Working From Home or In A Studio: Which is Better?

Being in the civil engineering profession, I am blessed/cursed in that I generally must conduct my affairs in the office. Our use of CAD software, large files and the overall collaborative nature of the work often necessitates working closely with co-workers. There is, however, the rare opportunity for working outside the office, such as a visit to a project, or making a delivery/pickup of plans. There is also the rare-as-hens-teeth days when I am able to telecommute.

Now granted, I only live 10 minutes from the office (5 if I hit every traffic light just right and ignore the speed limit on the Beltway) so its not that big of a deal for me to travel to work every day. Last week (and by extension, this week) have been one of those high-pressure, “I need it yesterday” kind of fortnights, and as a result, I had to do some work on Saturday morning.

Through the magic of Netflix Citrix, I was able to do everything from my computer at home. I could have stayed in my pyjamas but I opted for the more mature choice of tracksuit bottoms.

Long story short, the whole experience got me wondering as to which is better: working at home or in an office environment. For studios (and companies in general) there are certainly many advantages to having employees work off-premises. Money can be saved from rent, equipment, electric, heat (if a smaller office is used), coffee, etc. For the employee, there is the option of working in your pyjamas, getting a cup of tea whenever you feel like it, and (if it is available) of working hours that suit them.

Freelancers have known about the many benefits for years now. In fact, a large minority of artists whose blogs I follow tend to be freelancers who work at home, and they all enjoy it!

That is not to say that working from home is for everyone, it does come with its own set of disadvantages after all. For example, in the modern digital age, if your computer decides it just can’t take it any more and gives up when the deadline is tomorrow, you have to be your own IT department or its your neck on the chopping block.

A studio offers the social atmosphere that makes an office and enjoyable place to work. There is the comradery, collaborative element and the ability to collectively inspire each other. At the same time, there is also office politics to consider and if your boss is a bit of an eejit, being as far away from them as possible is preferable. Yes, sadly there are people out there who have absolutely no business being in management and yet they do exist.

At the end of the day, it will come down to personal taste as much as the willingness of the project manager to let you work remotely. For some projects (such as The Secret of Kells) it worked wonders as everyone was talented and experienced enough to simply get on with the job with the direction given from Ireland.

With the increase in internet speeds and the proliferation of cloud computing and so forth, it is more likely that companies (especially smaller outfits) will seek to lower overhead costs by allowing employees to work at home, thus shifting heating, electric and plant costs to them. Ideally, everyone should be given a choice as to which they prefer.

So, the real answer is: neither. Both systems play to equal strengths and weaknesses and both have their champions. Personally, I like the interaction with co-workers. Your mileage may vary.

4 Comments on “Working From Home or In A Studio: Which is Better?

  1. Hi Charles,

    My feeling is that the project sets the tone on if it can be worked on by outsourced employees or not. As a virtual studio, the work I do can be TV series, web shorts, and pilots, but the one thing they all have in common is relatively simple animation demands. Some TV or feature work is so complex that it requires a lot of processing (maybe going from Flash to After Effects and working in live action footage and Maya), and the more complex that pipeline is the more you want people working together in house to handle it. And, while not every job is good to break up for assigning in a virtual studio, nor are all workers adept at working from home. Unmotivated or lazy studio workers would be even worse left to their devices. I’m lucky that I’ve made many relationships through working in the studios, which let me examine workers habits and know which one’s I can rely on to work from home today.

    • Hi David,

      You provide an excellent point of view. The environment in which you work will very much depend on the nature of the project as much as the individual. I had it in my mind to mention the likes of the Rauch Brothers, who have made very good use of the virtual studio setup. Although they are two exceptionally well motivated individuals, much the same as yourself.

      I guess I just found it funny to find myself in the unfamiliar position of working from home and I began to ponder the various advantages and disadvantages of such a method of working.

      I did, however, neglect to mention that although The Secret of Kells was directed remotely, there were in fact, plenty of artists working in a traditional studio environment.

  2. I definitely think it depends on the person and the situation, and I agree with David: the more changing between programs the pipeline requires, the more close interaction becomes necessary.

    I’ve found that my biggest problems with working from home involve: like you mentioned, technical difficulties that my lack of IT-skills leave me ripping my hair out over. Also, I live at home and have a large family so having a 3 year old run into my room every 20 minutes, while adorable, gets irritating.

    But, the advantage is that I feel more comfortable. A runny nose, a tear in my stockings – these are all little nuisances that can be an office distraction. At home, I can stuff ends of a tissue up each nostril and sit in my underwear.

    I also think a Creative Commune would be fun, for a little while at least.

    • Thanks Careese 🙂

      And yes, a sort of creative commune is a good idea. I’m almost certain I know of at least one person who basically got together with a group of friends and rented an office space. While they are all working on their own projects, they can share some relatively expensive equipment, have a collaborative atmosphere and still have the freelance ethos of wearing what you want, etc.

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