In Defense of the Office: 4 Reasons Working From Home's Totally Overrated
I’m a big fan of having the option to work from home, and I believe every company should offer this amenity to its employees. Sure, there are some jobs in which this isn’t possible—I can’t imagine an ER doctor operating out of his living room—but keeping employees locked up in an office building every hour of every day for no good reason just bothers me.
With that said, I don’t work from my couch all the time. Currently, I average once a week, as I have a weekly meeting that’s easier to get to if I spend the day at my apartment. But the truth is, if I didn’t have this regular commitment, I’d probably work from my apartment even less.
I know—some of you who don’t have this luxury are probably saying, “What? You’re crazy! I would stay home as often as possible if I was allowed to!” But, here’s the thing: I actually like going into the office, mainly because of these four reasons.
1. I Get to See My Friends
I’ve made some really great friends at my present job, and I truly enjoy spending time with them. When I go into the office, we grab coffee together, celebrate each other’s birthdays over lunch or happy hour, and even hit up the occasional group fitness class together. “Employees report that when they have friends at work, their job is more fun, enjoyable, worthwhile, and satisfying,” says Christine Riordan, President of Adelphi University.
There’s a special type of bond you can form with your colleagues that you just can’t with people outside your company. Because only they really understand the hard work you’re doing, the struggles you encounter, and the annoying emails you always get from Dave in the marketing department.
“Friends at work also form a strong social support network for each other, both personally and professionally,” says Riordan. “Whether rooting for each other on promotions, consoling each other about mistakes, giving advice, or providing support for personal situations, comradeship at work can boost an employee’s spirit and provide needed assistance.”
And, for me, it’s just a lot easier to benefit from these work friend perks when I see them in person. When I work from home, I’m missing out on that face-to-face interaction. And yes, as an ambivert, sometimes that is more than needed. But the truth is, when I decide to hunker down in my apartment for the entire day instead of making the commute, I miss my friends.
2. I Have a Better Desk Set-up at the Office
I live in a small one-bedroom apartment in the middle of DC. Do you know what that means? It means that when I work from home, I’m crammed onto my tiny kitchen table in our dining room (a.k.a., the far right corner of our living room).
Hunching over my tiny laptop and trying to maneuver the seven to 10 different documents I usually have open at one time is really not that easy and often proves to be pretty inefficient. While I’m pretty certain that I could be much more productive at home if I had a proper work space, I also know that as it stands now, my employer has provided me a better one than I’ve provided myself. At the office, I have two monitors to utilize (it’s amazing what a difference that can make when you have to compare Excel sheet upon Excel sheet), and a desk that moves from sitting to standing.
3. I Can Disconnect More Easily
When I bring my laptop home from the office, the lines begin to blur. A lot. I decided not to have work email on my phone—it’s not required, and my company doesn’t pay for my phone, so why should I? This means that when I leave the office, I actually leave work, instead of checking my email for the entire metro ride home, while exercising, while eating dinner—you get the picture.
Removing that feature from my phone made it a heck of a lot easier to disconnect, something that’s vital for everyone, from entry-level to CEO. As Alice G. Walton, PhD, a science and health writer for Forbes, says, “continuing to communicate with colleagues after hours not only creates stress, but it prevents your brain from relaxing and recouping from a long work day in preparation for the next.”
And it’s true (for me, at least). Last night when I returned home from grabbing a quick drink with a friend, my laptop was open and staring at me from the table. Though it was almost 8 PM and I said to myself, “Abby, you were done three hours ago. You have nothing more to do tonight,” the dreaded thing still beckoned me over, silently convincing me that I needed to make sure no top secret emails came through (I’ll let you in on a spoiler: They never do). And after I checked, I was not only annoyed, but I was then thinking about work. Again. Hadn’t I spend enough time thinking about it already?
4. I’m Much More Active
Because I commute via metro, I start my day with a nice 15-minute walk to the station. After a short ride, I walk a couple blocks to my office. I like being an active person, and I’m a total nerd about my Fitbit steps. Starting off the day with some movement makes me feel not only physically fit, but also mentally healthy.
But it doesn’t stop there. At work, I’m constantly bopping around, whether I’m going to the upstairs kitchen to get my daily caffeine fix, moving from breakout room to breakout room, or chasing down one of my colleagues so she can share her snacks with me. Not to mention the walks we go on every so often (usually to buy more snacks). Oh, and, when I head back into the city for the night, I do the whole walking to the metro thing all over again.
When I’m at home, I spend a lot of time sitting. Yes, I’ll get up and have a random dance party every now and then. But basically everything I need to get to in my apartment is less than 20 steps away from where I’m currently sitting. And sometimes I try to follow my cat around to increase my step count, but she’s sleeping 80% of the time (what a life!).
Like I said before, being able to choose whether I’m at my kitchen table or my desk is one of my favorite perks of my job, and it’s definitely something I’ll look for in any opportunity I apply to in the future. But that doesn’t mean I want to spend every waking moment in my apartment. There are just as many benefits of not working from home, and I’m glad I’m able to have the best of both worlds.
Abby works in health education and prevention at a university in Washington, DC. When she’s not trying to make the world a healthier place, you can find her taking selfies with her cat (Mildred Meow Meow), hunting down the city's best grilled cheese, or zipping through the city on her bike, named Libby. Say hi on Twitter.More from this Author