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Working from Home: Good or Bad?

A recent survey conducted by the Census Bureau of reveals that the number of Americans working from home has increased by 41% in the last decade. The number of people who work at home at least one day per week increased to 9.5% of all workers in 2010, up from 7% in 1999. The largest jump was among government workers, a 133% increase, while the private sector showed a 67% rise.

These numbers are pretty remarkable, and they represent a new phenomenon in the US economy. Private companies, federal government workers, and small-business owners are coming to the realization that working from home can save them a lot of money. The costs of office space, car expenses, communication, and electricity are all reduced when working from home. But working from home is not all good. The main problem with it is that it may lead to reduced productivity. For some, the combination of family and work in the same space means neither one gets the attention it deserves. I wanted to explore the pros and cons of working from home in a deeper way. Let’s first start with the positive.

Pros: First, small-business owners typically don’t, and sometimes can’t, take a break from their business, and are working from home after hours anyway. Therefore, having their office at home makes the most sense. Having your office in your home saves you from paying double on every office-related expense, such as rent, electricity, Internet, office supplies, etc. Also, not having to drive back and forth saves you money on gas and other car expenses and also helps the environment.

Second, working from home allows you to balance work and family more easily. It allows you to respond to problems that arise in your work and home with greater flexibility. If you do it right, the juggling act of these two main roles becomes much easier. From a different angle, if you decide to employ remote employees, giving them the liberty to work from home can enlarge your applicant pool. Also, for many, a flexible lifestyle may be more important than a high salary.

Cons: For some, working from home is just impossible. Sometimes you need equipment that cannot physically be in your home. In other cases, your business requires a lot of meetings with clients and business partners, and conducting them in your living room might not look presentable.

Also, your home might not be suitable to work from. Even though working and living in the same space can make it easier to balance the two, your home life might become a distraction. Business owners who work from home first need to assess if they could make the adjustments needed so they could engage in their work and their family fully yet separately. If you share office space or have employees working for you, you might miss having face-to-face interaction with them. Working from home requires work relationships to be more structured and takes away from the spontaneous communication enabled by working in the same space.

Of course, working from home requires some logistics, but at the end of the day deciding whether to work from home or not is a decision that should be based on individual abilities and situations. Only you know if you have what it takes to succeed as a home-based business owner: are you self-motivating? Do you have the space needed? Can you really balance work and life? These questions and many more should be considered before making this decision.

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