Photo By: Thomas Lefebvre
Working from home is an absolute privilege, and I’ve been doing it full time since 2011. While there are a great many benefits to spending your work days in your own home, there are plenty of challenges that threaten to hinder and even derail both productivity and enjoyment.
Let’s start by getting the benefits out of the way. Depending on how often you’re on camera in conference calls and/or live streaming from your home office, you will probably notice the relaxed dress code first and foremost. I personally wear a button-up shirt to work every day, but instead of jeans or slacks, I’m usually wearing basketball shorts.
There’s also the ability to have more control over your schedule. Not having to commute saves me one or more hours on the road every day, and most remote jobs give you the ability to determine when you take your breaks. You can even use your entire kitchen to make lunch, giving you a lot more options than a traditional break room.
But with all these benefits come the quirks. Here are five challenges of working from home.
Procrastination is a fierce enemy to anyone that works from home — especially if they make their own hours. Your employer(s) rely on you to get the job done, each day. Time flies surprisingly fast when you’re doing things that distract you from work, like YouTube, Facebook, and finding the perfect song on Spotify.
If you’re prone to procrastination, working from home is probably not as good of a choice for you as it sounds.
You can, of course, overcome procrastination in a number of awesome ways. You could install a browser plugin such as StayFocused for Chrome which will limit the amount of time you can spend on time-wasting websites each day. You could also do things like meticulously schedule the tasks you’ve been assigned so that you know what you need to have done by when.
Like procrastination, distraction is a real struggle for many people who work from home. You’re surrounded at all times by everything you love. Your family might be there. Your pets, too. Maybe your gaming console or PC is ready and waiting nearby.
In any case, distractions are a big challenge, but they can be overcome. Putting your home office in a part of the house that is separated from the rest of it by a door is one way. You can simply close your door to block out many of the distractions you deal with. If kids have a habit of opening that door and bugging you, you might want to consider a coworking space enabling you to escape to a remote office during deadlines.
You could also schedule breaks for yourself regularly. Take a walk between big tasks.
Family and Friends
Believe it or not, your family and friends are a possible challenge when working from home. If you work at home there is an easy assumption that you are free to do things for others. Your spouse or family members might call on you to help them since you’re at home and seemingly available.
This can be tough, because you have to balance the freedom you have to make your own schedule with the responsibilities of your job. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is to tell them you’re under the gun and need to focus on work for the time being.
It can also help to create a schedule, if you have the ability to stick to it, and share it with the people in your life most likely to request your time.
When you work at an office, your stuff is usually supplied for you. The computer you work on, the mouse you use, your chair, desk, electricity, and even your pencil holder is usually supplied by the company you’re doing business for. Unless you’re a consultant or some other type of temporary outside contractor, this is how things are supposed to work.
However, when you work from home, the onus is on you to have what you need to get the job done. This can include the computer you work on and the software you need to get the job done. This greatly depends on the agreement you make with your employer, but more often than not, this is on the worker.
A lot of the remote workers I know have a stockpile of extra keyboards and mice in their closet just in case.
Your Home Itself
Working from home sounds great, at first. After a few weeks, your home becomes your workplace. Your living room is an extension of your office and even the overcrowded coffee shop down the street with the weird barista that gets your name wrong every time (even though it has four letters) seems like a refreshing alternative to the familiar surroundings that is your home.
When family comes from their day jobs, the last thing they want to do is leave and go somewhere, but as a remote worker, this is often the first thing you want to do after wrapping up a long day at the home office.
So, what can you do when your home has become your workplace? Consider moving your work elsewhere one or more days per week. Be one of those people who hijack a table at the coffee shop for a few hours, or take your laptop to the local library. Coworking spaces are another great alternative for folks that can afford it, especially as they enable you to have those important water-cooler conversations with other people in your situation.
For all the challenges working from home can bring, it really is an incredible experience. For the folks with the temperament for it, the pros outweigh the cons, considerably.