Online and virtual conferencing has been around in one form or another for a long time, but previously had been used when meeting face-to-face wasn’t possible. But in recent years apps and software such as Zoom, and Microsoft Teams,  have proliferated and become something everyone was familiar with.

The COVID-19 pandemic irrevocably changed the world of work. Lockdown forced people to work and socialise from home and this helped online conferencing go from something which was niche to become the norm. As remote working took off, people questioned all the things they didn’t like about work. 

Was the commute really necessary? Was the distraction of co-workers? And were all the meetings the boss called really worth the time? People could spend more time with their family and enjoy their creature comforts. But as time went on, those benefits felt to some like curses. 

Perhaps the commute gave workers some precious “me” time between the demands of work and home. Maybe those co-workers were friends. And did the boss just move the pointless meetings from the real work and into the virtual?

The change in working from home

It’s fair to say that people’s views of working from home have shifted. More people are working from home, 38% of working adults reporting they worked from home some of the time, with just 12% reporting the same prior to the pandemic.1 It’s not just in the UK this change has been seen, throughout the world the needle on working from home has shifted. 

For example, a YouGov survey of workers in fourteen countries has found a clear preference for working from home. US workers lead the way with 46% working from home, at least for some of the time during the pandemic, and 66% expressing a desire to do so in the future. British workers were fifth, with 35% having worked some time at home during the pandemic, and 56% wanting to do so going forward.2

Employers have seen the trend and are increasingly tailoring their workplaces to remote working. Information from the 2021 Census found that 23% of businesses said they would continue with increased remote working, while the number of job adverts with “home working” in the title has grown faster than those without.1 

But, is working from home the liberation from the grindstone people imagine it to be? Or does it have drawbacks that outweigh any benefits? To find out, let’s tot up the pros and cons of working from home for employees.

Pros of working from home as an employee

Less Commuting

This is obvious. A survey by Project Solar3 found that of those who commute, 75% commuted less than 10 miles to work, while 20% commuted between 5 and 10 miles. As with other surveys, the findings show commuting has declined, with just 6% working from home before the pandemic and 15% now. Long commutes have declined, too. 

Just under 3% commuted over 40 miles to work, which is down from 4% prior to the pandemic. Commuting costs money in train fares, bus tickets, or petrol, and so any reduction is good for your wallet. This is one of the biggest advantages of remote working for employees, as they get to keep more of their pay packet. 

Improves work-life balance

The other downside of commuting is it takes time away from the family. Not only do you have to factor in the time you are at work, but the commuting time as well. So, if you’re commuting an hour each way for a nine-to-five job, it becomes an eight-to-six one. But this is in fact an understatement. 

Because you need to consider traffic, the possibility your train will run late, and so leave extra time on top. This, of course, is time you might otherwise have spent with your family. Another one of the big advantages of remote working is this time becomes yours once again, and you can start work at the time you’re scheduled to.

Less burnout

Another advantage of working from home, and one very much linked to the two previous examples, is less burnout. One study, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, surveyed over 3000 office workers and found remote working associated with a reduction of psychological and physical stress responses.4 

Long commutes and a poor work-life balance are common reasons people give for wanting to escape the rat run. Well, now they can and those who weren’t enjoying how their lives were structured can change it and try something new.

Choose where to work

Working from home doesn’t actually have to mean working from your home. You might choose to work from the library or a coffee shop. When the weather’s nice, you might even choose to work in the park, or even on the beach. Anywhere you can get a data signal, you can work. 

This gives you immense freedom in choosing your scenery. This is a great advantage to remote working and one those tied to an office might well be envious of. If you do work from home, even a small home office can work just as well if it’s designed effectively and offers you a space to work away from your home life.

You can look how you want

Depending on the job, of course, an advantage of working from home is that you don’t have to scrub up as well. Having a bad hair day? Well, apart from the occasional Zoom meeting, there’s no one there to see. Even when you have to put in an appearance, you can make the time to ensure your top half looks presentable but neglect the rest. Plenty of people have worn a shirt and tie but remained in their pants.


Those critical of working from home sometimes characterise those who do so as lazy.5 A landmark survey by BUPA found those working from home ate more and exercised less. But does this tell the whole story? Other studies have shown the positives of home working. 

A Chinese study6 of 16,000 call centre employees found that home working led to a 13% increase in productivity, of which about 9% was from working more minutes per shift (fewer breaks and sick days) and 4% from more calls per minute (attributed to a quieter working environment). So, this advantage of working from home benefited not just the employees, but their employers, too.

Work from where you want

Another great benefit of remote working is the ability to work from anywhere in the world. It used to be the case that employees were limited to working within commuting distance of their homes. The only option if they wanted a job further away was to relocate. 

Employers, too, were limited to a pool of applicants nearby. If they wanted someone who lived further away, they had to tempt them with a costly relocation package. But those days are gone and as with productivity, the change benefits both parties.

Cons of working from home as an employee

Less “Me” time

Is the commute really so bad? Whether it’s reading a book on the train, listening to music through headphones or the car stereo, or just taking time to decompress, travelling to work and back can be a good buffer between the two. Yes, sometimes it might be unpleasant – no one likes a packed train carriage, or a slowly crawling traffic jam, but it definitely has its benefits.

A disadvantage of working from home is that there’s no period in-between, there’s no gap, one moment you’re in “home-mode” and the next you’re supposed to be at work.

No turning off

Another disadvantage of working from home is you might find you can never switch off. When working from an office, leaving for the day is a physical and psychological signal that work is over. Yes, you can read your work emails on your phone, and bosses and clients can, and do, try to push boundaries. But there’s still an official end to the workday. Less so when your office is your home.

Those working remotely often find the workday bleeds into their leisure time. A survey by recruitment consultants HAYS, of over 8000 professionals working remotely, found 52% reported they worked longer hours than when they worked in the office7.  Also, if you work all day in your living room or bedroom, you might associate it with work and so find it hard to wind down as you once did.


Those work colleagues whose chatter you found annoying you might actually miss. The term ‘water-cooler moments’ was coined for a reason. Humans are social animals and people enjoy those conversations about what they saw on television and what they’re doing at the weekend. They bond over the finales of popular TV shows or who won last night’s football game.

A disadvantage of remote working is you might find yourself missing this interaction. Things like remote team building and regular social meet-ups can help to alleviate these feelings, but it can’t always make up for interacting with colleagues on a daily basis.

Feeling cooped up

Working from home sounds great, but there’s a danger you end up feeling like a prisoner, staring at the same four walls. If you get your groceries and takeaways delivered, the risk is even worse. What’s your motivation for ever leaving the house? Find one or go stir-crazy.  

The effect on your relationships

Do you really want to see more of your partner? A disadvantage of remote working, especially if your partner does likewise, is you spend too much time with them and find things they do irritating. This might cause changes to your relationship. A study published in Frontiers of Psychology found a mixed response to working from home, with some reporting that their family relationships improved, but others reporting it caused strain.4

This is compounded if you’re also feeling lonely or cooped up. Commuting to work means you don’t get that and see different people in the day than those you love. In effect, you get mini breaks from your family, and we all know that absence makes the heart grow fonder. 

Non-verbal communication

We all know the famous adage that 90% of communication is nonverbal.8 How true that is, is open to question. But it’s undoubtedly the case that we take cues from body language. And anyone who’s attended a virtual conference knows there’s something lacking in interactions over zoom. 

Apart from the fact that people naturally enjoy meeting face to face, it’s also the case that a disadvantage of remote working is misunderstandings can more easily happen. Understanding the tone of an email is a classic example. Sometimes it’s hard to glean from text alone whether something was said in jest. 



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