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Consider These 3 Things Before Deciding to Work From Home

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It can be great, but there are downsides.

For many people, working from home is a dream come true. You no longer have to waste time commuting, and that can free up hours that become yours to do with as you please. In many cases, you're also freed from dress codes, and sometimes you don't even have to work standard hours.

But just because there are a lot of positives doesn't mean working from home is for everybody. It also comes with challenges and problems that people in standard job situations never have to deal with.

Of course, there are two types of work-from-home situations. Some people are remote employees who simply don't have to go into an office. Others are freelancers, contractors, or owners of their own business who may work for multiple employers or clients. No matter the exact work situation you find yourself in, getting to do it from your house has some strong advantages, along with a few negatives.

Here's what our Foolish contributors had to say about working from home.

A man uses a laptop while sitting on a couch.

When you work from home you're not tied to a desk. Image source: Getty Images.

Your ability to set boundaries

Maurie Backman: One of the things I like best about working from home is the flexibility to do certain tasks on my own terms. Sure, I have deadlines, but in many cases, working from home allows me to do my job at the times that work for me. For example, if I have a doctor's appointment or need to run errands during the day, I can complete my work at night and still get it done on time.

But that flexibility is both a blessing and a curse, because what often happens is that rather than establish boundaries for when I should be working versus tending to household items versus just plain relaxing, I often find myself -- you guessed it -- working. Tricky as it is to unplug when you have a workplace to trek in to, in some ways it can be even harder to establish those boundaries when your home and your office are one and the same.

Therefore, if you're going to take a work-from-home job, figure out ahead of time when you're expected to be at your desk, and when you're going to call it quits each night. Much of this, of course, will depend on what your employer expects of you, but the key is know when you're supposed to be working and when you're done. Otherwise, you'll fall into the trap of working all the time and burning out in the process.

Taxes get more complicated  

Selena Maranjian: One underappreciated aspect of working from home -- and, especially, working for yourself -- is that your tax life is more complicated. If you're a regular, salaried employee, much of your tax work is automatically taken care of for you. Your employer reports your earnings to the IRS and even withholds taxes for you so that when the time comes to prepare your return once a year, you will likely owe relatively little and may well be in line for a refund.  

Not so when you're self-employed. Self-employed people generally pay taxes quarterly, based on estimates of what they will owe for the year. That can amount to several thousand dollars or many thousands of dollars every few months. It requires some discipline to keep up with all that and to be sure to have the needed funds available.  

Self-employed people do get some special tax deductions, such as for home office expenses and business-related travel, but you'll need to do a lot of record-keeping in order to be able to claim most such deductions. It's often smart to have an accountant prepare your taxes for you, which can be relatively costly. (Fortunately, a good accountant may be able to save you more than he or she charges you.) 

Then there are Social Security taxes. While typical salaried employees fork over 6.2% of their paycheck for Social Security, they may not realize that their employer is coughing up a corresponding additional 6.2%. Self-employed people, though, have to pay both those sums -- a whopping 12.4% of income.

Nobody else is there

Daniel B. Kline: My day starts pretty early, and working from home makes that easier. I get up around 7:15 a.m. and am sitting on my couch with my laptop on my lap by 7:30 a.m. If I had to drive somewhere to start at that hour I'd need to shower, get dressed, and maybe eat something, which would require getting up much earlier.

I generally keep my head down in my laptop until 9:30 a.m. or so. At that point, I walk down to one of a handful of nearby coffee places in order to get my first cup of the day. That's when the fact that I work at home, alone, and without any co-workers physically present strikes me hardest.

I'm eager to have some coffee break chat. I want to talk about what I did the night before or maybe the work I had already done that day. Not having anyone to talk to is isolating, and sometimes it makes it feel like you don't really have a job.

I fill the need for other people by being aggressively friendly with other Motley Fool writers, editors, and personnel on Slack. Sometimes, however, that's not enough, and working from home gets lonely making me crave -- at least for a few minutes -- the normality of an office. Of course, that tends to go away when I'm taking a swim break at 2 p.m. or deciding to work for the day from a table at the France pavilion in Epcot or a coffee shop at one of the other area theme parks.

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