Our guest blogger Helen of Discovering Work Life Harmony plots the ups and downs of working from home.
I’ve been working from home for eight years now. Before that I’d worked from home on the odd occasion, but the majority of my working life had been office based. I remember thinking very carefully about whether working from home was the right thing for me. I wasn’t too worried about my motivation or ability to work from home, but I was concerned about the potential social isolation. But having weighed up the pros and cons (or what I thought they were at the time), I made the decision to accept a new job that involved remote working.
I guess I had some pre-conceived ideas about what working from home would be like. I knew I wouldn’t spend all day in my pyjamas watching daytime telly with a laptop on my knee. But I probably did focus on what I perceived to be the positive aspects of working from home. I hadn’t anticipated some of the negatives of working from home.
So what have I found to be the main pros and cons of working from home?
Pros of working from home
No commute – My previous job involved an hour commute the office each day. A journey that normally took just 20 minutes took three times longer at rush hour. I remember crawling along the M4 at a snail’s pace. Not a great way to start the day. I still have to take my daughter to nursery and my son to school in the mornings, but then it’s back home to start work. I’ve gained an hour and half in my day by not having to commute to work.
Fewer distractions – At home, I have peace and quiet to get on with my work. When I worked in the office, I’d regularly have colleagues popping over to my desk with a quick 5 minute question (that rarely only took 5 minutes). I utilise status settings on Skype and Lync to let people know when I’m available or busy. I’m actually more productive when I work from home.
Being close to school and nursery – We didn’t have children when I first started working from home but now I have a family to think about, I am grateful for the fact that I tend not to be too far from my children. If they are sick or there are events going on at school I’m close enough to get there quickly.
Money saving – I’ve definitely spent less on petrol, work clothes, lunches and car maintenance since working from home.
Cons of working from home
Social isolation – this is probably the biggest negative for me. I need to socialise with the people. Working from home can be lonely, and although I speak to my colleagues over the phone, it’s not the same as face to face contact. I do miss the office banter.
Always at work – when I worked in an office, I found it easier to physically and mentally leave work from home. It’s easy not to have that same separation when you work from home.
Working with young children at home – I’ve tried and just can’t do it. I need to be able to focus on work and not feel guilty about not giving my children my full attention when they are home. It’s also not that great to have my son shout out that he needs a poo when I’m on the phone to an important client (genuinely happened – very embarrassing!)
Other distractions – Whether it’s people knocking at the door, the lure of the over-flowing laundry basket or the very noisy cockerel that lives down the road (yes, also true!), working from home doesn’t erase all distractions.
You’ll need motivation and focus – and lots of it! Working from home is great if you’re self-motivated and can stay focused despite distractions at home or not having your boss peering over your shoulder.
Not as flexible as you may think – There’s no denying that working from home does bring a certain degree of flexibility but I think I had over-estimated the amount of flexibility I’d have. My clients typically work 9am to 6pm and so I need to be available during that time too. I never have as much time in the evenings now I have children and so I can’t rely on catching up when the children are in bed. It’s just easier to work set hours when I know I have childcare, my clients and colleagues will be available and I can schedule and plan more easily.
For me, the pros of working from home definitely outweigh the cons but if you are thinking of working from home it’s important to realise there are downsides. Be realistic about the type of work you’re doing and the level of flexibility you will really get from working from home, particularly if you have children.
If you’re working from home at the moment, you can find some tips at https://discoveringworklifeharmony.wordpress.com/tag/working-from-home/