Scientists at home: Pros and Cons of Working from Home

Working from home sounds like a great idea: no commute, no dress code!  Many people are spending part or all of their day working out of the office. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of 2012, over 38% of workers with at least a bachelor’s degree worked at home on an average day. Chemists do not generally perform lab experiments at home but many lab scientists will choose to work from home to catch up on paperwork now and then. Scientists who work outside of the lab, report writers and quality assurance analysts for example, are able to complete much of their work at home.

Employees find benefits to working from home. Commuting down the hall to your home office can save time, remove work place distractions, and lend you flexibility.

Commuting to work is often several hours a week for many employees and this time can be better spent catching up on work projects that have been pushed to the backburner, finishing up household tasks, or just relaxing.

At home, you can concentrate on your task at hand and avoid being pulled into co-workers vacation stories or sitting next to a coworker listening to their voicemail on speaker phone.

Working from home also allows you run errands close to home during lunch-going to the dentist or registering children at school can become much easier.

You may also be able to avoid taking off work when a project is at a critical phase and something comes up at home. Working from home lets you be there when a sick child cannot go to school or when the furnace repairmen’s service window is during work hours and you cannot miss a day of work.

There are some downsides to working at home. Working from home can end up being code to your co-workers that you are unavailable. It can be nice to miss a few meetings and focus on the to-do list for your project but it’s important for you to be heard in your department.

After deciding to work from home to avoid a loud cubicle, you may find it’s still hard to focus. Home can be a distracting place: pets may wander into your work space and bark at you, children will demand your attention, your DVR will be full of your favorites, and laundry is just sitting there waiting to be washed. Most people will do household chores, and spend some time watching TV or playing games. Women with children under six will spend a few hours taking care of them on an average work day.

Here are some tips to make sure you take advantage of the pros and avoid some of the cons of working from home:

  • Have an official start to your work day and stay focused in your work space. If you need a mid-morning snack, get it ready beforehand.
  • Do not let yourself be distracted by housework or use mopping the floors as a way to procrastinate finishing a report. The floor will still be dirty when your report is done.
  • Have a separate work space. This will help you keep your mind on work after you start for the day. You do not need a dedicated room-although it can be nice to close a door to the rest of your home-but keep a section of your home dedicated to work so you are not easily distracted.
  • Arrange for child care. It’s pretty difficult to fit a day’s worth of work into naptime and most children will be interested in what you are doing especially if you want them to do something else.
  • Stay in contact with your supervisor and co-workers. Make sure to telecommute to meetings, respond promptly to emails, and utilize instant messaging tools. Your presence should be felt even if you are not in the building.
  • Plan to take a break or two during the day but do not settle down to stream an all day marathon of your favorite TV show.

This article was written by Sara Stellfox. After working in contract and pharmaceutical laboratories, Sara changed her career path and is now a free lance writer and chemistry instructor at the City Colleges of Chicago.

11 Responses to Scientists at home: Pros and Cons of Working from Home

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  5. Lilly M says:

    Working from home ‘sounds’ great but it has it’s perils for sure. I have been at home now for 10 years and it has gotten easier although it’s not easy. I think it also tests your own ability to stay focused, be consistent and take action toward your goals without being distracted.

    Thanks for the post!


  6. Earl H says:

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    Thanks and take care!


  7. gricelda c says:

    Sara – I totally agree that when working from home you have to have some sort of a schedule or routine for yourself in order not to get sidetracked from your goals. Also important, don’t forget to take short breaks throughout the day to re-energize.

    Loved reading your thoughts about this topic.

    Dr. Gricelda

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