Do remote workers have a better – or worse – work life balance than in-office employees?
A bit like last week’s remote worker productivity debate, the question of whether work-life balance is better achieved by office based or remote workers doesn’t have a simple answer – with studies, anecdotal evidence and war stories on both sides of the fence.
On the positive side for remote worker’s work-life balance, studies have suggested that they regain anywhere between 8 to 30 hours per year, due to reductions in – or total removal of – their commuting time, combined with a reduction in attending meetings. However, the lack of a division between home and work is, for many, a slippery slope that sees them checking emails into the small hours and adopting an “always on” approach. Let’s take a quick look at the pros and cons of remote working work-life balance:
Advantages to working from home, in terms of work-life balance include:
- More time as a result of not commuting
- Cost savings and “Green” benefits due to not commuting – and also, likely, from spending less eating-out through the day
- Potential for more flexible hours, which might make childcare and other commitments easier to manage
- Potential that the buy-back of commute time enables improved health and fitness/time for own-pursuits
- Less interruptions and therefore increased output from colleagues “dropping by”
- Ability to have more freedom on where to live, if not needing to be in proximity to a fixed location. In turn, potential improvements to health if moving out of a city and into a greener, less polluted environment
- Wider talent pool for employers, if not confined to candidates within a specific location
- Wider career opportunities for employees, if not restricted to “local” jobs
Disadvantages to working from home, in terms of work-life balance include:
- The inability to “switch off” because there’s no division between work and home
- Similarly, the lack of “decompression” time created by a commute, which helps to create that work-home division
- Challenges in terms of having sufficient space for a dedicated workstation
- Potential for injury caused by lack of appropriate equipment/workspace set-up
- Isolation and loneliness – and associated reduction in motivation and productivity as a result
- Lack of authentic opportunities for innovation and brainstorming – and less opportunity for the incidental conversations that can lead to new ideas
- Potential to be more sedentary if no longer walking to/from transport hubs/office
- More competition in the job-market and the risk of a “race to the bottom” with direct competition for jobs, from markets that have different socio-economic environments therefore increasing the potential for employees to undercut each other
There’s no simple answer. Some companies choose to offer a wide range of employee benefits – whether employees are remote or in-office – that help employees create balance; from discounted gym memberships to time and funds allocated to in-community voluntary projects. One thing is for sure – creating an effective work-life balance is a vital component of successful remote work and businesses need to prioritize creating a culture in which work-life balance is valued and set specific expectations that help employees to manage this balance. There should be dedicated detail around how this is achieved and maintained within a company’s remote work policy, and it should be weaved into the company’s values, a self-perpetuating part of the company culture.
We’ll be talking more about this in our upcoming Expert Interview Series – subscribe to our newsletter to be alerted to new events.