Is working at home really a good idea?
The Coronavirus lockdown has caused many of us to reassess whether we may be better off working at home.
We have become so used to the commute for so many years that it becomes a routine that is part of normal life. Many of us haven’t taken the time to consider whether or not it’s actually necessary.
Before fast broadband came along of course, working at home would not have been an option for the majority of office workers as they would not have been able to connect in to a company’s main database. But IT and communications have improved so much in recent years that now anything seems possible.
But there are other matters and potential negatives which need to be considered in deciding whether to work from home.
When I tell people I work from home, they usually say ‘oh you’re so lucky’, but some people have said ‘oh I don’t think I could do that’.
Why is working from home seen as a potential benefit by some and a bad move for others?
Well – here are some things to consider before you walk out the office door!
Pros of working at home
- No commute!
For me, working from home has saved me three hours of travelling each day. It’s time that I can spend on things other than running for the tube or waiting on freezing cold train platforms. Don’t get me wrong, my commute wasn’t always bad but it certainly reduces the stress levels knowing I can start work as soon as I get out of bed (if I wanted to).
- It’s cheaper
You’ll save on your commuting costs too, whether that’s public transport, fuel or car /bike maintenance. If you’re lucky enough to be able to walk to work, then so far you might not see the benefits but stay with me! Before I worked from home, I spent a scary amount of money each year on drinks, breakfast and lunch on the go. Working from home will definitely save you some money here.
- I work to my own schedule
If you’re self-employed then it’s easier to set your own schedule for the working day. If you’re an employee who works from home for all or part of the time, you may still need to work at set times of the day. Either way, there is definitely more flexibility. If you want to take your lunch at 11am, that’s fine. If you work better in the morning, start work at 7am. I fit my work around school drop-off and pick-ups and then finish off if I need to in the evening. I’m usually more productive because I haven’t got people walking over to my desk throughout the day.
- You can claim expenses
Not only are you potentially saving money on your commute, and food and drink, you can claim additional running costs of working from home through HMRC. There’s lots of helpful information about this and THP will be able to help you too.
- It reduces your carbon footprint
OK, I write this one a little tentatively. By working from home, I’m not using disposable drinks cups or driving to the station. I do have my heating on more in the winter and use my car to go to some meetings but overall I travel less.
The cons of working at home
- People can view your work as less important
There is an opinion out there (I’m not sure why) that if you work from home then it’s not real work or it must be easier in some way. Certainly, it can be less stressful and as I said there are plenty of benefits but the work you do isn’t any easier than it would be in an office, school or shop. It’s certainly no less important.
I’ve even had people say to me ‘oh it must be nice not working anymore’! I am definitely still working but I’m now self-employed and work from home for the majority of the time.
- It can be less productive
This one depends on your personality and level of will power I think. Working from home for me has been a learning curve because I see all the housework around me that needs to be done and I have to resist the temptation to get on with it there and then.
You could live in a show home but you’ll upset all your clients with missed deadlines. If there is a separate room you can work in to remove yourself from these distractions it really helps.
- No human interaction
For some people this is actually a pro but one thing I have missed is the social interaction that a shared place of work gives you.
I’m not exactly the life and soul of the party but I do like a chat to break up the day. With two small children, adult conversation is definitely needed! You can start to miss the inane chat about last night’s TV or a colleague’s rave review of their recent holiday.
- Cabin fever
Similar to the above, working from home can sometimes raise the question ‘do I actually need to leave the house today?’ Working and living in the same place can get a bit much sometimes, especially in the winter.
However, a quick pop to the shops can give you the break you need. I’ve found that my Monday to Friday school run has meant I have to get out of the house and by choosing to walk I’m exercising as well (we live at the top of a big hill).
- No Workplace perks
You may be giving up a Friday drinks trolley, free tea and coffee or even free food by working from home. The soaring summer temperatures this year have certainly made me miss the air conditioning of my previous office (and I never thought I’d say that).
Should I work at home?
For me, working from home is great. The flexibility it gives me far outweighs the lack of free tea and the odd reminder to people that I am actually working.
If I want a takeaway coffee then I can still go and get one, I just don’t have the temptation of walking past it every day.The workplace is changing so it’s not just the self-employed who are working from home. Lots of businesses are open to staff working from home if the job allows.
Don’t forget to claim expenses
If you already work from home and want to know more about what you can claim for, just give us a call. You can read about how you can get a full year’s tax relief at £6 a week even if you work from home for just one day here.
Here is a link to the portal at HMRC where you can enter the claim.
About Liz Cordell
I’m an experienced copywriter, with a great attention to detail. Having previously held positions at a global publisher, a top 100 law firm and a Big Four professional services firm, I now work with clients across a range of industries. Whether it’s new content for a website or creating interesting blogs for my clients, I can create engaging copy that doesn’t take a lifetime to read.