Whether telecommuting or self-employed, a growing number of American workers do their work from home.
Though the work-from-home lifestyle can be fraught with difficulties — including longer hours, difficulties in management and collaboration, as well as a greater need for worker self-discipline — the rewards for both employees and employers are many.
Here are a just a few of the best benefits of working from home:
1. It’s Good for You
Modern life is increasingly sedentary, and the workplace is no exception. A growing body of research shows that those who sit for more than three hours a day have a provably shorter life-expectancy, and even those who exercise regularly are at an increased risk for heart-disease, diabetes and cancer.
Unfortunately, many managers perceive butt-in-chair time as a soft metric of productivity —despite the fact that it incentivizes inefficient work — and this is a perception workers are keenly aware of. The result is a work environment that makes most doctors’ recommendation of 15 minutes of activity for every hour of sitting time seem almost laughably optimistic.
Telecommuting workers, on the other hand, don’t have to face this perception. They often have much less structure to their day, and they don’t need to look busy by remaining in their chairs. They’re generally free to get up and move the instant they want to, even take an hour to go for a walk on a whim. Unsurprisingly, the numbers bear out the results: Those who work from home are, by a wide margin, happier and healthier than their chair-shackled counterparts.
2. It’s Good for the Environment
Commuting sucks. In addition to posing a proven health risk, the cost of millions of daily commuters takes its toll on the world as well. A study by Boston University concluded that urban and suburban single-car drivers are responsible for over 60% of vehicular carbon-emissions in the United States, and a significant portion of that is the daily commute.
Those who work from home, however, don’t have to spend time driving every day because they don’t have to go anywhere to get to work — they live there already. And all those parked cars means fewer CO2 emissions out darkening the skies and evicting polar bears.
3. Major Tax Savings
While taxes for at-home workers can be a gnarly beast, and probably shouldn’t be tackled without the aid of a CPA, the basic gist is clear enough: By performing work at home, you are incurring additional costs, in the form of things like electricity and office supplies. But with the help of a good accountant, those expenses can be converted into tax deductions, which mean additional money in your pocket come tax-time.
4. Transcend the Work/Life Balance
There have been a number of articles and think-pieces over the years that position work and life as a kind of see-saw. They are two mutually-exclusive, oppositional forces, the interaction of which needs to be carefully controlled and managed. But many workers, in particular millennials, have begun to question traditional wisdom, and argue that the phrase “work-life balance” sets up a false dichotomy.
Why, they ask, can’t fulfillment at work and fulfillment at home be achieved through simultaneous action? Why can’t they be the same thing? Telecommuters and the self-employed embody this new thinking by turning the living-room into a hot-desk, the kitchen table into a meeting-room and cats into coworkers.
For those who work from home, there is no work-life balance. Work is a part of life, and it’s allowed to mesh with all the other parts, rather than stubbornly conflict. From more flexible scheduling to more face-time with friends and family, telecommuting workers are allowed to make work a part of who they are, rather than a place they go to visit.
5. Redecorate and Refocus
The jury is out on the costs and benefits of an “open” office as compared to a “closed” one, but one simple fact remains true — different people work differently. Nonetheless, in an office-setting, workers must accept the greatest common denominator, regardless of whether working in a cubicle or a closed-door office might clash with their own personal optimal productivity. From home, however, employees are free to design their work-space in the fashion that best suits their needs. So why not take all your new-found tax deductions and put them toward a standing desk, or some design/build work for a more efficient home office?
6. It increases Productivity
The truth is, offices are actually terrible places for getting work done. They’re loud, distracting, open spaces, prone to constant interruption.
That’s probably why the big, comfortable, closed-door offices are typically saved for senior management. But why should they be? When your home is your office, the result puts even a Fortune 500 CEO’s private suite to shame. After all, how many people do you know can claim their office has a TV, a private toilet, a full-sized refrigerator, fully-stocked dressers and a shower?
The result is that telecommuting workers are indisputably more productive, which probably explains why more and more businesses are pushing toward a work-from-home employee roster — or as it’s known in manager-speak, a “distributed workforce.” There is a recognition that, even as it raises new challenges, the idea of letting employees work from where they live also brings some serious benefits.
In the end, it can all be summed up like this:
It’s Not “Work from House,” but “Work from Home”
Despite conventional thinking that putting workers in their own homes might invite slacking-off, the reality is more nuanced. It turns out that when provided with the comforts of home, workers have fewer desires. And why shouldn’t they?
After all, everything they could possibly want or need, everything they own or might ever conceive of bringing into their office with them, is right there at their fingertips.
They don’t need to bring anything to work — it’s already there. Employees lack for nothing, and so there is no “lack-ing” to distract them. They can put on their favorite clothes, grab their favorite drink, crank up their favorite song and sit down to work at a space painstakingly designed to encourage maximum productivity for themselves.