The modern working environment is evolving. Statistics show that 30 million Americans now work from home office, according to a study cited by Forbes. As more business adopt telecommuting, you might be wondering if you should start working from a home office.
While home offices offer several advantages over commercial offices, there are also some disadvantages with which you should be aware. Below are some of the most notable pros and cons of working from a home office.
Pro: It’s Cheaper Than Renting or Leasing a Commercial Office
You won’t have rent or lease payments to make when working from a home office. Commercial office space isn’t cheap. Statistics show that businesses spend anywhere from $61 to $595 per square foot per year to rent or lease a commercial office, which doesn’t even account for utilities and other related services.
For a relatively small 1,000-square-foot office, businesses can expect to pay $61,000 to $595,000 per year. By working from a home office, you can avoid these payments altogether, allowing you to put that money towards improving and growing your business.
Con: You’ll Encounter More Distractions
Distractions are a common problem when working from a home office. Without defined boundaries separating your personal life from your professional life, you may find yourself getting distracted more frequently.
If you’re planning to work from home, you must learn to block out distractions while focusing strictly on work. Allowing even minor distractions to interrupt your workday could have disastrous consequences on your productivity and, therefore, the livelihood of your business.
Some of the most common distractions encountered by home office workers include:
- TVs and radios
- Family members and roommates
- Household chores
- Personal calls and text messages
- Social media
- Browsing the internet for personal reasons
Pro: There’s No Commute
There’s no commute when working from a home office. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average U.S worker spends an average of 52 minutes per day driving to and from work. Over the course of a year, that calculates to over 200 hours of sitting in traffic. Rather than spending that time behind the wheel, you can use it to work from home.
Not only is commuting time-consuming; it’s expensive. A report published by the American Automobile Association (AAA) found that Americans spend an average of 60.8 cents per mile to drive their vehicle – a figure that accounts for ownership as well as operational expenses. Based on that number, a 32-mile daily commute may cost you over $19. Of course, you won’t have a daily commute if you work from home. When you wake up in the morning, you can walk across your house to begin working in your office, saving you both time and money.
Con: You May Feel Isolated
While this doesn’t happen to everyone, many people feel isolated or lonely when working from home. A study conducted by Buffer found that loneliness was the biggest challenge encountered by at-home workers. After surveying over 1,900 telecommuting workers, Buffer discovered that 21% of respondents cited loneliness as the biggest hurdle of working from home.
If you work in a commercial office, you’ll probably encounter other workers – either within your business or from other nearby businesses – daily. Transitioning to a home office, however, will reduce the frequency at which you see and engage with other workers, which could lead to a feeling of isolation or loneliness.
To overcome this challenge, arrange in-person meetings with other workers. Instead of spending your entire workday in your home office, for example, schedule a 30- or 45-minute meeting with other workers at a nearby café. Social interactions such as this will improve your mood while protecting against feelings of isolation and loneliness in the process.
Pro: You Can Claim It as a Tax Deduction
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will allow you to claim your home office as a tax deduction if it meets the following two criteria:
1) Your home office must be used regularly and exclusively for work. In other words, you can’t use your home office for other purposes, such as a gym or guest bedroom. It must be used strictly for work.
2) Your home office must be the primary or principle place of your business. You can still perform other work-related tasks outside your home, such as meeting with customers or clients, but most your business’s work must be performed from your home office to claim it as a tax deduction.
Assuming your home office meets these criteria, you can claim it as a tax deduction. Because of the ever-changing nature of tax laws, it’s recommended that you consult with a tax professional for more information on how to claim a home office on your taxes. In 2014, though, the IRS introduced a simplified method for calculating this deduction.
Under this new method, you can calculate your deduction by taking the total number of square feet used for your office – up to 300 square feet – and multiplying it by five. If you have a 200-square-foot office, for instance, your tax deduction will be $1,000 (200 times five is 1,000). If you have a 300-square-foot office, your tax deduction will be $1,500 (300 times five is 1,500).
You can still claim your home office using the traditional method, which involves calculating the size of your home office relative to the rest of your home and weighing it against the annual cost of your home, but the simplified method is far easier.
Con: Increased Difficulty of Teamwork and Collaboration
Another challenge you may encounter when working from a home office is teamwork and collaboration. In a typical workday, you’ll probably work entirely alone. The only communication you’ll have with other workers is over the internet or by phone. Unfortunately, this makes it difficult to collaborate on projects and work together as a team.
In the same Buffer report cited earlier, researchers found that collaboration was a top challenge for telecommuting workers. Without face-to-face interactions, telecommuting workers struggle to collaborate with other workers.
The good news is that software is available to improve your teamwork and collaboration skills when working from home, some of which include Trello, Microsoft Project, Basecamp, Slack, Google Drive, Samepage and Confluence. It won’t offer the same experience as face-to-face interactions, but the right software can still streamline and improve the way in which you collaborate with other workers remotely.
Pro: It’s Good for Your Health
Working from a home office may have a positive impact on your health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently revealed that the average office worker consumes almost 1,300 calories per week in office snacks, 70% of which are complimentary snacks offered by employers. You won’t have access to free snacks when working from a home office, but you’ll have the freedom to choose healthier foods rather than highly processed “empty-calorie” foods.
Because working from home eliminates the need for a daily commute, you’ll have more time to exercise. Before you start working, you can spend 10 to 20 minutes doing aerobics or lifting weights. Alternatively, you can exercise during your lunchbreak. Without a commute, you should be able to squeeze more exercise into your lifestyle, which will have a positive and wide-reaching affect on nearly every aspect of your health.
Con: You Might Be Less Productive
Research cited by The Atlantic found a direct correlation between the proximity of a business’s location to its workers and the productivity of those workers. Workers who were closer to the business’s location were more productive than their counterparts who were farther away from the business.
Some people assume they’ll be more productive when working from a home office than a commercial office, but this isn’t always the case. If you lack the necessary self-motivation to force yourself to work, you could be less productive. Some at-work homes are guilty of hit the “snooze” button on their alarm in the morning, believing there’s nothing wrong with sleeping in a little later since they don’t have anyone looking over their shoulder. But it’s bad habits such as this that can hurt your productivity when working from a home office.
Pro: It’s Easier (and Cheaper) to Furnish
No office is complete without furniture. Home offices, however, are easier and cheaper to furnish than their commercial counterparts. Assuming you are the only person who works at your home office, you’ll only need to create a single workstation, which may consist of a high-quality office chair, computer desk and file cabinet. And the best part? You are in charge of the design!
If you run your business from a commercial office, on the other hand, you’ll have to create a workstation for each worker. If you have 10 workers, you’ll need to create 10 individual workstations. As you can expect, it’s more laborious and expensive to furnish a commercial office than a home office.
Con: You’ll Have Less Space in Which to Work
Home offices are usually smaller than commercial offices. Statistics show that commercial offices in the United States are about 151 square feet per worker. If your business has 10 workers, that’s 1,151 square feet of commercial office space. Home offices are generally smaller, measuring about 150 to 300 square feet on average.
With less space, you won’t be able to store as much inventory or equipment in your home office. Depending on the type of business you run, this could hinder its ability to grow and expand. Not all businesses require a large amount of space to operate. However, if your business does, you may want to stick with a commercial office.
Pro: You’ll Be Able to Spend More Time With Your Family
Working from a home office will allow you to spend more time with your family. According to one report, the average U.S. family spend just 37 minutes together per day. Some families spend even less time together.
It’s difficult to spend time with your family when commuting takes up such a large portion of your day. Working from a home office eliminates your daily commute, however, allowing you to spend time with your family.
Con: You Won’t Have a Professional Business Address
A disadvantage of working from a home office that’s often overlooked is the lack of a professional business address. When you work from a commercial office, you can use its address for your business’s official address. On your business’s social media profiles, business cards, stationery, and other materials, you can include the address of your commercial office.
You won’t have the luxury of using a professional business address when working from a home office – not without a little extra work, at least. If a customer or client asks for your business’s address, you’ll have to provide him or her with your home address, which doesn’t look very professional.
The only solution is to rent a PO Box from your local post office or sign up for a virtual mailbox. The former will provide you with a PO Box address, whereas the latter will provide you with a street address from which you can receive mail. If you use a virtual mailbox, all mail sent to the address will be scanned and stored in an online account. Just log in to your account, at which point you can read digital copies of your business’s mail.
Pro: It Offers a Flexible Working Schedule
You’ll have greater freedom to set your own schedule when working from a home office. Commercial offices often follow a traditional 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. schedule, with workers clocking in and out around these times each day. Although there’s nothing wrong with following a strict schedule, many people prefer working at different hours of the day.
When you work from home, you can choose when your workday starts and when it ends. If you’re a morning person who prefers working at 5:00 a.m., you can set your alarm to start working at this time. If you prefer working later in the day, that’s okay too. Just remember to plan your schedule in advance so that you can finish all your tasks while maintaining a high level of productivity.
President at Office Chairs Unlimited – I have been in the furniture industry for over 20 years, and I’m an expert (just ask me) on all things furniture. I know a thing or two because I’ve seen a thing or two.