Wednesday, September 8, 2010

10 Pros & 10 Cons of Working from Home

I have worked from a home office on and off for most of the past five years. Even when I was working for some larger companies, I had the flexibility of working from home and going into the office once or twice a week.
To many who are tired of the drudge of a commute and the tangle of office politics, working from home sounds like a dream. To those of us who work at home, we understand that there are as many, if not more, challenges and out of control dreams can become nightmares.

  1. Flexibility - Obviously, working from home gives you a great range of flexibility. You will start earlier and time that is considered lost in an office environment, such as doctors appointments, can be made up with ease.
  2. Cost - Cost savings is a big benefit to working at home. You spend less on gas and wear & tear on the car. You can keep your business professional wardrobe to a respectable amount versus haunting Macy's sales every other week. Plus, lunch at home is far cheaper than eating out every day and Starbucks becomes a treat instead of a mandatory stop in the mornings and mid-mornings and at lunch and midafternoon...
  3. Increased Productivity - I find that I am far more productive from my home office and in far less time than in a traditional office environment. As well, my clients get me at hours that sometimes work better with their schedules and I am available for all different time zones.
  4. Pajamas - For me, pajama pants are a PRO. They rock and who wouldn't want to work in their jammies all day?!
  5. Family - I am here in the morning to cook a hot breakfast and actually spend a few minutes talking before my son heads out for school. I am here in the afternoons to make him a snack and talk about his day. I am always here. This might not be such a bonus for him now that he is 13 but I love it.
  6. Comfort - don't discount comfort as it is related to increased productivity. I have my chair, my desk, best of all - my MAC and my phone. Having my computer alone makes me happier and about 300% more productive as I do not spend hours a day hating on windows and getting the blue screen of death. PC's hate me. really.
  7. Less Distractions - I am not a soap opera fan so I am safe with the news on mute and not being distracted by the tv. I set up my work space so that it is pleasing to me. Being virtual also means that I am saved from annoying co-workers and I do not have to pretend to be polite as we discuss their ingrown hairs. really. With a VPN, IM, Skype, Cell Phone & Office Phone, I am connected and ready to interact on my terms.
  8. Tax Write-off - Find a creative accountant that is used to working with people who tele-commute and have their own businesses and let the write-offs begin!
  9. Health - I rarely take a sick day. I can work propped in bed with my tissues and still get in a productive day. Plus, there is unlimited tea at home and you do not have to worry about operating a motor vehicle under the influence of thera-flu. I also do not get sick as often since I am not exposed to all the bugs in a communal office.
  10. Commute Time - try 10 seconds. 1.5 minutes to have the coffee in hand and be reading my email. Although, I do miss the morning talk radio in the car.
  1. Time Management - Time Management can make you or break you. When working from home, getting started on a task can be challenging. Scheduling in all the important calls before the kids come home and the noise level increases can be challenging. Setting a daily schedule and sticking to it is vital.
  2. Perception - People think that when you work from home, you are on the couch, watching Law & Order reruns and eating bonbons. Now I am all about the bon-bon bit, but otherwise, I say HA. HA. HA. I work longer hours from home because I never turn off. Twelve hour days are de rigueur and TGIF has no meaning for me since I work many weekends. You must be as regimented about setting the work aside as you are about getting started.
  3. Phone & Kids - I have had a phone attached to me since my son was born. He will be 14 soon. I spent the first 12 years of his life on call - 24/7. He had no idea that other Mom's did not beep in the middle of the night. And yet he STILL will talk to me when I am on the phone. I can be negotiating a contract and I look up and there he stands doing the monkey dance of permission with a huge bag of chips. This is the same child that can go for hours without speaking to me until I am on the phone. Or that answers my office phone with his mouth full and hangs up after grunting at one of my retained clients. Sigh. Reinforce the phone etiquette but know...this is the perverse nature of children.
  4. Family Boundaries - I start reading email at 6am minimum. I wake up the kiddo and cook breakfast and shoo him out the door by 7:30am. Then my day begins in earnest. So imagine after a particularly busy day that at 6pm, the only question that you get is - Where is dinner? Is the laundry done? Why wasn't the house dusted & swept, etc, etc, etc ... Or even better, I had a friend's daughter who told her teacher that her Mom was always available to volunteer in the classroom because she didn't have a real job - she was an HR Consultant from home. I also patiently answer my Mom's daily question of "What are you doing?" with "I'm working Mom". Working from home means that you see your family more but you also need to set better boundaries. Posting humorous signs - having a family meeting - assigning chores same as when you worked in the office - these are all things that you can do but also be prepared to laugh off the dogs barking, kids screeching, cats meowing and all the other chaotic backgrounds that will arise just when you get on the phone with a new client.
  5. Social Interaction - Especially in a sales position, there is something to be said to have co-workers that you can bounce ideas off of or that cheer for you when something good happens. It is a good thing to pop into the cubicle next door and rant about the wacko client that just tortured you on the phone for an hour. Telecommuters need to set up a good social network - people who are working in the same situation as you are that can celebrate your successes and moan with you about the crummy days.
  6. Distractions - Above, I said that there were less distractions. That is true for me for the most part. But then there is always the temptation to do the fun things. You know, spend three hours on Flickr and call it marketing time. Or Tweet your head off for half the day about shoes and call it networking. I have also been known to eye a crooked picture and then end up moving all the furniture in my living room. These things will happen but make sure that your productivity is higher than distractions and schedule your shoe tweeting for the evenings. You will establish a routine sooner or later - possibly in self-defense.
  7. You Eat what You Kill - many of us who have the luxury (HAHAHA) of working from home, also have the luxury of being commission only. We eat what we kill. A good support system of spouse and family is mandatory as you are making this transition and gearing up your business.
  8. Exercise & Health - Working from home can be a challenge for those of us who are allergic to gyms. No really - I am and I have a doctor note somewhere to prove it. Find something that gets you up and moving during the day. I am a photographer so I try to use that as an excuse to get up and moving and away from the computer. Some have complained that they eat more at home - the refrigerator whispers to them. Thankfully, I eat less and I eat healthier and who ever thought I would be able to say that in the same sentence?! Yoga though is brilliant!
  9. Never a Change of Scenery - Truthfully, my favorite is to be in an office once or twice a week for a half day and at home the rest of the time. It can get boring and I feel like an agoraphobic occasionally. Make sure you are balancing all the time at home with fun family field trips at the weekend.
  10. Cats - they sit on the keyboard. All. The. Time. and they look cute which means I have to get my camera and take their picture. Every. Day.
Working from home is not for everyone. It takes research and family pow-wows to see if it will work for you. It takes balance and a will to make it succeed. Working from home and being successful is also the greatest professional reward because the success is all about YOU!

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