The Pleasures and Perils of Working From Home
Working from home has seemingly never been more prevalent, with many businesses offering at least some flexibility to their employees. Whether you run a home-based business or you tele-commute, working from home has many attractions and obvious benefits. But is it all as wonderful as it sounds? We take a look at both sides of the issue:
- No commuting (with possibly a huge saving in gas or transit costs, not to mention time spent on the road and a reduction in one’s carbon footprint – all good!)
- Flexible hours – this may depend on the nature of your business or the rules set by your employer but having flexibility of scheduling is one of the greatest pleasures. You can attend school meetings and children’s sports activities, make doctors’ appointments in off-peak times and even enjoy warm sunny days in the garden while you catch up on work in the evening – wonderful!
- Being location independent – if you are also able to do business with no more than a laptop and a phone, then you may even be able to travel and work at the same time (though that might detract from the travel experience…)
- No need to dress for business. You can work and do business in your pajamas, or without shaving/applying make-up; no one will know unless your work involves teleconferencing.
- Distractions – one’s home has many distractions that are not present in an office. Spouses, children, personal phone calls, unexpected callers – all these can effectively derail your work day. I, myself, have great difficulty working in a messy environment and therefore cannot settle to business until the house is tidy, dishwasher loaded and beds made. When I work outside the home either this all gets done very hurriedly before I leave or it gets left till I get home, meaning it really is ‘out of sight, out of mind’. Giving in to requests from spouses, interruptions from children, or simply delaying the start of your workday until the chores are done can be disastrous in terms of productivity. Some people deal with this very well by setting strict boundaries and being ‘unavailable’ during work hours – “Pretend I’m not really here!” Be firm with family and friends that you are not available between certain hours; they need to understand that, just because you’re at home, it doesn’t mean you’re not ‘at work’.
- Not having to wear business clothes – yes, this can be a peril as well as a pleasure. Personally, I have no problem dealing with early morning phone calls or emails while still in a bathrobe but I know many others who insist on dressing before they start work to ‘set the work atmosphere’. Whatever works for you…
- Isolation – the one thing many people enjoy about working in an office, or outside meeting clients, is the human company and socializing. There is a real danger of becoming isolated and lonely if you only work from home. Counteract this by making a point of leaving the house at some point each day and interacting with people – even if it’s just the supermarket checkout person. Alternatively, take your dog for a walk or set aside a time to call friends or connect with colleagues.
- Losing touch with professional developments – this can be a serious problem if you work permanently from home. Be sure to make a concerted effort to catch up with changes in your field and to stay abreast of the latest technology.
Remember, if you are able to work from the comfort of your home, the benefits generally outweigh the disadvantages and you can consider yourself very fortunate. There are many jobs and businesses where it simply isn’t an option; try running a cafe, being a neuro-surgeon, an entertainer, or the aforementioned supermarket employee! If your field of work enables you to work from home, embrace it – just be aware of the perils and how to counter them!