions. You’ll be tempted to put off work in favour of laundry (you’re a great husband, after all!), dishes, or that new episode of your favourite show (you earned a break!)
- To stay focused, set up a routine and stick to it.
For example, I start work early (7 am) and work without distractions until about 930am. I don’t check Slack, Teams or email.
I then have breakfast and punch out another power productivity session between 10 am and 1 pm.
Then it’s lunch and whatever else my day demands of me.
You may prefer a different routine, which is fine. The key is to create one and be consistent with it.
5. Becoming Invisible.
Workplaces with hybrid teams can experience an issue where bosses are biased against fully remote team members.
Counter this by asking potential employers about their communication strategies and what remote collaboration software they use.