As I type this, I'm sitting on my couch wearing a New England Patriots T-shirt, gym shorts, and socks. There's a cat across my chest and another trying to find her own spot. Later, I'll shake off the cats and either take a walk or go for a swim, depending on the weather.
Working from home has its perks. A big one is that you don't have to go anywhere. That saves you gas money, it generally means you don't have to dress up, and it frees up more hours in your day. Being home-based also means I'm around for more family events and can more easily adjust my work hours in order to do something fun.
Despite all these perks, working from home is not for everyone. Anyone who decides to take this leap will face some challenges, and our panel of Motley Fool writers shares some of the downside below.
When people think you're not really working
Maurie Backman: Don't get me wrong -- I absolutely love working from home. Though I've heard people say that it's isolating, I have no problem being holed up in my office for hours on end. But if there's one aspect of working from home that does get under my skin, it's the need to constantly remind people that while I may be at home, I have an actual job to do.
For example, friends of mine who don't work but are home during the day will often ask me to join them for shopping or brunch, and sometimes it takes a lot of convincing for them to understand that I can't just neglect my responsibilities. If I had an office job to go to, that would never happen, and no one would ever expect me to call out for an illegitimate reason.
Similarly, parents are often asked to volunteer at my children's school, and I generally don't offer because I need that time to work during the day. Yet I've had people ask why I can't spare some of my time, even though they wouldn't ask the same of someone with an office job.
If you're thinking of entering a work-from-home arrangement, be aware that you might spend some time and energy convincing others that you're actually working. Still, it's a reasonable trade-off for the flexibility such an arrangement offers.
Feeling disconnected from your workplace
Selena Maranjian: There are obvious upsides to working from home, but many of the downsides are underappreciated. For example, if you work exclusively or mostly from home, you can feel disconnected from your workplace and your employer.
You won't be in the office for company gatherings, and it won't be easy for you to socialize with colleagues. You may get updates now and then, but you'll probably be much less aware of the changes taking place at the company -- the challenges it's facing, its successes, new initiatives, job openings, and so on. Feeling disconnected can leave at-home workers feeling a bit uneasy, too; they may worry more than others about the health of the company and their job security.
Working from home may be your best option, but take a few moments to appreciate the upsides of not working from home, such as the camaraderie you enjoy at work, the socializing, the access to coworkers, the face time with superiors, and the better chances for advancement that come with all that.
Those working from home would do well to stay in close communication with their managers and coworkers -- perhaps calling or emailing regularly to keep up with developments or by participating in group communication platforms such as Slack.
It can be lonely
Daniel B. Kline: It's 3:17 p.m. as I write this, and the longest conversation I've had today involved my coffee order. I'm active on various work-related Slack channels, but sometimes it's difficult not to have coworker in the traditional sense. For example, as noted above, I'm wearing a Patriots shirt, and it's the day after the team secured yet another Super Bowl appearance. I'd love to discuss that with coworkers, but doing so on Slack or social media isn't that satisfying.
On many days I eat lunch alone and don't have a meaningful (or even casual) conversation from the time I wake up to the time my wife gets home from work. That's a challenge for someone who likes other people and is generally chatty.
I've tried coworking spaces, and I've found that most people in them are pleasant but not looking to make friends -- even casual ones. In general, I work in coffee shops just to be around other human beings and to have some background noise. However, that can sometimes add to the isolation, as I can hear people talking, feel the urge to jump in, and then realize that most people don't want a stranger butting into their conversation.
For me, this a manageable problem (though my wife may not agree). The loneliness of working from home does not outweigh the freedom it gives me or the benefits of not having to go to an office, even though it is sometimes a drag.
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