Working from home has become so popular across industries that it has even picked up an abbreviation in business jargon, which tends to be how you know a concept is here to stay. It allows scheduling flexibility so you can work at your peak productive times. The thing with WFH, meaning you have freedom, though, is that it can come with some extra challenges.
Rise of Work from Home, WFH Days
It's easy for blithe media coverage of the fast growth of working from home to pin its rapid rise on the pandemic and early containment measures that necessitated the move. The hybrid workplace had already been growing for years, and the growth was accelerating ahead of the pandemic.
Online education had already made many jobs in higher education and tutoring at all levels of WFH, catering to a student population that was also remote from campus. Similarly, many B2B services moved to decentralize well before it was widely covered in the media. When your business is a cloud-hosted app or a digital marketing plan, you do not necessarily need everyone in the office to deliver a great product, to name two examples.
The COVID-19 containment measures did a lot to accelerate what was already accelerating. Still, three years after the fact, it is easier to see that the acceleration only sped up a trend that had been happening, so eventually, a considerable part of the workforce would wind up in WFH jobs. It was financially incentivized in some ways, not for all businesses, but for many.
Pros of WFH
There are a lot of benefits to working from home for both the company and the individual. The incentives for the company come down to a few concrete benefits that are easy to identify.
Office space does not need to be large enough to accommodate all the workers at once
There is an incentive to become paper-free and lower supply costs
Employees who don't commute do not bring commuter stress or fatigue into the workplace
The first benefit is clear and a fantastic source of cost-cutting when your business model supports it. Smaller offices have lower rental and utility costs. You need less furniture to fill them, and what you invest in can be focused on presentation and meeting spaces. For employees, many personal benefits have led to a demand for WFH jobs and at-home days at traditional jobs.
Less time to commute means more personal time
Work/life balance is more manageable when you are nearby for family issues
More control over your schedule
Employers focus on your results, not your personal habits
The key to maximizing that last item is a professional demeanor and an excellent videoconferencing background that keeps your personal space private. That way, you put your best face forward when it counts, and it doesn't matter if you like to microwave popcorn during your coffee break and fish at lunch.
Cons of WFH
There are some drawbacks to working from home, and they tend to be negative no matter which side of the desk you're on. Employee motivation can be hard to sustain when everyone needs to be able to self-motivate. That decline in productivity can have consequences for the bottom line, and when it does, that has implications for your salary.
You also absorb some of the utility costs from the office and usually the cost of maintaining your work device. Those costs add up, even if you always get the best tax benefits from the expense. There are also psychological benefits to moving out of your personal space and into a workspace used for nothing else. For this reason, many independent professionals and artists maintain studios and offices outside the home when they could be WFH at their discretion.
How To Work From Home Successfully
Working from home can be more productive than working in the office, but you need a plan that maximizes your personal benefits while minimizing issues that can lead to long-term burnout. That means building a routine that allows you to move into a second mental space at work. Many people who work from home have written about this over decades.
It is also good to have a dedicated space for work. Even if you also do other things there, containing the parts of your house that feel like workspaces can help you relax more at the end of the day. It's tempting to mix in housework during your break times, but you need to be careful about burnout.
Saving yourself an hour after work by missing lunch can become a productivity-sapping habit. If you need to mix the two, schedule blocks for each so you work a split shift with a definite start-at-stop time that still respects your need for breaks. Once you get into the habit of keeping your work time separate, it's easy to manage the balance.