The Pros and Cons of Working at Home


Yahoo’s recent stand on their Work-At-Home policy has fired up some mighty heated debates across the globe.  As the discussion on the Pro’s and Con’s of this edict continue, I feel compelled to weigh in.  Working at home isn’t for everyone, but for those of us that it works for (and there are  A LOT of us) it really works!

Our company (PBE) has been and will probably always be a 100% virtual company with our headquarters based in the San Francisco Bay Area and presence across the country. I myself reside in Brooklyn, New York.   As ergonomists and wellness consultants, our work takes place either at the client site, or at home, a cafe, an airplane and any number of “work-anywhere” locations.  And whether it is a result of a company offering flexible work options (also known as Work-Anywhere programs) or someone being a solo-preneur, I’ve learned over the years is that there is a huge number of us out there working this way and thriving!  So let’s take a look at the pro’s and cons of flexible work options including working at home.

Work at Home – Pro’s  

  • Increased Productivity: Recent studies show a 13 – 50% increase of productivity among home workers.  This is largely due to a quiet environment with less distractions and interruptions by co-workers, less sick days called in and the satisfaction of having autonomy over the work day.
  • Attracting a Wider Pool of Talent: Having done scores of “remote” ergonomic evaluations leveraging technologies like Skype and we have gotten to speak with people who work for companies headquartered far from home.  The sense of gratitude and loyalty is undeniable and in most cases, we have to encourage more breaks and setting firm work boundaries for our remote clients since they tend to work longer hours then their colleagues who are working in the office.  (BTW, the picture to the right is a gentleman who works in CA for a company located on the East Coast)
  • Job Satisfaction & Retention: USA Today said it best – “A big reason employers like telecommuting is that employees do, which makes it easier to keep the workers and attract new ones. Gajendran notes that a decade ago, only one in 10 places listed onFortune‘s “Best Companies to Work for” offered or allowed telecommuting. Today, 80% do.Even people who don’t telecommute like the idea. According to the Harris survey, more than four in five workers call working from home a “significant job perk” that enables employees to balance work and family needs. Almost two-thirds say it increases worker productivity. In a survey last fall of U.S. workers commissioned by Regus, a provider of remote work space, 88% said managers need to be more accepting of flexible working arrangements, such as telecommuting.
  • Smaller Carbon Footprint: Think about it.  When someone works from home, they are spared the cost and time of commuting which is good for them, their company and the planet.  When a company can save on real estate overhead and associated costs, their bottom line can improve dramatically.  (For an interesting research-based list of pro’s and cons, click here.)  

Work at Home – Cons

  • Loss of Face to Face Collaboration: Yahoo’s CEO, Marissa Mayer does have a very valid point when she points to the lack of face to face employee collaboration.  There is a group dynamic at play which can be lost due to team members working remotely.  (Google + and other group meeting websites are a must when telecommuting is at play)
  • Isolation: This is probably the biggest complaint among us home workers.  While most of us enjoy working this way, it is not for everyone.   In fact, when discussing the issue at Yahoo with my husband recently , I told him I’d quit in a heartbeat if I was working for Yahoo and he on the other hand said he applauded Ms. Mayer’s decision and that he himself could never work exclusively at home.
  • Poor Ergonomics and Work Set Ups: This is a bigger problem than you might think.  If you are a home worker and want to enjoy the benefits of home work without developing aches and pains, make sure to set your self up well.  This includes ergonomic basics such as:
  1. Setting up a designated work space:  Countertops, kitchen and coffee tables are convenient but often are ergo disasters! 
  2. Sitting in a comfortable chair: Your chair doesn’t have to be fancy, just one that offers you decent back support and allows you to be typing and mousing at the appropriate heights. 
  3. Making sure your keyboard and mouse are at the appropriate heights and distances This is simple.  Sit so that you are upright with your arms hanging straight.  Your ear, shoulder and elbow should be aligned, elbow bent at approximately 90 degrees (or a little more open than 90 degrees) and your wrists level.
  4. Placing your monitor at eye level: This is especially important if you are using a laptop.   Invest in a laptop riser and external keyboard and mouse.   Your back and neck will thank you!

Do you work at home?  What works?  What doesn’t?  Please leave a comment and let us know your situation.

Until the next time, be happy, energized and productive!

As always, here’s to your health!

Vivienne Fleischer-Miller, PBE Co-Founder



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