Working from home: what it means to work from a home office

Working in your pajamas? Enjoying the comforts of your home? No annoying colleagues around you? For many, setting up an office at home is tempting – but do you actually know what it entails? As fantastic as the working conditions sound: working from home doesn't just come with benefits. When you switch from your familiar office environment to a workplace at home, there are a few rules you need to follow to make sure your work at home is as good as possible.

What is a home office?

When we speak of a home office, we speak of employees – or freelancers – that move their workplace home. So, instead of sitting in an office with colleagues, you set up your workplace at home but still do the same work. Working remotely, therefore, has parallels to co-working, but differs from it quite considerably. Even in a co-working space, you are not in a familiar office environment, but you share the space with other workers – and you are not in your own home.

Definition: Home office

Working from home refers to an office at home. In most cases, the term refers to the workplace of an employee who previously worked in a traditional office. More and more frequently, though, the offices of freelancers and self-employed individuals in their private homes are also being included under the term. For working at home to be successful, certain minimum technical requirements must be met – for example, an internet connection is usually a prerequisite.

The home office can be regarded as a special kind of mobile office or remote work due to the setting where you perform your work. If the technical conditions are right, an employee can theoretically get their work done from anywhere in the world, as long as a stable internet connection is in place. This is why working from home in the United States is also known as telecommuting, because work is done via telecommunications, including the internet.

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Working from home during the coronavirus shutdown: How to handle working remotely

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Who can set up an office at home?

Everyone is talking about working remotely, but for a large part of the population this way of working is out of the question: Professionals who work as craftsmen, in care, catering, or the hotel industry, for example, understandably have to be on site at their usual places of work despite the digital revolution. However, the majority of office work, i.e. activities that are mainly done on a PC, can theoretically be moved to the home.

But even in the fields of work that are actually predestined for the home office, it’s only true to a limited extent. Especially with regard to clients, in-person communication is of utmost importance. Physical meetings between colleagues also play a major role in many companies. Video conferencing is an important tool in the home office, but the importance of personal contact between colleagues and with customers should not be underestimated. Therefore, in many cases an alternating system is maintained: While some days are spent working from home, others are spent in the office or with clients.

What should you consider when working from home?

Employees, employers, but also self-employed individuals have to pay attention to some aspects when setting up and running a home office. Some of these aspects are labor law or occupational health and safety laws. How to set up insurance in the home office and how to deduct the home office for taxes play a major role. On the other hand, one should also get used to certain behaviors so that working from home has advantages for all sides.

For many, the most important thing to know is that there is neither a general right to work remotely nor an obligation to move one’s work home. It always depends on the agreement between employer and employee. Self-employed individuals are understandably responsible for where they carry out their work. However, once you’ve decided to work from home and all legal aspects have been considered, further precautions must be taken. When first setting up the home office, for example, technical conditions must be clarified. Every employee must also be able to access the same applications, services, and data from home that are available in the normal office.

When setting up your workplace, you should make sure you’re setting up an ergonomic home office, and that you’re getting enough movement at your workplace. Therefore, you should also consider home office design, so that you can focus on getting your work done. If you have children and work from home, you should make sure that you can juggle work and family.

Working from home: pros and cons

As nice as the idea of working from home sounds – there are also negative aspects to this way of working. Both the advantages and disadvantages relate to productivity and quality of work on the one hand, and to personal well-being and teamwork on the other. However, most of the disadvantages can often be turned into advantages by introducing certain behaviors and following rules.

One topic that’s relevant when working from home, for example, is work-life balance: The advantage is already apparent in the fact that you save the time spent on your daily commute. Experience has shown, however, that home-based employees tend to work more rather than less. Here, all those involved should make sure to stick to the contractual working hours. In their own interest, employees must also discipline themselves.

For example, many people who have set up an office at home also mention the peace and quiet they have there. In a large office, there are constant distractions: colleagues talking to you, telephones ringing, and even public traffic causes anxiety. These disturbing factors are eliminated within your private home – although there may be other reasons for anxiety: children screaming, a package delivery, the washing machine beeping. At home, you yourself are responsible for ensuring a quiet working atmosphere.

These and other factors should be considered, when setting up your home office.

Pros Cons
Better balance between family and work Requires more discipline
No commute Limited contact with colleagues
Personal workplace where you feel comfortable Additional technical requirements
Reduced stress Separate workplace is needed
  Social isolation
Summary

If you have the technical means in place to work from home and the job does not require a local presence, there are many benefits of the home office. But discipline is necessary for this. Without it, either the quality of work or your physical and mental health may suffer. In the end, the decision is also a question of character. Not everyone works well in a home office environment. But many people can certainly benefit from this modern way of working.

Click here for important legal disclaimers.


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