At this point in my career, I’ve worked the same amount of time in an office building as I have at home. What I’m going to point out are the similarities and differences of working in these two very different settings. This will help if you’re deciding which is right for you.

Working in an Office Building

Common Joys

An office building can give a sense of community. You’re all there for one purpose: business. You can help each other and motivate each other. Networking is also easier in an office building but can be done in other environments. You can strike up a conversation with an executive simply by complimenting him on his new car.

Working while in an office building is the norm. This means you’re generally dissuaded from doing any personal activities. It’s positive peer pressure.

Working in an office building also means you’ll likely have access to conference spaces. This is handy if you’re meeting with a group of people. It’s also convenient if you want to spread out and get a change of scenery from your desk. You’ll also likely have access to extra hardware and tech support. If your computer begins acting up, there’s usually someone close by who can pop over and take a look.

Having your colleagues see when you come in each day gives routine to your life. Habits are powerful. Working in an office building creates a habit of showing to work, working while there and heading home to relax.

Common Challenges

Working in an office building isn’t perfect. If it was, there probably wouldn’t be more and more people working from home each year. The first challenge to address is friendly distractions.

I worked on a campus with about 900 employees. This meant that if any of us wanted an excuse to get away from our desks, there could be one. On Thursdays, an employee in the North building would bring in baked goods to share. Local restaurants were always delivering sample platters to the break rooms. Birthdays were frequently celebrated. New mothers would walk around the desks showing off the new baby. Someone would inevitably ask me about how well I thought the local college football team played the past weekend. Focusing on your most important duty can be difficult with so many other nice but largely irrelevant distractions.

Working at Home

Common Joys

You can’t beat the commute. You can go from bed to desk in seconds. There’s also little need to dress for the occasion. You can also eat at your desk whereas some office rules don’t allow for this. There are also no colleague distractions – other than chat and emails. Going to get more food is faster at home than at work. You also can eat healthier since there’s not so much pressure to eat at restaurants. You also don’t have to pack a lunch. This all saves money as well.

Common Challenges

Possibly the greatest challenge of an at-home employee is having others take their job seriously. Many others think that since you’re at home, you’re not working. Friends may bring by their kids and ask if you can babysit. A roommate may think it’s okay to tell you all about his wild and crazy night as you hurry to the kitchen to get a mid-morning power snack. More challenges arise when other family members are home on vacation. It’s hard to convince friends and family that you’re unavailable.

Another challenge is taking too much advantage of working at home. When I started working from home, I was in paradise. I wore sandals and shorts all day. I snacked all day instead of eating healthy meals. I didn’t even keep regular hours. One by one, I dropped each of these habits.

Another challenge for some is to not get distracted. Some work at home employees say watching TV is a distraction. Some sleep-deprived employees say using the guest bedroom as an office makes them want to take frequent naps. Others say that the neighbor’s dogs keep barking. No matter where you’re trying to work, challenges await.

If you’re working for a company, you may be more likely to get passed up for promotions if you work at home. As I’ve heard one woman put it, “Out of sight, out of mind.”

If any of these challenges begin wearing you out, consider working from these other places.

Are they really that different?

What I’ve come to realize is that working at the office or working at home – both are pretty much the same. You’re working. Each place is different. Each place requires its own set of pros and cons.

This is important. Anyone who is on the fence about where to work needs to consider which aspects mentioned in this article are the most important to them. Does having no commute outweigh the distraction of the TV? Or does going to a place of business each day outweigh the frequent birthday party distractions?

The way I see it, a hard worker will do well in nearly any environment. It’s the internal drive that matters most. So which do you prefer?

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William Lipovsky owns the personal finance website First Quarter Finance. His most embarrassing moment was telling a Microsoft executive, "I'll just Google it."

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