The Pros and Cons of Telecommuting

Telecommuting: Friend or Foe?

With the Covid -19 virus still stalking the land, there has been a huge shut-down of many sectors of the American economy, but this story has also been repeated in other corners of the world over the last few months. The quarantining associated with this virus has meant that people have been expected to stay in their homes as much as possible and to only venture out for essential functions like buying groceries. So, the upshot of this “Shelter in Place” trend has been the forced closing of countless schools and businesses. 

Some people have been relatively lucky over the last few months because they have clung to their jobs like barnacles cling to rocks, and for those who have been able, holding on to employment has been achieved for varying reasons. For example, some people have managed to keep their jobs because they perform services that have been officially considered essential — such as truck drivers or firefighters — and others have managed to hold on to their jobs by going remote. 

Concerning keeping jobs by going remote, an April 3, report from Gallup news notes that 67% of all Americans have reported working from home since the beginning of the Covid issue which began in March of 2020. By contrast, when the quarantining policy known as “Shelter-in-Place” first began, only 3.5% of the American workforce fulfilled their job assignments from home more than half of the time. Interestingly, 60% of the participants in the same Gallup poll mentioned earlier said that they would prefer to work from home in the future, so work-from-home options are going to be a hot trend in the coming years. 

According to an April 2020 report issued by Global Workplace Analytics, around 56% of all American jobs could be converted into partially remote working arrangements at the present moment. Moreover, Global Workplace Analytics estimates that around 30% of American adults will be working from home more than half of the time after the year 2021 has passed into the history books. The point is, working from home is already a big social trend, and the practice of working from a home office, or a home workshop, looks like it will continue to gain steam in the coming years. Not only does remote work look to be a growing trend, it seems that this way of doing things is here to stay.   

So, it is safe to say that working from home is already a big thing for those who still have jobs at this time, and the practice of working from home looks to only become more common in To Marrow Land. Now that we have painted an overview of the work-from-home phenomenon, the next step is to take a brief walk through the benefits and disadvantage of working from home. 

First, let us take a look at the benefits of working from home. 

The Pros:

 Not Commuting

A definite perk to working at home is being able to skip annoying commutes. Most folks would agree, not having to brave rush hour traffic early in the morning is a real plus for many reasons. One of the reasons that is it nice to skip any commuting at all includes not having to take time out of a day to drive, walk, bicycle, or ride some type of public transportation to the workplace. Indeed, for many people, commuting takes-up a troubling portion of their days, which means that they are burning too many of their waking hours driving a car to work and back or sitting on a bus or train. 

Examples of extreme commutes are not unusual; for example, there are people who live in the Sierra Nevada mountains and commute an hour and a half each way to work in the San Francisco Bay area, which translates to three hours spent commuting each work day. Likewise, there are people who live in Pennsylvania and Connecticut that commute to work in New York City. 

Another nice reason to skip the commute to work is because it can be expensive to buy the fuel needed make long commutes. Besides just wracking-up high fuel bills from commuting, people who put a lot of miles on their cars commuting to work are also hit with higher insurance premiums. New cars also depreciate in value much faster when they are driven a lot. Let us also remember that putting heavy commuting mileage on a car additionally increases maintenance and repair costs; for example, most oil change places typically recommend changing the oil every 7,000 miles, but putting heavy commuting miles on a car leads to shorter times between oil changes. Besides just shortening the time between oil changes, logging heavy commuting mileage also necessitates more frequent tire changes, and a list of other routine maintenance has to be performed more often when a car is driven heavily. 

Another factor to consider is safety. True, driving more miles does increase the risk of traffic accidents, but for many people, the issue staying safe while they commute to work is not trivial, nor is it related to car accidents. An example of safety issues arising from work commutes can be observed by examining the urban train system in the San Francisco Bar area, which is commonly called the BART. Many people who live in the San Francisco Bay Area ride the BART trains to work and back, but there is a troubling issue with muggings and assaults befalling passengers who ride these trains. 

It turns out that the BART trains are far from unique when looking at crime patterns, and New York City’s subway system is also troubled with violence on trains and in the stations. In fact, the New York Daily News published an April 19, 2020 article stating that there is an average of 180 violent crimes committed on subway trains each month in the greater New York City area.

Riding metropolitan area passenger busses is also a troubling safety hazard for many people, and riding metropolitan area busses is particularly unsafe for females and the elderly of either gender. Admittedly, not a whole lot of violence actually happens on metropolitan busses themselves; however, there is a troubling amount of violence that takes place at bus stops while people are either waiting for their busses or disembarking.

A 2018 study of crime patterns in Sweden which appeared on SpringerLink.com found that although actual violence on city busses themselves was rather low, bus stops tended to be really bad hot-spots for crimes of all types. Commuting to work by bus is also very dangerous for many people because they must catch their busses, or get off of their busses, when the sun it not shining and few other people are around. One reason criminals love doing their bad business at bus stops is because their victims are often alone, no bystanders are present, and the area is dark. Moreover, entirely too many bus routes pass through truly unsafe places. Likewise, some people must drive their cars through very unsafe neighborhoods to get to work and back, so experiencing violent crime while commuting to or from work is not just a problem for those who use public transportation. 

 No Restaurants or Take-Out Meals

Working in the home means that there is typically no need to eat at restaurants or to buy take-out meals, so dining-in will save money because eating at restaurants costs more on a meal-per-meal basis. Eating meals in-home is also healthier because meals made in restaurants as well as meals served in packages contain much more sodium than meals prepared from base ingredients. 

An article published by the American Heart Association on March 2, 2015 notes that all types of restaurants put too much sodium in their food, and Americans are getting the majority of their dietary sodium from meals at restaurants. Another factor to consider is caloric intake; a March 12, 2011 article published in the Toledo Blade discusses how restaurants tend to serve much larger proportions than people would eat if they were consuming home-cooked meals in their own residences. So, working from home and not commuting to work offers people the advantages of saving money by cooking themselves, plus eating meals cooked in their own kitchens promotes better health because these meals are typically smaller and contain less sodium.

  No Annoying Coworkers

Another advantage that comes with working at home is the ability to avoid having to deal with annoying coworkers. Just for reference, a December 9, 2019 article posted on TR Newswire that outlined workplace survey results showed that 57% of all people who quit their jobs do so because they dislike their bosses or supervisors, so difficulties with coworkers are a major source of workplace inefficiency. 

True, when people work from their homes they may still have to deal with the same people that they dislike so much in person; however, not having to be in continual direct contact with annoying and difficult coworkers certainly can make a typical working day a lot less stressful. So, let it be said that working from home offers the perk of having less contact with people who are difficult, and working from home also furnishes the possibility of only having to deal with annoying people through filtered and less personal mediums, like email. 

 Much More Options for Workstation Customization 

Working from home offers people the possibility of customizing their work spaces in ways that may not be practical nor permissible at a communal work location. Examples of work space customizations that would perhaps not be permitted at an office include things like hanging a swimsuit calendar on the wall, loudly playing polka music, burning incense, or filling a work space with old Star Wars memorabilia. Other examples of workspace customization that are just fine at home, yet bad in an office, include a person draping a big pet snake around their neck while letting their huge pet tarantula freely run around their desk. 

 No Dress Code

When a person works from home, as long as the work is getting done on time, and as long as things are getting done well enough, then nobody cares much about how they look. When telecommuting, a person will not have to be clean shaven if they are not interacting with other people in a visual manner. Besides just not shaving, people who work at home are free to wear whatever clothing, or lack of clothing, they want. Some workplaces have dress codes and grooming codes, and working from home can certainly negate these restrictions. An example of how working from home can negate any grooming standards or dress codes can be found by the watching the 1998 movie called Strangeland. In Strangeland, the character called Captain Howdy has a face that is totally covered in tattoos and piercings of all types, so his physical appearance is quite unfitting for polite society, yet he makes a good living working from home as a freelance software writer. 

The Cons:

 Troubling Amount of Distractions 

For many people, home is full of endless distractions like children, pets, neighbors coming by, the TV set blaring, and personal phone calls coming in, so it is always best to set aside a designated place within the home where work is done and distractions are deliberately kept at bay. Regardless of whether a person has set-up a designated work area within the home or not, working at home offers people a long list of potential distractions that can decrease work efficiency. 

 Less Motivation to Finish Jobs Quickly or to Stay on Task

One of the problems associated with working from home is having to work by yourself and not being able to receive consistent feedback or encouragement. For some people, not having any irritating coworkers, nor having to stomach a hovering boss is a blessing, and it is quite easy to see why this would be the case. On the flip side, not having other people around who are also working on the same projects can lead to a lowered sense of common purpose, and a solitary working arrangement can easily foster less motivation to complete projects at all — much less in a timely manner. 

So, working from home can be nice in many ways, but some people need to be part of a more connected and cohesive team in order to maintain a sense of common purpose and to preserve a sense of motivation. An article that discussed the benefits of working in groups who meet in in person was published on April 13, 2018 on Calendar.com. Calendar.com’s article discussed how being able to quickly offer mutual support amongst coworkers who are physically present together provides advantages over work groups that do things remotely. So, despite having its drawbacks, working in close physical proximity allows both peers and supervisors to more easily identify slacking motivation or loss of direction in themselves and others, and working togeter in close physical proximity also allows people to fix problems much faster. 

 Working from Home can be Socially Isolating

True, some people are natural introverts who thrive on working without immediate supervision or consistent social contact, but many people find working in isolation to be a real downer. Some animals are solitary by nature; for example, members of the cat family tend to be this way. On the other hand, animals like gorillas are very social, and for better or for worse, humans are social animals like gorillas. 

The effects of being alone for long periods of time are well documented from studies of prisoners who have been subjected to solitary confinement. However, an organization called The First to Help You have arisen as a place that offer emotional support to telecommute workers who are suffering from the same problems traditionally reserved for prisoners in solitary confinement. According to The First to Help You’s website, solitary workers are much more prone to sicknesses of all types, and HR Magazine published a survey of telecommuting workers, and a whopping 42% of the survey participants believed that their lone working habits aggravated depression, anxiety, and loneliness. 

No doubt, humans are basically social animals by nature, and many people naturally have social and out-going personalities; therefore, the basics of human nature cannot be overridden by a trend towards telecommuting work. Plus, the fact that so many people naturally have extroverted personalities means that working alone at home will make an awful lot of people feel quite lonely, isolated, and depressed. So, given the potentially isolating nature of working from home, it is safe to conclude that this employment arrangement is not for everyone. 

Admittedly, not everyone who works from home will suffer from crippling depression or anxiety; but let us face fact, working in isolation can certainly carry its share of health risks and social problems. Despite the risks associated with having a lack of human contact, working from home is not necessarily a huge problem for single people if they are willing to make a continued effort get out and interact with others on a regular basis, and if single telecommuting workers make non-stop efforts to maintain an active social life, then their working situation should not be too terrible. Additionally, people who are happily married, have children or relatives living with them, and keep lot of pets around their homes are considerably less likely to develop severe health or social problems when they work alone, so working as a telecommuter is not going to be a huge problem for everyone.  

 Mentoring and Managing is More Difficult for Experienced Workers

The same 2018 article from Calendar.com that was mentioned previously also notes that mentoring is much more effective when people are working in physical proximity, and this is the case because mentors can offer feedback and advice quickly when they are working with their underlings in person. Additionally, mentors and managers can spot problems with their learners and subordinates much faster when they are working in close physical proximity, and workplace leaders can work to remedy issues much more rapidly when they are not working remotely. 

Conclusion:

Judging by the list of pros and cons, it seems like the pros associated with telecommuting work basically outweigh the cons. Regardless of any one person’s opinion about working from home, it seems like this phenomenon is looking to be an unstoppable social trend in the coming years. One reason that working from home looks to be a more popular trend in the coming years is because it spares companies the need to own, rent, or lease physical property. Maintaining physical building location also cost companies money because it requires paying for routine maintenance like painting, and companies must also continually pay for utilities like electricity and water. So, aside from whatever advantages working from home might offer workers, this trend looks to grow in popularity because having a large number of workers doing their jobs from the comfort of their own homes has the potential to increase a company’s profitability.