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Ask Mr. Dad: Pros and cons of working at home

Armin Brott, Tribune News Service on

Published in Family Living

Dear Mr. Dad: I'm a new father and my company recently offered me the option working from home a few days a week. That sounds pretty great to me, but I'm curious about the positives and negatives.

A: As someone who's worked from home for more than 20 years, I can definitely see the attraction: You get to work at your own pace without people standing over your shoulder, you reduce your commuting expenses and dry cleaning costs, you have a lot more time with the family, and you get to work in your PJs. Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Maybe yes, maybe no.

Let's start with some of the advantages.

-- Extra time. Nationwide, the average commute is 30 minutes each way. But in major metro areas, hourlong commutes are common. Add in the time it takes you to get ready in the morning and unwind when you get home, and you can see that telecommuting could easily give you an extra hour or two with your family every day.

-- Flexibility. Depending on the particulars of your job, you may be able to take off in the middle of the day to run errands, start earlier, work later, and so on.

-- Extra money. You'll spend less on gas, tolls, parking, subway fare, lunches, and so on.

-- Focus and productivity. People won't be dropping into your office to chat or get you to buy Girl Scout cookies, and you'll avoid unnecessary phone calls and other distractions. That will enable to you to get more work done. A variety of studies have found that employees who work at home are 13 percent to 25 percent more productive than those who work in the office.

-- Health and Morale. People who have control over their workplace tend to be less stressed, which makes them physically and mentally healthier.

Now for the disadvantages (some of which are related to the advantages above)

-- Work-Family Balance. The reason why remote workers are more productive is that they typically work longer hours (a study at the University of Texas estimates that telecommuters put in 5-7 hours per week more than office workers). Working from home, you may be tempted to check your email a few times after dinner and before bed, make a few extra calls over lunch, etc. This will be an especially big problem if you're a workaholic.

-- Creativity. It's a lot harder to knock around ideas and brainstorm with other humans when you're not there.

-- Isolation. Working alone, even if you have regular email, text, and other contact with your team, can be isolating. That can lead to depression and other mental health issues, which may affect your work.

-- Visibility. Working from home, your contribution to the company might be less visible, and you could find yourself less connected with your co-workers. There's a lot that goes on at lunch besides eating. It's where relationships are forged, office politics are discussed, and important rumors are shared.

-- Unreasonable expectations. Trying to get any serious work done while there's a child in the house is going to be very, very difficult. Babies have a knack for demanding attention right in the middle of important conference calls.

Bottom line, don't let yourself be a stranger to the gang at the office. Stop by when the regional manager's in town. If a group's getting together for someone's birthday, be sure to make it. After all, you deserve a chance to catch up on what's happening at the office and enjoy a little corporate camaraderie. And don't forget to bring the baby pictures.

(Read Armin Brott's blog at www.DadSoup.com, follow him on Twitter, @mrdad, or send email to armin@mrdad.com.)

(c)2017 Armin Brott

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 

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