I get lots of questions about working from home.
Interestingly, most fall under one extreme or the other:
‘Wow, you are SOOO lucky! … ’
‘Ohmygod I could NEVER do that. … ’
Really, both are right.
Whether working from home is the greatest thing on earth, or the worst, depends on who you are.
I LOVE working from home.
Love it! It improves my focus, increases my productivity, reduces my stress, and gives me back hours of life that would otherwise be collateral damage to a commute.
But, for extreme extroverts who need the energy of interacting with other people to fuel their energy and creativity, working from home probably ranks right up there with dental work.
What it is and what it isn’t
- Working from home is NOT necessarily being your own boss. Most of the time I’ve worked from home I’ve been a regular employee.
- Working from home can mean setting your own hours, but not necessarily: depends on your work agreement. Good ol’ 9-5 is very common, even from home.
- You can get work done more efficiently at home, since you have more focus and fewer interruptions.
- Meetings are usually different, taking place via technology, instead of in person.
- But reading, writing, ‘rithmetic, assembling widgets – whatever it is you do, is about the same regardless of where you do it.
You DO still have to work
The weirdest misconception I get about working from home is that you can do whatever you want to do all day.
Technically, I suppose, you can. But, just like at the office, if what you want to do isn’t your work, you’ll quickly find yourself without a job!
No one yet has offered to pay me simply for being on their payroll.
Even when I’m working as a consultant rather than an employee, I still have a job to do, which only gets done if I do it, so, much of what I ‘want to do’ each day has to be my work!
Working from home perks:
This ALONE makes working from home worth it! For me, commuting equals unpaid work time in an especially unpleasant environment, so giving up the commute is like gaining several extra hours of life each week.
If you’re compelled to answer every knock on the door or ring of the phone, working from home may not help your productivity.
But I have no problem ignoring the doorbell or phone, so for me working from home is nearly distraction free.
(Skype is my version of someone dropping into my office, but that is still less frequent than people wandering by on the way to the water cooler and stopping in! And at least conversations I’m not even part of don’t filter into my home office!)
On the other hand
However, when I DO have a letter to sign for, or the dreaded 4-hour window for a repair person to arrive, it’s nice having the flexibility to be home to answer the door without taking a whole day off.
Break time is productive!
Okay, I know there are folks with yoga mats in their cubes, but that just isn’t me.
At home, however, instead of spending a break at the vending machine, or interrupting a colleague’s concentration, I can spend it on my yoga mat, washing the lunch dishes, going for the mail … the possibilities are endless!
When I know a commute awaits, I take the shortest lunch possible. But at home I usually take a full hour, because I can run errands, do a workout, or just enjoy a long refreshing pause in a place where I can truly relax. I may even cook a proper lunch!
I’ve read countless articles by people who insist on wearing suits, makeup, dress shoes, whatever, to work at home. And you know, if that’s your thing, more power to you.
But I have NEVER found uncomfortable clothing motivating.
Nor had less respect for myself in comfortable clothes. So unless I have a video conference, I work in yoga pants or sweats, depending on the season.
I can’t begin to tell you how much my productivity flourishes when I’m not tugging at fussy clothes all day!
I have colleagues whom I consider dear friends, all over the world, and I’m not quite old enough to have spent that kind of time in THAT many offices! They are all blessings of working remotely.
Working from home caveats:
A realistic concern I hear frequently is managing your own motivation and time. This doesn’t happen to be one of my challenges, but definitely: if you need someone to keep you on task, working from home is not for you.
I have a friend who needs lots of regular feedback from her boss.
I’m not saying this couldn’t work in a remote situation, but my experience has been that managers comfortable with employees they never actually see don’t tend to be the really hands on types.
They may still be extremely supportive; I’ve had GREAT remote bosses. They just aren’t necessarily checking in regularly.
Also, if your friendships always tend to be current officemates, working from home may make a lonely, unhealthy, little island.
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Working from home can be a real snare for workaholics!
Once the boundaries are blurred, work can push family, friends, healthy activities, everything right of your life.
If you can’t ‘leave it at the office’ it may not be wise to bring the office home for good.
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Some people work from home so that they can take care of their kids while they work.
I can see how this would be a huge perk if you can do it, but for me this absolutely would not work!
The whole reason I thrive working from home is uninterrupted focus. So, for me, trying to combine these would make both parenting AND work more stressful and less effective!
When I joined my last company, my boss asked me to work from the office for a year before going remote because he believed that if people didn’t know my face, I wouldn’t move up in the company.
I suspect he’s right.
Moving up has never been my goal, but if climbing to the top, fast, is your goal, working from home will probably limit you.
So, there are liabilities to working from home, and benefits.
If you’re a good fit for it, you naturally overcome the challenges because of all the benefits you find.
And if it’s not a good fit for your personality, there are plenty of jobs that include an office!