The Pros and Cons of Working Independently

A young woman sitting in a grey armchair and working on her laptop

Does teamwork really make the dream work? Do geniuses really work alone?

There will be many instances in your career where you’ll have to work in teams, as well as alone. It all depends on the task at hand. Perhaps your role in a company will involve working side by side with other team members, or maybe you’ll choose the life of a freelancer one day.

Everyone has their preferred approach to working. In fact, a lot of people enjoy going solo on a project and taking responsibility for themselves.

But is working independently really worth it? Does group work have more benefits? Here’s a list of pros and cons to help you answer these questions.

The Pros

1. There’s Less Conflict

Working in a team can be challenging - especially when there are many players to please. Everyone wants to put their two cents in and reinforce their ideas. One might be eager to impress the boss and try to take over all the work, while another might sit back and do nothing. With so many different people exchanging ideas, there’s more likely going to be a conflict of opinion when working with several colleagues.

Working alone, however, avoids all the aggravation that might come with working in a team. You make your own decisions, and there’s nobody to tell you otherwise. There’s no need to worry about competitive or lazy coworkers, and there’s more room for you to concentrate and enjoy a smoother workflow.

Who wants bickering and backbiting in the workplace, anyway?

2. You’re More Efficient

When you work independently, you’re more likely to increase your efficiency. As mentioned above, there’s nobody to slow you down and no other opinions to get in your way. With fewer interruptions, you’ll find it easier to focus, work much faster, know exactly what is going on, and you will have a lot more clarity in the project you’re working on.

Working with others can take a toll on your productiveness, especially when chatting and gossip interferes. Off-topic conversations, arguments and a difference in opinions will only hinder your performance. But by blocking out all distractions and working solo, more heart, energy and soul can be put into your project, resulting in improved productivity and better results.

3. You Can Enjoy a Challenge

Sometimes, working by yourself can be an enjoyable challenge. Having no one else to rely on can be a great test in the workplace as you work up your own ideas and put yourself in charge. Working individually can increase your independence, and it can also make you more creative. Many solo workers learn to make their own decisions, perform duties alone and find their own spark of inspiration.

When there’s only yourself to rely on, you will realise that your motivation, self-awareness and discipline increases. You make sure to stick to deadlines, you channel your own ideas and creativity, and you agree to take full responsibility for a job. Independency is a great skill to add to your CV, after all!

4. You’re in Charge

One of the great benefits of working alone is the chance to be your own boss. While many people prefer to follow orders, others enjoy a more free-flowing work style that puts you in charge. Self-management lets you build your own workflow, set your own goals and fulfil them in a way that you see fit.

The hassle of answering to someone else, following another’s guidelines or performing duties in a disagreeable way can be detrimental to your productivity. But being in charge lets you go about tasks and projects at your own pace and in a manner that you believe will generate the best results. There’s no outside pressure, fewer distractions and zero room for delays.

Having no boss to answer to? Sounds like paradise.

5. You Take Full Credit

If you’re the competitive type, you might be better suited to working independently. Not only do things go your way, but you also take full credit for any tasks or projects you’re working on. There’s nobody else to share the crown but yourself, allowing the boss to truly recognise your abilities.

When working as part of a team, there’s the troublesome case of having others take or share credit for your achievements – when they put a lot less effort in. But going solo allows you and only you to shine. More so, your self-esteem and job satisfaction enhance when your efforts are applauded and appreciated. This increases motivation and productivity in the workplace.

The Cons

1. There’s Less Teamwork

Writing for First 2 Help You, Elicia McManus writes: ‘Humans are pack animals. We are designed to interact, communicate, and verbalise our feelings.’ She goes on to reference research conducted by CV-Library, which found that ‘working alone is a contributing factor to poor mental health’. If these statements ring true, then working individually clearly isn’t always the best option.

Teamwork encourages communication, builds trust and respect for others, and boosts problem-solving skills. Collaborating with others enables you to motivate one another and adopt the basic skills of socialising. In fact, another benefit of teamwork is that it encourages a healthy company culture.

2. There’s Less Creativity

While working alone pushes you to find your own creativity, it’s probably not as beneficial than working in a team. You might suffer from mental block and have a constraint in ideas, leaving you in a humdrum.

Teamwork, on the other hand, lets you share ideas and hear other opinions. Brainstorming together and hearing different perspectives allows for inspiration and resourcefulness.

Going solo on a project also means less skill count. No matter how qualified or experienced a person is, chances are they don’t have all the skills necessary for a job. Group work, on the other hand, enables people with different abilities and qualities to contribute, pushing for stronger, effective and more unique results.

3. You’ll Be More Stressed

Sure, working independently gives you more freedom and efficiency, but with this comes stress.

Operating alone means taking on all the work by yourself. You can’t delegate different tasks to other team members, and you’ve got to make sure every responsibility is fulfilled by the time the deadline arrives. If you’re running late on a job, there’s no one else to turn to – and rushing to avoid delays can certainly boost stress levels.

Less help also equates to more stress. When you work alone, you only have yourself to rely on. You must solve problems by yourself and finish difficult tasks on your own. But being part of a team offers you support and advice from others, which ultimately speeds things up and diminishes anxiety in the workplace.

4. You’ll Get Bored

A major benefit of working in a team is the opportunity to socialise and enjoy work. Team laughter, support and encouragement can go a long way in the workplace. It builds motivation and an overall happier working environment.

Working alone, however, strips you of these benefits. You’ll likely get bored and lonely over time, no matter how busy your workflow is. There’s no one to talk to, nobody to share ideas with and not anyone to discuss your concerns with.

If you’re one who thrives off interacting with others and enjoys a high-energy workplace, then working independently isn’t for you. It can get quiet, lonesome and incredibly monotonous.

5. You Take Full Responsibility

Indeed, taking full credit for your achievements is a great advantage of working individually. But what happens if your efforts fail?

Working alone immediately becomes a disadvantage. Operating by yourself means having to take full responsibility for any mistakes, failures and slipups. When there are others in a team, though, the blame isn’t completely on you; it’s shifted on everybody.

While taking the full blame and acknowledging your mistakes can be positive for growth and self-awareness, it’s also rather pressuring and stressful. Sharing your blunders with others puts less pressure on you, while bouncing off each other’s encouragement helps reduce mistakes the next time.

There are clearly several pros and cons to working individually versus working in a team. Ultimately, however, we believe that it all comes down to your character and preferred style of working. Some people like being alone, while others tend to thrive in social environments. Whatever you’re doing to boost efficiency and productivity in the workplace, continue! It’s all down to you.

What other advantages and disadvantages have you experienced when working alone? Do you prefer to work as part of a team? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.