Working from home can be a life and career game changer. This article is intended for people who are considering working remotely or who want to think more broadly about how working from home can help improve their lifestyles and incomes.
Based on firsthand experiences, we know that working from home can:
- Accelerate your career
- Increase your access to jobs and career paths that were inaccessible
- Enhance your earnings
- Give you more time to do activities you enjoy
- Reduce your environmental footprint
- Enable you to live anywhere
- Lead to a better work-life balance
I want to provide specific examples for each category so that you can better understand how working from home leads to outcomes you likely care about.
How and why does working from home accelerate your career? There are a few reasons. Firstly, one of the reasons that careers are slowed down or stunted is because people are doing work they are not passionate about or doesn’t align with their best skills. People frequently take jobs that are not perfect fits and understably so. People will take a job that meets some of their criteria in order to start working.
Likewise, many firms hire people that are good enough but not very strong fits because they need labor. All too often the following happens: after starting a job, a worker realizes that his or her skills don’t fully align with the needs of the business and, as a result, he or she is unable to rise within the company. Moreover, when you work from home people know they can always reach you. In a traditional office where people commute and travel it is common that decisions are made at the exclusion of various stakeholders.
I have seen countless times an out of office message say: “I am currently traveling until some future date”. As a home worker, people will be able to include you in decisions and business meetings because you are more likely to be reliably online, at your computer, and ready to engage. You are less likely to miss important conversations because you are only a quick email or ping away.
Secondly, many workers are unable to do jobs most aligned with their skills and core competencies because of geography. You might find a dream job but in a location you don’t want to move to. Perhaps a firm identifies a great worker but in a state or city that they don’t have offices. In short, geography can cause a market inefficiency because the job seeker and employer have constraints about where they can move or provide labor from. Working from home solves this and opens entirely new talent pools for companies.
Imagine a software firm with staff located in Chicago. Suppose this firm really wants to hire a talented engineer in New Hampshire who is unable to move. In a world without remote work, this engineer is unable to join the firm; both parties lose out. In a labor market without work from home, this strong fit is lost; in essence, both the company and the job seeker pay a transaction cost. In a work from home environment, this firm is able to hire remote talent. This leads to better labor market efficiencies that benefit the firm and the worker.
Working remotely can enhance your earnings which I define as your take home pay. There are a few important ways that remote work can increase how much disposable cash you have. Firstly, remote work can greatly reduce your costs. Sure, some of your costs will increase (utilities, home wifi, etc) but in general these will be less than cost savings of not commuting. When working from home you will drive less or reduce your dependency on public transportation. Immediately this can lead to lower insurance rates, gasoline consumption, and parking fees.
Reducing these costs will lead to more money in your pockets. How about simplifying your wardrobe? Working from home will reduce your consumption of work clothes which are often expensive. Saving costs on multiple fronts – like how you get to work or what you wear – will add up to more money in your pocket over the long run.
Now imagine that your costs will stay exactly the same. How else can remote work increase your income? Simple: many remote workers are eligible for additional benefits. Many companies provide subsidies that help with your home office costs. These perks include your firm paying for your home wifi, computer, cell phone, or a portion of your utilities. Some firms even pay remote staff higher wages because their overall costs to the firm are lower than employees that require an office desk.
A huge perk of remote work is that you will have more time to do activities you enjoy. Most of this additional time is carved out of the time saved not commuting. This might mean you have more time to exercise or read or watch Netflix. It may mean spending time with your kids or partner or parents. By not commuting you will save anywhere from 20 minutes to several hours per day. You can use this time to invest in yourself, your passions, your family, your education, or any other topic you are passionate about. Moreover, you will likely have some free time during the day during breaks to do tasks or life administration.
We have heard from friends that they love doing the laundry while working from home as it saves them time on the weekends. One friend has enrolled in a distance learning class to acquire new technical skills. He uses his remote work hours to study in between meetings. He never could have pulled this off in the office. Remote work provides this advantage and enables him to develop further skills which will increase his job security and employability in the future. Another friend is using her work from home time to increase her fitness. She runs before and after work and does some weights during group meetings when her camera is off. If that isn’t a multi-tasking benefit of working remotely I don’t know what is. Another friend started to get his pilot’s license with aviation courses from his home. The possibilities are endless.
Working remotely will reduce your environmental footprint. Living sustainability is likely a good goal to strive for. Working home not only reduces your commuting patterns but likely reduces your travel costs (airplanes, hotels, rental cars). If you are able to keep your travel expenses low, perhaps your firm can increase its profit margins. This will eventually help you because either you will earn more money or your firm will be more profitable. When working from home you likely use fewer disposable objects, like plastic plates and forks and water bottles, that are all too common in many offices.
Many people are delighted by the notion that they can use a remote work from home job to live anywhere they please. This means you can move to a place you love, or move to closer to family, or to a city or region better suited to your lifestyle and needs. For some that means moving to cities. For others, it means moving from the coastal urban areas to less dense and lower tax rate regions. Perhaps you have always wanted to live in the mountains or the sea but there were no jobs for you in Boulder or Maui.
After landing a work from home job you can likely move to these places for six or twelve months and see if you like the local vibe and climate. In short, working from home opens up new geographic destinations that were traditionally out of reach as worker’s needed to be by their firm’s offices. Remote work can open the world (or country) up to you in new and exciting ways. If you truly need only a wifi connect and computer to work, the globe becomes your potential office.
All of the above mentioned benefits of working from home leads to a final reason why remote work is good for you: it can lead to a better work-life balance. When I think about why I work from home it’s because I need to support my family and remote work enables me to have a meaningful job while also spending time with my kids and not wasting up to 10 precious hours a week commuting to an office. Everyone has their own unique motivations; in short, working from home can unlock new time and value for you depending on your personality and stage of life.
I once worked with a woman who didn’t like to socialize and largely kept to herself at the office. She has seen a huge improvement in her standard of living now that she works remotely; daily interactions with colleagues made her uncomfortable and now she doesn’t need to have them. Another friend had a tense relationship with his boss; now they speak less frequently and only in scheduled calls. This has improved their communication by reducing daily, in-office interactions.
Whatever your situation, working from home will likely increase flexibility in your lifestyle. This flexibility places more trust in your own hands – for you to spend your time exactly how you want, when you work. This will lead to an increased work-life balance and greater happiness.