The Pros and Cons of Working at Home
Kiplinger columnists Cameron Huddleston and Kim Lankford share why working from home works for them.
The news that Yahoo will require all of its employees with work-from-home arrangements to work in the company's offices starting in June has sparked a debate about telecommuting. The pros and cons of working at home are being hashed out on air, online and in print by the media. So I thought I would weigh in on the subject, given that I have worked from home for nearly ten years. And I asked my colleague Kim Lankford, who has worked from home for the past 14 years writing for Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine and Kiplinger.com, for her thoughts on the matter.
For the most part, we both really like working from home. Kim could actually work in the office if she wanted to because she lives in Washington, D.C., where Kiplinger's is headquartered. I, however, live hundreds of miles away and have been grateful that Kiplinger's has allowed me to work for the Web site despite my distance. But if I were to move back to Washington, D.C., I would probably continue to work from home as Kim does. Here's why:
The pros of working from home
It's efficient. Kim and I both feel that we can get more done at home. We work in a deadline-driven field, so we can't take naps or watch crazy cat videos on YouTube -- as it might be assumed that some telecommuters do. Kim starts working shortly after she wakes up at 5:15 a.m. and can put in three hours before she takes her son to school. Then she has several more hours before he's home in the evening. If necessary, she can work into the night -- without having to stay late at an office and worrying about who will be able to be at home to watch her son.
I start working as soon as my husband takes my kids to school. While my colleagues are commuting to work and sitting in traffic, I'm already at my computer. I'm not distracted by chatter in a neighboring cubicle or pulled into conversations about "Downton Abbey" or the previous night's game.
It saves money. When you work at home, you save on the cost of gas or public transportation. You don't need to spend money on work attire. You can brew your own coffee for a lot less than buying a daily cup at a coffee shop. And you can save money by eating at home rather than at a restaurant or company cafeteria.
It offers flexibility. Kim notes that if her son has a day off school, she doesn't have to take a day off work. She can wake up earlier (I couldn't imagine waking up earlierthan 5:15, though), put in a few hours before he wakes up, then hang out with him until her husband gets home, at which point she can work some more.
It helps the work/life balance. Before my two oldest children were in school, they stayed at home with babysitters while I worked. The babysitters did a good job of keepingthem out of my office while I was writing, but I got to sit down with them at lunch every day. I also can occasionally tackle a household chore or two during the day -- when I need a quick break or am waiting for my column to be edited. This allows me to actually spend time with my kids when they get home from school. If I worked all day in the office, I would have to sacrifice time with my kids in the afternoons or time with my husband at night to handle necessary household tasks.
Working from home isn't the perfect set-up, though. It does have its drawbacks.
The cons of working from home
The lines between work and home get blurred. Yes, I did say working from home has helped me find more time for my family. However, as Kiplinger.com Managing Editor Robert Long accurately described his brief stint working at home: You never get away from the office, and you never get away from home. When your office is your home, you can find yourself working at all hours of the day rather than taking a little down time. And when your home is your office, you don't get out of the home much.
It can be lonely. So maybe my comment about being interrupted in an office with chatter about "Downton Abbey" makes me sound like I don't like interacting with others. Not so. In fact, I'm a pretty social person and was incredibly lonely when I first started working from home. But I've become accustomed to the quiet at home and can get my work done quickly, as a result. I also get to interact with other adults more now that my two oldest are in school. Otherwise, I'd probably feel like a hermit working from home. And Kim says she'll occasionally get a carry-out meal or cup of coffee just to get out of the house briefly and avoid feeling isolated.
It's hard to establish and develop relationships with colleagues in the office. There's no denying that you don't get to know others in the company very well if you work at home. Kim often goes into Kiplinger's D.C. office for meetings, but I can't do that because I live in another state. So there are members of the Kiplinger.com staff I've never met face-to-face. Because I don't know them beyond e-mail contact, I'm probably missing opportunities to collaborate with them on projects.
If you work from home, I'd like to hear what you consider to be the pros and cons. Share your comments below.