Got kids you hate leaving with daycare? Work at a soul-crushing nine-to-five job? Ever thought of working from home? Millions do every day. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 50-percent of jobs are compatible with working at home at least part of the time and 20 to 25-percent work from home, for an established company, most of the time; that comes out to 3.7 million people working from home, not including freelancers and small businesses run from the home. Statistics show more and more will be working from home as companies look to revamp their workplaces. If you’re looking to work from home, now’s the time. In the first article of a three-part series on working from home, we’ll look at the advantages and disadvantages.
Working from home can be great. Unless you need to go to a meeting, you could actually work all day in your jammies. Need to get some laundry done? Go do it. Working from home means you eat healthier because you’re eating from your pantry, not from a restaurant or local lunch place. Because your commute is as far as the distance between your kitchen and your home office, the only traffic you have to navigate is the kids getting ready for school or the furry family members wanting attention.
You actually save money by working from home. Your insurance rates go down because you’re not driving to and from work on a daily basis. Your wardrobe only needs to include a few things appropriate for business meetings or trips out of town; sweats and a T-shirt work well, along with your comfy slippers. You’re not eating out as often, so your food bill will be less; even though you’re eating at home, you will spend much less by not going out to eat.
Comfort-wise, you get to choose where you work, when working from home. No more cubicles and noise from the person sitting next to you. It can be as quiet or as noisy as you like, depending on how you work. We spoke with some freelancers working from home; one is most productive when the television is on, sound off, so she knows what time it is, another has a special playlist for work that keeps her on target and another needs absolute quiet. Furnishing your office can be a delight, as you choose your chair, your desk, the light and the colors.
Working from home sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? It is, but it’s not without its drawbacks. Jenny, a medical transcriptionist working from home, says, “I have to set a timer for breaks. I get in the zone and before I know it, I’ve been sitting at my computer for several hours, so I set the timer for 30 minutes of work, five minutes of break. I also set a timer for lunch, to make sure I actually eat lunch.” When you work at home, it’s easy to lose track of time, because no one is standing up, leaving for lunch or getting ready to leave at the end of the day.
What about interruptions? Those working from home get used to tons of interruptions, unless they set concrete guidelines. Friends and family pop by without calling first because they know you’re home. Spouses have a tendency to use the, “Honey, I know you’re working, but …” line at least twice during the time you’re working. Kids run into your office wanting a mediator or a glass of water.
There’s also a perception, especially among older ones, that working from home isn’t really “working.” A freelance writer told us of one friend who stopped by to say, “I’m really going to miss coming over to talk when you get a real job;” at the time, the writer was in the middle of three big client projects, working a zillion hours. One medical coder lost her house because her grandfather, who owned the house, wanted her to go get a “real job,” even though she was working 12 hours a day and making good money, was never late on rent and took good care of the house.
Getting distracted by family and friends is a drop in the bucket when compared to internal distractions. It’s easy to grab another cup of coffee in the kitchen, notice dirty dishes in the sink and, before you know it, you’re cleaning the kitchen. Or you go to the bathroom and walk past a pile of laundry and, suddenly, it’s 30 minutes later because you’ve started doing laundry and picking up the kids’ rooms.
Perhaps the biggest downside to working from home is you. To work from home successfully, you need to be disciplined and organized. You need to set work times and then walk away when that time is done. There needs to be a clear boundary between work and home. The draw of working at all hours of the day and night just to get the job done can lead to being less effective, at the least, and burnout, at the most. If you’re not disciplined, you won’t get the same amount of work done at home as you would have in the office, you’ll miss meetings and give into the temptation to sluff off work because there is fun to be had.
Isolation is a big “you” factor as well. If you’re used to working in an office, it might seem great to work from home for a while, with all the office-type distractions gone. But after a while, you find you’re talking to yourself just to hear conversation. It’s easy to get withdrawn from human society when you work from home and actually turn down opportunities to go out; after all, you’ve built your own cocoon at home, so why go out?
While you think you’d love to work from home, remember – it’s still work. You still need to have the same dedication you’d have if you were in an office. You still need to perform and stay focused. And you still need to set boundaries.
Tomorrow, we’re going to look at work-at-home scams and how to tell the difference between real opportunities and those that will just take your time and money, leaving you with nothing.