Thursday 26 May 2016

Working at home vs working in an office

When Furniture At Work recently got in touch with me to hear my thoughts about the workplace and office life for an eBook they are creating about office culture and workplace well being I started thinking about how working from home compares to working in an office at a workplace.

Over the years I have had many jobs and worked in various workplace settings. I have worked in a number of offices, some small with less than a handful of colleagues and others large office workplaces with masses of colleagues. Thanks to the digital and modern world we live in which allows the freedom to work from anywhere, I have also experienced working from home.

As I have worked in a number of offices of varying sizes and constitutions I can say that the ease, enjoyability and workplace well-being of working in an office varies hugely down to the job role, the company and the facilities of the office. Likewise my experience of working from home, working around family life (or should I say squeezing work in around the hecticness of family life) would vary greatly compared to others who work from home especially people who have dedicated work-time at home rather than variable working hours around family life.

Whilst my work experience is varied and is sure to be hugely different to other people's experience of working in an office workplace or working from home here are a few of my observations of how working from home compares to working in an office -

Dress Code
When working in offices the dress code has commonly been formal or smart casual. The cost, time and upkeep of making sure outfits fit the business dress code can be expensive and time consuming.

Whilst I make an effort with my clothes and get dressed for the day which in the week always starts with the school run (no PJ's at the school yard here), when working from home it doesn't matter what I am wearing and I can be very casual and comfortable with my clothes – plus nobody sees or cares about any mucky fingerprint marks the kids get on me throughout the day!

When I've previously worked in offices the hours have often be set, usually 9-5 with the odd bit of overtime. Those hours have been great as I have the rest of the time free and to call my own to socialise, and the benefit of set working hours is that when the end of the day comes the work can end and not affect my time. Now that I am a parent whilst working set hours is good for family life stability as those hours would clash with my partner's work childcare would be needed for the children if I returned to a office workplace environment with set 9-5 hours.

For me personally the hours when working from home are very varied and fit around family life with no two days being the same. Whilst working from home is great as it fits around family life and enables me to be at home with the kids and spend all day with them and not miss out on activities, days out, and school events it does mean that between the kids and squeezing in my work I often find my day full and not much time left for 'me' time. I catch the odd moment here and there throughout the day to catch up on work and answer emails (thanks smartphone for helping me do so anywhere and everywhere) and then often spend the evenings working once the kids are in bed.

One of the things I love about working in an office workplace is the camaraderie. Colleagues often become friends and friendly chats are enjoyed and exchanged during the working day. Another bonus of having colleagues around you is the help and support you which is welcome when a tricky work task is hard to accomplish alone.

When working at home the only 'work-related' contact I have is through emails, social media and very rare phone calls. My company in the day is the kids – which whilst a joy to be around can be a distraction when trying to work (either wanting something or being too damn irresistible to not want to give my whole attention to) and then in the evening it is just 'me, myself and I' alone.

The usual set up in a workplace office has been a desk, chair and varying levels of tech such as PC, printer etc. The quality and comfort of the desks and chairs I have worked at in various offices has been very varied depending on the company and their set-up. Of all the offices I have worked at the ones that have high quality and ergonomic chairs have been most appreciated by me as being comfortable whilst working long hours at a desk makes things a lot easier and makes for a happier worker. To make my workplace environment more appealing and relaxing I have always found a few home comforts and keepsakes such as a photograph of loved ones helpful.

Whilst I have a small office space at home and usually work in that same space, I must admit I have not put much effort into making the space especially comfortable or solely dedicated to work. Also whilst I have my small work space I find that thanks to the relaxed atmosphere of being at home and the flexibility that a laptop and smartphone provides that I tend to 'work' all over the house. I have to be strict with myself to not get distracted by jobs around the house and home life which can dent my productivity.

Like all jobs and workplace environments there are pros and cons to working both in an office and from home. For now working from home suits me and my family life. Whilst I enjoy working from home I have also enjoyed working in an office previously. I don't think one is better than the other, whether you work from home or in an office (or somewhere else) I believe the best workplaces to work in are ones that promote worker well-being and happiness and are well equipped with suitable facilities and equipment for the job role.

Have you worked from home and worked in an office? How do you find they compare?

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