Being a freelancer means not having to commute, say yes to every assignment you're given, or commit to a preset work schedule. My colleagues and I happen to love our freelance lifestyles, but every so often, we long for the good old days of working in an office. That sentiment especially tends to creep up during this time of the year. Here's what three of us miss the most about being office workers during the holidays.
Paid time off
Selena Maranjian: Working from home as a freelancer is great in plenty of ways, such as having a very flexible schedule. But there are downsides, too, and one of them can be particularly vexing during the holidays: not having time off the way that salaried workers do.
Salaried folks tend to work a set number of hours, typically at their workplace, and they have certain days off, such as weekends, holidays, personal days, and even sick days. If you're working for yourself, though, getting paid according to how much work you do, time off becomes a challenge. Every hour or day that you're not working is an hour or day during which you could produce income by working. If you and your salaried spouse take a two-week vacation, he or she will enjoy work-free vacation days, but you'll essentially be giving up two weeks of income -- unless you work through the vacation or do extra work before or after.
During the holidays, many salaried folks have several days off, and some have a week or several weeks off. If you're a parent, your child will likely have a lot of school-free days, too, and you may want (or need) to spend many of those days with your child. It can be hard to muster the discipline to work when those around you are not working -- and instead are hanging around, watching TV, going shopping, or visiting with friends and relatives.
As a contractor, I miss those days off. But I can make the best of the situation by doing more work than usual on the days leading up to and after a vacation I give myself. I can decree certain days to simply be nonwork days, too, just taking the income hit as a necessity for mental health's sake and in order to have some high-quality time with loved ones.
Daniel B. Kline: When you work in an office full of people who like each other, there are a few times a day when people stop working and chat a little. That may happen as people arrive or during a coffee break or at lunchtime. Normally, even after a weekend, most folks just have something basic to share -- a comment about the latest movies, where they had dinner, or a sporting event they saw on TV.
During the holiday season, however, people have betters stories to share. Maybe they got a great gift (or perhaps a terrible one). Maybe their uncle made a drunken fool of himself at a family party or a relative showed up with a date worth talking about.
The holiday season lends itself to interesting tales and sharing them. While I'm lucky that the work-from-home Motley Fool workforce enjoys close ties, sharing a tale or hearing one over Slack just isn't quite the same as getting to share in person.
Being a remote worker can be lonely even in the best of circumstances (and even with the best coworkers). During this time of year, however, that can be worse as you start your day eager to talk about your new coffee maker or how your aunt knitted you a sweater that lacked a head opening.
Other people's generosity
Maurie Backman: I'm fortunate to have generous family members who shower me with plenty of gifts during the holidays. And it's certainly not like I need more. But the one thing I definitely miss about working in an office during the holidays is the generosity of others that creeps up out of nowhere.
One year, my boss bought me an over-the-top, hand-picked box of candies from a top chocolatier in Brooklyn. My manager lived in Manhattan, so to go and procure that gift took her out of her way, but she knew how much I loved that chocolate and made the effort. Meanwhile, other colleagues at that company were super generous about bringing in home-baked cookies, cakes, and even soups and stews during the holidays.
But it wasn't just my colleagues who were generous. Vendors I worked with sent small gifts -- a mug with hot cocoa mix and cookies, a fleece blanket to use at my often-cold desk. The beauty of these things was that they always caught me by surprise. At the risk of sounding spoiled, I expect holiday gifts from family members, just as they expect them from me. We exchange every year -- it's just what we do. It's that unexpected generosity that makes me miss walking into an office at this time of the year.