Many of my friends who commute to an office each day view my work-from-home lifestyle with envy.
Even my wife, whose office is less than a mile from our house, sometimes seems a tad jealous. Perhaps that's because while she's taking a shower, getting dressed, and doing the things you need to do to work in an office setting, I'm typing away in shorts and a T-shirt on the couch.
Not having to spend time getting ready and not having to drive anyplace are clear benefits of working for home. What my friends and wife don't see is that working from home is not all upside. It's a setup that comes with its own set of downsides, distractions, and problems.
What's bad about working from home?
While I don't have a commute and only need to put on a suit if I think it might impress my cats, I also don't have co-workers, at least physical ones I can interact with. There's no chitchat by the water cooler and no discussions of sports or movies during a coffee break. In fact, I often go an entire day without speaking out loud.
That can be isolating, and while some people treasure the silence, I sometimes find myself desperately wanting to talk with someone. Of course, there are some remedies for this depending upon your work situation. I'm heavily involved in digital communications over Slack with co-workers, and sometimes have phone or Skype meetings.
In addition to loneliness, working from home requires discipline. That's less relevant if your work-from-home job requires being at a desk for set hours. In my case, however, I work at my own pace, only getting paid for what I actually accomplish.
For some people that can be a major challenge, as the distractions of home are plentiful. I can put off work to play video games, go to the gym, take a swim, or countless other things.
I battle through those temptations by holding myself to strict quotas. I also try to front load my week or even get some work done on the weekend to allow for the possibility that on certain days my discipline will waver.
The other reality of working from home
When you work from home, especially if you have a significant other and children, certain responsibilities will logically fall to you. I'm now stuck putting off working from a coffee shop because I'm waiting for deliveries, and taking my son to doctor's appointments or the dentist tends to fall to me as well. I'm generally also responsible for cooking, since I can start a meal by walking a few steps from the couch or my office to the kitchen.
That's a positive overall for my wife and son, but sometimes it's a challenge for me since I'm not just at home, I'm actually working from home.
For people with traditional 9-to-5 jobs that allow working from home, co-worker resentment can also be a problem. You may be working as hard as the in-office people, or even harder, but they don't see it that way because you're not in the office. That can be a tough stigma to overcome even when actual work output shows differently.
It's not for everyone
While a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report showed that in 2016, 22% of American workers did some or all of their work at home, doing so full time is not for everyone. I generally enjoy the fact that I can work from anyplace with an internet connection, but at times the loneliness can be a struggle.
Before taking the plunge and accepting a full-time work-from-home job, it's important to examine your own personality. If you crave the presence of others or get paranoid that people may be talking about you when you're not there, then remote work may not be for you.
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