The Hidden Downsides to Working From Home

October 25th 2015

Diana Crandall

For an estimated 3.7 million American employees, home is where the office is, at least half of the time. The number comes from Global Workplace Analytics, and the research shows that employees who are not self-employed are working from home at higher rates.


But for all of its allure, telecommuting might not be as good an idea as you might think. A thorough review of past research on telecommuting is published this month in Psychological Science in the Public Interest (PSI), and it highlights a few things to keep in mind if you are one of the around 3.7 million.

RELATED: How to Keep Your Sanity When You Work From Home

The study, authored by the professors Tammy D. Allen, Timothy D. Golden, and Kristen M. Shockley, reinforces the idea that people who telecommute once in a while are generally happier and perform better than they would if they constantly worked in the office.

In 2014, approximately 25 million people worked remotely at least once a month. But those who telecommute about two days per week or more were found to be less satisfied than their cubicle-bound counterparts. According to the research, telecommuting is a dish best consumed in moderation.


For one, telecommuting can be socially isolating, and can potentially decrease productivity. There are also health considerations, like the way a desk or chair is set up.

“Another topic is the impact of telecommuting on physical activity,” the authors write. “This issue is important in that the health risks associated with extended periods of time spent sitting—such as excess weight gain, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and premature mortality—are becoming increasingly well known.”

As noted by the Atlantic, telecommuting can also turn into a schedule that's erratic, which can exacerbate a disorganized or "all over the place" feeling in people who telecommute frequently.

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The PSI study shows that working from home does have notable positives. Employers who allow their employees a choice in how and where they worked saw reports of increased job satisfaction, as well as loyalty. The results suggest that these factors could play a roll in reducing turnover for employees; if workers are allowed a say in where and how they work, they will stay with an employer longer, which is better for everyone involved.

Additional research conducted by other authors also suggests that people who telecommute are more likely to receive higher performance evaluations.

What can you do?

If your employer doesn't currently offer telecommuting and it's something you'd like to try, consider suggesting it to him or her. If the opposite is true, and you don’t have a choice in working from home, make sure to set up a sweet home office that will help keep you on track.

YouTube personality Ingrid Nilsen also has some advice on staying organized and motivated if you are able to work from home.

Finally, make sure to take walking breaks, or use a standing desk so you're not sitting all day, and check out ATTN:'s tips for keeping your sanity while working from home.