April 24, 2024

Is Working From Home Productive? [Pros & Cons]

Working from home solved a major problem for most businesses at the start of the pandemic. 4 years on, many workers still enjoy the freedom to split their time between the office and work. 

Remote working was the solution then, but is it still the solution in a ‘post-pandemic’ Melbourne? There are many benefits to convenient home working, but it’s not without its disadvantages. In recent years, researchers have seen increased levels of loneliness, pessimism and anxiety in Australians working from home. Are we missing the social connection that naturally forms in the office?

Let’s explore the pros and cons of working from home compared to the office, shedding light on each environment's unique challenges and opportunities.

Pros of Working from Home

1. Flexibility and Convenience

Working from home offers unparalleled flexibility, allowing employees to set their own schedules and work from the comfort of their own space. This flexibility can be especially beneficial for individuals with caregiving responsibilities or those seeking a better work-life balance.

The 9–5 work schedule was created during the industrial revolution. In contemporary times, it may not align with the various workstyles that exist today. Some of us are more productive in the early morning, while others thrive in the afternoon and evening. Remote working offers flexibility allowing teams to schedule meetings around overlapping schedules.

2. Cost Savings

Remote work eliminates the need for daily commuting, saving employees hours of time and money on fuel or public transportation expenses. You simply wake up, make your morning coffee and start working. Additionally, employees may enjoy savings on lunch, wardrobe, and other incidental expenses associated with office work.

3. Reduced Distractions

Some of us are more prone to distractions than others. In open plan environments where collaboration is favoured over solo work, the office may feel unproductive. Working from home may provide fewer distractions in this situation. There’s no water cooler chat. There are no impromptu meetings. Employees may find it easier to focus and accomplish tasks efficiently without these distractions.

4. Increased Autonomy

Working solo empowers independent workers to take ownership of their tasks. It’s just you and a computer. There’s no one standing over your shoulder telling you where and when to work. Employees are empowered to manage their time. This sense of independence can boost motivation and productivity, as employees have greater control over how they structure their day.

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Cons of Working from Home

1. Isolation and Lack of Social Interaction

One of the most significant drawbacks of working from home is the potential for social isolation and lack of face-to-face interaction with colleagues. Even the most introverted are naturally inclined to socialise at times. The absence of spontaneous conversations and collaborative opportunities can impact morale and hinder team cohesion. This effect is exacerbated in situations where workers live alone without roommates, friends or family.

2. Blurred Boundaries Between Work and Personal Life

Working from home blurs the boundaries between work and personal life, making it challenging to establish a healthy work-life balance. You can blur your Zoom background and take a meeting from the couch (or even worse, your bed). You can take a call on your early morning walk, or work on your laptop during a lunch break. Without a physical separation between work and home, employees may find it difficult to switch off and unwind after hours.

3. Communication and Collaboration Challenges

Spending most of our work days communicating via email or work channels is effective in some situations. Unlike verbal communication, it helps teams keep an accurate timeline of discussions and decisions made between colleagues. Unfortunately, written communication leaves room for miscommunication.

The context and subtext of conversation are totally lost in a digital message. Words can be misinterpreted. Internal feelings and thoughts can project unfounded meaning onto words. Some topics are simply better to discuss in person.

Outside of communication difficulties, it’s also challenging to perform tasks that require collaboration. Team members can’t simply hop into a breakout room. Impromptu conversations can’t happen on a morning coffee run. Your colleagues are significantly harder to access unless there’s a meeting on the calendar. 

4. Endless Distractions

The home is a sacred space. It’s where you relax. Where you watch TV, read or play games. Pre-pandemic most of our homes were designed around a motif of relaxation and stress reduction. Work wasn’t a priority.

Now we work in the same place where we rest, eat, play and sleep. Our televisions and phones tempt us to take extended breaks. We wash clothes in between meetings. And when the afternoon rolls around our beds call us for a little cat nap during office hours. 

Whether or not we succumb to these distractions is not the point. Simply being around distractions drains your focus over the day. A quick 30-second scroll of Instagram comes at a cost. Your focus is finite throughout the day, and if you’re spending most of it trying to battle distractions, it only makes work harder to do.

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The Case for the Office: Boosting Productivity and Collaboration

While working from home offers certain advantages, there are reasons why societies have made a conscious effort to separate work from home for so long. Office settings are incubators for creativity, collaboration and productivity. Here are some compelling reasons why offices might be effective spaces to work (when compared to home environments):

1. Collaborative Spaces

Offices provide dedicated spaces for collaboration, brainstorming, and teamwork. From meeting rooms and breakout areas to communal workstations, offices facilitate face-to-face interactions and spontaneous idea-sharing among colleagues.

2. Structured Work Environment

The structured environment of the office helps maintain a sense of routine and discipline, fostering accountability and focus among employees. With designated workspaces and set office hours, employees can separate work from personal life more effectively. Additionally, being surrounded by others who are working has been shown to increase productivity.

3. Networking & Relationship-Building

Some people choose to keep work life separate from personal matters. Others are more open about their personal lives in the workplace. No matter where you stand with mixing work and personal details, remote work essentially reduces colleagues to a face on a screen. There are very few chances to build a human bond between workmates, making the overall environment cold and clinical. 

Offices on the other hand serve as hubs for professional networking and relationship-building, allowing employees to forge connections with colleagues, mentors, and industry peers. These relationships can lead to valuable collaborations, career development opportunities, and mentorship. You end up befriending a colleague that you never knew shared the same interests as you. 

4. Access to Resources and Amenities

Offices offer access to a wide range of resources, amenities, and facilities that support productivity and well-being. From high-speed internet and printing services to ergonomic furniture, office kitchens and even wellness programs, offices are better equipped to meet the diverse needs of employees throughout the day.

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Striking the Right Balance With Canopy

If remote work has taught us anything, it’s shown us that we all have different work styles. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for everyone. Working from home offers flexibility and convenience, yet the office remains an essential hub for collaboration, creativity, and distraction-free deep work. 

As more Melbourne businesses navigate the evolving work landscape, striking the right balance between remote work and office work is key to maximising productivity, employee satisfaction, and business success. And with Canopy’s help, you can design an office space that addresses the needs and unique workstyles of your team.

At Canopy Fitouts we create inspiring workplaces optimised for productivity. To learn more about our award-winning fitouts, check out our work here. To learn more about how a fitout can optimise your office fitout for productivity and efficiency, read this guide or speak to our team today.