September 29, 2011
Liz published this at 12:43 pm
A Guest Post by
Work Sweet Work?
Ah, the dream of working from home. So many perks – not having to get up early, no commute, no annoying co-workers, eating from your own fridge, break whenever you want, keep an eye on your kids – you don’t even have to get dressed if you don’t want to. Unless you’re one of the “lucky” people who actually have this privilege (between 2.8 and 44.4 million people in the U.S. work from home depending on who you ask), you’re probably reading this from a cubicle and dreaming of “freedom.” But hold on – working from home isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. I’ve been working from home for several years now, and I can tell you that it’s definitely not for everyone. Let’s start with the biggest hurdle…
People who work from home don’t have a traditional boss looking over their shoulder. A freelance writer, for example, probably doesn’t have any boss at all. A medical biller probably has a boss, but the boss isn’t physically in the room, checking to see if work is being completed. This sounds great at first, but it really leads to a pressing question: do you have the motivation and focus to accomplish what you need to do? Remember that you’re on your computer – will you really write that report, or will you spend three hours watching YouTube videos? Even if you think you’re motivated, other little things can add up – by the time you’ve checked your email, looked at your social networks, poured a cup of coffee, taken the dog out, searched for your keys, made a trip to the grocery store, and taken the dog out again, you suddenly realize you’ve lost two hours.
So, be honest with yourself – some people need a standard work environment to get things done. To help you decide if this applies to you, ask yourself these questions:
- How did you function in school when you had a big assignment? Did you wait until the last second to do it? Did you spend hours on a small assignment because you’d write one sentence and then go out and do other things?
- Do you have a space in your house/apartment that you can devote solely to work? Or will you be trying to work three feet away from that tempting XBox?
- How will your pets distract you?
- How much time do you spend on social networks? Do you automatically open Facebook whenever you open your browser?
Of course, these things can be overcome. In the past, I checked my email constantly while trying to get things done. But creating a schedule, logging out of email and social networks, creating a designated workspace, and setting goals for each day has helped immensely. Just be sure you’re absolutely ready to take the plunge.
Cutting out the cost of a commute can be a huge financial relief, but working from home will cause you to spend more money on certain things:
- Food – You’ll need to keep your refrigerator stocked more than usual if you don’t want to be running out for food all the time.
- Internet – Obviously, you’ll need an internet connection. But having a clear wireless internet connection will help preserve your sanity. Being tied down to one spot while working from home is not only unhealthy, but it can also prevent you from working in other areas to be less distracted. (Sometimes I go out to my living room couch or the kitchen table if I’m having trouble focusing.)
- Bills – You’ll be using more electricity, water, and heat/air conditioning when you work from home. It’s likely you’ll also have higher phone bills depending on how much you’ll be required to talk to others.
- Equipment – Setting up a home office can get expensive. You’ll need to get a comfortable chair, a decent desk, and possibly some extra shelving. Also, your life will revolve around your computer. If something breaks down, you’ll need to shell out the money to fix it immediately. (Just the costs of printer ink can add up.)
- Time – This is intangible, but if you’re unmotivated and suffering from distraction, you can end up working some very long hours to get work accomplished.
Of course, some companies will pay for some of these expenses. But if you’re freelancing, you’re on your own. So, if you’re considering working from home, be sure to weigh these costs against your current situation – and write off what you can at tax time.
Physical and Mental Health
As mentioned earlier, it’s dangerous to just sit around all day. Your current job might at least require you to move to other areas of the office now and then – maybe some stairs are even involved. Chances are, however, that you’ll be moving a lot less when you start working from home. Maybe this won’t bother you, but if you’re health-conscious, you’ll definitely want to consider this aspect of the job.
Finally, think about this statement: when you’re at home, you’re at work. This still weighs on my mind sometimes. While many office workers take their work home, it can still be nice to go to a physically different and comforting place at the end of the day. “Work-from-homers” have much less separation. If you tend to worry a lot about deadlines, or if unfinished work really bothers you, working from home might not be for you. You may find yourself constantly thinking, “I should be working right now.” So, be sure you can seriously separate work from your personal life – even if they both occur in the same place.
Rachel Carlson is a writer and student that works from home. While she spends a lot of her time writing, she also helps different companies like Clear Wireless with gaining exposure through various blogs and websites. She has recently started a new Twitter account and is finally going to give it a real shot. She can be followed at @carlson_rachel.
Thanks, Rachel. It takes a clear mind and focus to get out a blog post about distractions. Great job!
–ME “Liz” Strauss
Work with Liz on your business!!