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.

Related Posts

In the third instalment of her blog - you can catch the first, on maintaining creativity here  and ...
January 22, 2021
The different “kinds” of remote: finding the right fit your business Covid-19 has turned our world ...
January 14, 2021
Remote Work Predictions for 2021 As 2020 draws to a close (and who isn't pleased to see the back of ...
December 17, 2020
Newsletter Signup

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter below and never miss the latest product or an exclusive offer.

White Paper DownloadRemote Work: The CEO Perspective

Read invaluable insights into how businesses are managing the sudden increase in remote working, catalysed by Covid19