Over 40% of all Americans do at least some of their work from home, according to a 2017 Gallup poll. That's because more companies have embraced flexible scheduling and are allowing workers more say in where they do their work at least some of the time.
Spending part of the work week at home and working completely from your house, however, are very different things. The first offers added flexibility and makes life easier. The second is a lifestyle choice that's not right for everyone.
It takes a certain mentality and set of skills to be a full-time at-home worker. That may not be immediately evident when the opportunity first comes up. It's easy to focus on the positives of not having a commute, saving money, not having to dress for work, and so many other things.
There are negatives, however, and it's important to ask yourself these questions before taking a work-from-home position. You may find even with all the positives that it's not for you.
Can I handle being alone?
Working from home means that you won't have the same level of co-worker interactions you have in an office. Some jobs offer at-home workers high levels of interaction with other people during meetings or through workplace messaging tools like Slack.
In many cases, though, at-home workers experience long periods of time without much in the way of social interaction. You might have a meeting and work discussion, but you might miss out on water cooler talk and the type of personal interplay that's common in an office.
Can I avoid distractions?
The difficult thing about your house is that it's where all your stuff is. If you have a work-from-home job with flexible hours then that can be a problem.
Are you the type of person who can overlook the laundry or your video game system when there's work to be done? Can you close the door and shut out other family members if someone else happens to be home?
Can I say no?
You'd be amazed how many people equate working from home with total freedom. Yes, in theory, many work-from-home situations come with flexible work hours. That's awesome if you have a doctor's appointment or need to attend an event at your child's school. It's less great when your flexibility means family members assume that you can take them to the doctor, drive them to the airport, or just hang out in the middle of the day.
If you're a work from home employee you'll need to be able to say no and accept that people may not understand. If you don't, you'll end up working nights, weekends, and other non-traditional times to get your work done. That's fine when it's your choice, but not so good when an inability to say no puts you in that position.
Can I turn it off?
When your house is your workplace you're always at work. That makes it hard for some people to walk away from the job.
Do an honest evaluation and consider whether you are the type of person who can put in your time at the "office" and then walk away at a reasonable time. It's harder for some people than others and it's important to know which type of person you are.
It's not for everyone
Just because you have the option to take a work-from-home job does not mean you should. In many cases, the positives outweigh any negatives, but that's not true for everyone. In all cases, it's important to know what you're getting into and to know yourself before making any decisions.