The Benefits and Drawbacks of Researching From Home

Over the past two years, the number of academics working from home has skyrocketed. We’re seeing researchers reach and publish their findings at home instead of at their usual place of work.

Last month, we interviewed Simone Donati, one of the co-authors of the research study ‘Not All Remote Workers Are Similar’ (IJERPH). He outlined that the success of working from home is dependent on the individual’s working style, as well as their previous experiences of working from home.

In considering the impact of working from home on our authors, we’ve come up with key advantages and disadvantages that affect how academics conduct their research and how much they enjoy their time spent doing it.

The Advantages of Working from Home

There are many advantages to researchers working from home, all of which can improve researchers’ output and make a compelling case for researching from home.

We’ll start with something undeniable. Since March 2020, MDPI has seen a stark increase in submissions. It’s not hard to see why. As this manuscript by Koohsari et al. points out, working from home is associated with a decrease in car sitting time. The absence of a commute, as well as other appointments, means that academics have found themselves with a lot more time on their hands. Some have dedicated this time to writing and submitting papers.

The flexibility afforded by research from home can benefit new ideas. A study in IJERPH states that “Research shows that being able to work from home allows employees to work at their most productive time”. This can also be applied to research. Because they’re not fixed to certain hours to use facilities and collaborate with others, academics can set their own schedule when they’re at home.

We can now collaborate a lot more easily with those across the world. Ferreira et al. explain that “Technology has been pointed at as a pivotal enabler […] to turn the drawbacks of virtuality into strategic advantages while also supporting rigorous scientific outcomes.”

Although working from home has unfortunately meant that people cannot meet in person, access to technology during this time has meant that, as a society, our lives have moved online. This means that the world has become smaller, and there are fewer hesitations about working with academics who may be thousands of miles away, allowing for more diverse collaborations.

An advantage of working from home is that people can have more time with family. “According to some studies, WFH enhances job satisfaction by contributing to work–family life balance”. (Yu et al.) Many academics have young families or loved ones they want to spend time with, and working from home can allow them to be more present for their children’s upbringing.

The Disadvantages of Working from Home

University campuses can provide a hub for academics to collaborate with colleagues in person. As working from home increases, the atmosphere of being on campus changes, as there are fewer people around. A benefit to being in a work environment with others, as a study by Chafi et al. points out, is that it allows for “spontaneous and planned forms of socialising”.

A study in IJERPH outlined “inadequate tools” as a disadvantage of working from home. For some researchers, a lot of their work is completed in either a studio or a lab. This makes working from home a lot more difficult.

It’s great to be surrounded by family, but they can often prevent us from working. A paper in Animals on pets in the homes of teleworkers found that “those with dogs and/or young children were more likely to indicate that family members created distractions during the workday”.

Last, but by no means least, researchers who don’t work well from home have been left frustrated by the situation, severely affecting their mental health. The paper ‘Involuntary Full- and Part-Time Work: Employees’ Mental Health and the Role of Family- and Work-Related Resources’ outlines that a lack of resources protecting the work–home balance could lead to poor mental health effects.

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