It's a rainy day, slippery roads are a nightmare for drivers who are struggling to drive to work safe without skidding. A huge line up of cars is waiting impatiently to merge onto the highway.
Free from the tormenting scene, I am cruising; there's no traffic in front of me, even though, glancing from the window, I see a never ending chock-a-block that is almost an everyday scene during a commute. A sense of relief runs through me as I remember I can work from home, while the commuters have a long tormenting drive ahead.
We live in an age of technology and we know how to use it to our advances, or at least we're trying. Especially in our work lives. A lot of us work in industries where almost everything can be done remotely. This makes the idea of working in an office space seem pointless, because why couldn't you work from a more comfortable space, like your living room for example. Imagine the possibilities: more sleep, breakfast at a table instead of behind the wheel, no small talk with that guy whose name you can't remember.
Canada's Telecommunication Industry conducted a few surveys and discovered that "over 70 per cent of full-time workers aged 18-29 would be more satisfied in their jobs if they could work remotely using cloud software. Older workers who were polled aren’t far off in that sentiment, either."
The Star published an interesting article about the pros of working from home in Canada. The article features a research report WORKshift Canada which reveals some interesting facts to support the positives of working from home.
If Canadians were to work from home twice a week, this could save firms, employees and the community more than $53 billion a year and reduce greenhouse gases to equivalent of taking 385,000 cars off the roads, not to mention saving about 390 million litres of gas. Both employers and employees would save money. Based on the same research, employers could save $10,000 per two-day-a-week telecommuter annually. Employees working from home twice a week could save between $600 and $3,500 per year on commuting and work-related expenses.
So what are we waiting for?
Some industries are still too traditional to switch to the telecommuting system, but we're getting there. However, working from home comes both with pros and cons and here they are according to the Torontoism team.
PRO - You don't have to worry about the traffic anymore.
The real estate business is one of the industries that doesn't require having an office other than your home office. The hours are not regular and clients often find it convenient that real estate agents can attend to their needs outside normal office hours. A real estate agents day involves going out to see and show properties and meet clients, which means most of the work is already done outside the office.
"Working from home is efficient, as there is no commute time to the office," says Jim Burtnick, Broker, Senior Vice President of Sales at Sotheby's International Realty Canada. "And in today's age of technology, I can do almost every task without needing to be in the office. Not to mention I can spend more time close to my family, which truly is one of the biggest pluses of working from home."
We can all agree that being stuck in traffic on your way to work is the worst time waster of them all. But some of us are not lucky enough to have a job where you can work from home without any obstacles. And others, because they can work from home, can work longer hours and make the most out of their day and avoid the stress of driving during Toronto's rush hour.
"Working from home I am able to start my day early. I don't have to worry about leaving home early and to beat traffic when going to work," says Tania Bettencourt, Torontoism Team's Client Care Manager. "I am also able to work until later, after 5 pm, again not having to stress to leave work early to beat traffic going home. Driving through the city can be very stressful."
CON - A computer should not be the first thing you see in the morning and the last thing at night before you go to sleep
According to Statistics Canada, in 2011 there were 2.62 million self-employed workers and 31 per cent of them worked more than 50 hours a week. Going back to what we've said before, working from home allows you to start your day early and organize it in a way to allow you to work more hours, which doesn't come without problems of its own.
Richard Silver, Sales Representative and Senior Vice President of Sales at Sotheby's International Realty, Canada says that if you're in the real estate business, working from home is almost always the best option. However, it's important to set some boundaries so that you don't end up overworked.
"Working from home can have great benefits in our business. It allows you a family life as long as the lines don't get blurred," says Richard.
"When your business is customer service and communication, response times are crucial. Being available all the time can put you ahead of your competitors, and if you love your business, you make concessions, but at the same time boundaries are important. A computer should not be the first thing you see in the morning and the last thing before you go to sleep. A night out or a night off should be just that. It is often too easy to come home and head into your workspace."
A computer should not be the first thing you see in the morning and the last thing before you go to sleep. A night out or a night off should be just that. It is often too easy to come home and head into your workspace.
PRO - You can spend more time with your kids.
Working from home you have a number of fringe advantages. You can spend more time with your kids, though it is advisable to send your kids to daycare. Of course, during the days when the workload is less you can relish the company of your kid(s).
"Being a mom of three (one child and two teenagers), and a wife, I can put dinner in the oven early, and have dinner early, with enough time left for family time in the evening," says Tania.
Being a mom of three, and a wife, I can put dinner in the oven early, and have dinner early, with enough time left for family time in the evening.
PRO - Working alone helps to concentrate and focus more effectively as there are no interruptions
A study conducted at Stanford University says that working in the comfort of your home makes people happier and more productive. With the advancements in technology, people have access to better equipment and faster internet connections in their homes. The concept of virtual meetings has become more prevalent, especially if your clients are spread across the country or are in different time zones. Virtual meeting tools like Skype, Google Hangout, Watchitoo, Infinite, GoToWebinar, etc. have made life easy for those who are demographically or geographically dispersed.
Tracy An, a Sales Representative at Sotheby's International Realty Canada, says that working from home makes her even more productive than spending her work hours at the office and it brings great benefits for people working with international clients, like she is. She's also grateful it allows her to spend time with her kids.
"Time is crucial," says Tracy. "I'm often on calls early in the morning and late at night, [and not having to travel] between the office, my home and my kid's school, working from home allows me to have extra effective hours for my clients. Meanwhile, I am still able to take kids to their programs and have alone time with them."
Time is crucial. I'm often on calls early in the morning and late at night, [and not having to travel] between the office, my home and my kid's school, working from home allows me to have extra effective hours for my clients.
CON - There are a lot of distractions at home.
To be able to work from home, you need to learn to distance yourself and ignore your surroundings to the point where you can focus only on your work for a few hours. You're still working and as much as you want to spend time with your family and multitask, some time should be work related only. Having a dedicated office space will help.
Eden Feldman, Sales Representative at Sotheby's International Realty, Canada, prefers to have his base at the office, but he does have a work space at home:
"I have setup a nook at home for days that prove it's more efficient to work from the condo rather than trail to the office. The real con is, there's just way too many distractions."
PRO - There are no co-workers who want to chat a lot.
But working in a big office with a lot of co-workers isn't the best solution for everyone. Sherille Layton, a Sales Representative at Sotheby's International Realty, Canada, says she actually found that working at the office comes with more distractions and she's more productive when she's working from home:
"I have worked from home for a number of years. It is not for everyone because you have to have the discipline to do so," she says. "I love working from home, mainly because I get so much more done. I used to find going in to the office too distracting. Agents want to chat a lot.
I used to find going in to the office too distracting. Agents want to chat a lot.
PRO - Working from home can help you save on taxes
If you're a freelancer, or you own your own business and you work from home, you don't have to rent or lease a place for an office. There's no need to upgrade or downsize your company and there is no wait for your lease to end.
Having a home office comes with tax benefits, too. Depending on the situation, you can save on property taxes, utilities, repair and maintenance as well as home insurance and mortgage interest. According to the Canada Revenue Agency, about 762,210 Canadians claimed home office expenses for the 2013 tax year. The returns that were printed using a software package (showing a barcode) as well as all those submitted via Efile, Netfile and Telefile were also included.
If you have a home based office it is important to approach your insurance company or broker and speak to them about adding property as well as liability coverage to the home insurance. This would cover items that are required to operate your business like furniture, desktop and laptop computers, software, cell phone and a fax machine. It will also include stock items and other goods you hold for sale.
The idea of home based business, though exciting, can be quite a bumpy ride where you are face to face with plenty of challenges and competition. The notion of having a home based office as compared to having a physical location can pose a credibility issue with many. A lot of conservative organisations feel more comfortable doing business in a physical office location.
Various issues and challenges aside, the number of Canadians working from home is continuously on the rise. Let's hope that the labour market recognizes the all the advantages of allowing employees to work from home as well.