Home vs. Office: A Comprehensive Comparison of Work Environments
There have been some big changes at Deep Core Data in the past few months. The biggest by far is that we’ve moved into a cozy little office space in downtown Waltham (hooray us!).
While we’re still settling in and working on getting all the bells and whistles installed, changes in how the company operates on a daily level have already started to crop up. We’ve already seen a rise in productivity, but there are certainly a couple scheduling issues that need a bit of ironing out as we transition to having a commute that takes us farther than our living room.
In honor of our new office, I’ve put together a list of pros and cons of working from home versus making the trek to the office. The debate between whether it’s better to work from home or work from an office has been covered many times, and everyone has their own perspectives. What may be a pro for one person may just be a con to another; for example, I’m thrilled to have the chance to dress nicely and show off my stunning personal fashion sense, but for others, the need to look a certain level of presentable every day might just feel like a little more effort than it’s worth.
Regardless of how you feel about presentation, these 12 pros and cons will highlight the advantages and disadvantages of both options.
Working From Home
1. No commute
One of the great things about working from home is the lack of a commute. There’s no hurry in the morning to get ready and out the door by a certain time because the distance you have to travel is roughly the length of your living space. For many people, this frees up an hour or two that can be spent working, and can be a great way to save money on gas.
2. Relaxed Environment = Productive Employees
In 2013, two Stanford graduates conducted a study to determine if employees would be more productive at home or in an office environment. Though they were expecting office workers to be more productive, they were surprised to find this wasn’t the case! The reason they think people were more productive from home? The environment is quieter, reducing distractions, and employees were more comfortable, giving them the stamina to work longer and take fewer breaks.
How everyone pictures working form home: comfortable, relaxed, and still in your pajamas.
3. You can work for anybody, anywhere
All the resources that make it possible to work from home mean that it doesn’t exactly matter where the main office is; you already have everything you need to do your job. You can live in Australia and work for a company in America. You don’t even need a main office, which works great for small companies with few employees that are just starting out.
1. Life doesn’t stop for work
Remember that study about people being more productive when they worked for home? Unfortunately, it doesn’t apply to everybody. The house is still filled with distractions, such as children, chores, pets, and the television. There’s no one else around to keep you on track, so you have to be diligent about staying productive, which is not as easy as it sounds. Even without distractions, the home environment is very comfortable, and you might find yourself reluctant to leave your bed.
2. Work tends to bleed into non-work hours
Here’s the other side of those daytime distractions; if you spend the morning watching cartoons, those hours will need to be made up later in the day. Start and stop times are not well defined, so you can end up working all day, or, well…not working all day with the intention of making it up later, and then suddenly you’re too tired to focus.
3. Extroverts tend to wither when left alone all day
Another double-edged sword of remote work is that the quiet that helps you focus can also be incredibly isolating. Even if you feel that your capacity to do and discuss work is acceptable, there’s still a level of socialization that you miss out on when you’re home by yourself. You might not be aware of how much of an impact socializing with your coworkers while you’re working in the office can make, but regular office workers tend to start to notice after a few days home alone.
This infographic from crucial.com outlines a few of the reasons people chose to work at home or the office.
1. Innovation is born in close quarters
Yahoo’s CEO, Marissa Mayer shut down the company’s telecommuting arrangements, stating that while people may be more productive at home, they’re more collaborative and innovative at the office. This is because communication is easier and happens more frequently. Getting help when you need it is a much simpler task when all you have to do is poke your head over the cubicle wall to get your coworker’s attention, and conversations about projects can happen in a much more casual capacity.
2. There’s a definitive start and stop time
When you’re in the office, you’re there to work, making it easier to focus on the tasks at hand. Getting something done “by the end of the day” is a lot easier to do when you know the day ends at 5PM, instead of…whenever. Even better, you know that when you get home that it’s safe to relax, and you don’t have to worry about work until the morning (for most of us, at least).
It doesn’t look like The Office when you step into Deep Core Data yet, but we’re getting there.
3. Structure is a great motivator
For highly motivated individuals, working from home is a piece of cake. For the rest of us, it’s way too easy to slack off, not only because of the environment, but because there’s no one around to hold you accountable. Office environments make it easy to stay motivated, not just because your boss might reprimand you for checking Facebook for the umpteenth time today, but because there’s a definitive difference between work and home. You’re in an environment where other people are getting work done, which can create a positive community atmosphere that will help keep you going all day.
1. The dreaded commute
Rush hour is easily the worst part of the day, although some people have it easier than others. According to the US Census Bureau, the average commute is 24.5 minutes, and that’s only going one direction. When applied to the trip there and back, that’s almost an hour spent sitting in traffic, being unproductive and on high alert. It’s definitely not the best way to start or finish a day.
2. Office life encourages a sedentary lifestyle
When you’re at home, you can get up whenever you need to and take a walk. You can do yoga, or jumping jacks, or even dance if you want to. Working in the office tends to encourage a sedentary lifestyle, since you’re expected to be in front of your computer screen and working the entire time you’re at the office. Sure, if you work on the second or third floors of a building, you might be inclined to take the stairs, but you’ll only need those twice a day.*
3. The environment is inherently more disruptive
Cubicles can only provide so much privacy, and they certainly don’t do much to block out noise. If you work in an open office type environment, this can be even more of an issue. You may not want to listen to the phone conversation happening in the cubicle next door, but you can hear every word, and voices are distracting. Your boss can drop in at any time to check up on your progress, and coworkers might need to ask you for help, forcing you to drop what you’re doing and address the issue at hand.
As you can see, there are advantages and disadvantages to either option, and which option works best varies from person to person. Companies looking to save money, are highly dependent on travelling for work, or mainly contract with freelancers may find telecommuting options to be in their favor. People who need a little focus and motivation in their lives, companies who want to build a strong corporate culture, and employees looking to advance their career may find that the commute is worth the benefits you get from being in an office.
Regardless of whichever one works for you, I’m excited about our new office space and all the challenges it will provide. Also, the mini fridge.
*There are ways to mitigate the chair potato conundrum. Check out our post on Workplace Fitness Apps for ideas on how to keep moving during the workday.