The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked a working from home revolution. Although staying at home and undertaking your role has been mandated by governments during lockdowns, it is arguable that COVID-19 only accelerated the flourishment of a growing trend. This change in work dynamic’s offers numerous benefits to employees, including greater flexibility and no commute.
There is some indication that once lockdowns cease, employees will continue to value employment that offers flexible work arrangements and the possibility of these types of arrangements continuing. We’ve all heard whispers about the ‘Great Resignation’ projected to explode in Australia, following its occurrence in other countries. In August 2021 alone, 4.3 million workers in the United States resigned from their jobs. COVID-19 has caused many workers all over the world to re-evaluate their employment and what they want from an employer.
These new flexible arrangements may be one such incentive used by employers to gain and retain employees in the present employment climate. But before readily agreeing to ongoing working from home arrangements, employees need to be wary of the potential hidden costs.
Working from home transfers many of the expenses typically paid by employers to employees. Expenses such as computers, WiFi, electricity, heating, and air-conditioning all start adding up. Certainly, some expenses are tax deductible, and some may be paid by your employer. But ultimately, working from home is not without cost. Utility bills are likely to skyrocket. To set up a functional and enjoyable work environment, you may need to spend a little bit, such as on a desk or office chair.
Wear and tear on personal devices
If you already have a personal computer that you are using to work from home, and are not using one provided by your employer, you are likely significantly reducing the working life of your device. For example, if you typically only used your personal laptop out of work hours, now using it all day, every day will speed up the wear and tear.
Not everyone has ample or appropriate space to work from home. In the United States, the National Bureau of Economic Research found that renters working from home increased their expenditure on housing by 6.5% to 7.4% to have more office space. The same study found that homeowners also spent more money on having a property with larger office space. Increasing their expenditure by approximately 8.4% to 9.8%. The report noted:
“For firms, managers often speak colloquially of cost savings from remote work due to reductions in office space. But this neglects the fact that remote households need more space to accommodate working from home. As a result, remote work entails a transition from firm’s financing of office space to household financing of home workspaces.”
Blurred boundaries between work and home
Working from home makes it more difficult for employees to switch off from a day of work. As their living space has become their workspace. Prior to COVID-19, employees could more easily detach themselves from work, simply because their home was in a different physical space from their work. Work has now encroached on personal lives significantly.
The taxing impacts of this blurred boundary between work and home life were reported by Aaron McEwan to news.com.au. “We found ourselves still trying to work like we are in offices but whilst doing it in homes, so productivity and performance went up but the broad-lasting impact is people are exhausted and work is inescapable.”
Working from home isn’t for everyone. Some people find that they are more productive working from home. While others may be distracted from being in their own space. Reduced productivity can have ramifications, such as conflict with your employer or not meeting deadlines.
Working from home rather than in the office also means that you miss out on socializing with your colleagues. Working independently from home and without the opportunity to easily speak to your colleagues may eventually feel isolating. Social interaction is important for your mental health. So if you are working from home, it is important that somehow you still find a way to keep connected with others.
If you are working from home, you may miss out on opportunities for a promotion. Think about it – if you are working from home, you may be less visible to your boss than your colleagues in the workplace. When it comes time to promote someone, your boss may have built a stronger connection with colleagues that they see each day in the workplace.
Points for discussion.
Is it fair to be dismissed over the phone or zoom, since your not in the office anymore?
The company is not renewing office leases, as employees are working from home. Can I charge rent? (this is fair as they are saving a fortunate everybody working from home).
I want to go back to the office during school holidays, as the kids are a distraction, the Employer said no, is this fair?
I keep getting work related parcel sent to my home address, because no ones in the office, my family and neighbor’s are complaining, what can I do?
Is working from home really worth it?
These are some of the questions I’ve been asked, the list is potentially endless, new challenging times to say the least. My questions is this, if employers can successfully have you working from home, why can’t we outsource the roles to India, Iceland, Philippines etc. So what appears to be a good thing totally disappears. I’m ready starting to get numerous calls “the boss doesn’t want me at the moment back as their renovating” Really?, get made redundant, or dismissed, call us immediately.
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 Christopher T Stanton and Pratyush Tiwari, ‘Housing Consumption and the Cost of Remote Work’ (Working Paper, National Bureau of Economic Research, February 2021) 1. Available at: <https://www.nber.org/system/files/working_papers/w28483/w28483.pdf>.
 Christopher T Stanton and Pratyush Tiwari, ‘Housing Consumption and the Cost of Remote Work’ (Working Paper, National Bureau of Economic Research, February 2021) 3. Available at: <https://www.nber.org/system/files/working_papers/w28483/w28483.pdf>.