For many people, working from home is a dream. Others, though, don’t really enjoy working from home. I see this difference in style every day. I enjoy working from home, and am glad that I have a career that allows me to do that. My husband, on the other hand, doesn’t enjoy working from home nearly as much. He’d rather go in to work than stay at home and work.
What you prefer depends largely on your personal style, and what’s important to you. Before you decide to work from home, whether you want to run a home business, or whether you ask your boss if you can telecommute a couple days a work, it’s a good idea to have a solid idea of whether or not working from home fits your personality.
One of the biggest issues that many have with working from home is the social interaction. My husband likes social interaction, and he likes to feel as though he is helping people (this is why he is a university professor). He likes to go in, get to know the students, and help them with their assignments.
Working from home doesn’t offer that same level of human interaction. One of the biggest challenges many people face when they work from a home office is the isolation. I don’t mind so much. I like that I don’t have to worry about office politics, and that I don’t have to try to be friendly all the time. However, I still feel lonely sometimes. Working online means that I find other ways to make connections, either by chatting online with others in a similar situation, or getting out of the house and having lunch with a friend a couple times a month.
Before you decide to work from home, consider your social preferences, and imagine the isolation. Be realistic about your need for human contact, and take that into account as you make your decisions.
When you work from home, you don’t have a boss who can just pop over to your workstation to make sure that you are on task. Those who work for others might have deadlines to help motivate them. Even in this case, though, it can be hard to motivate yourself to stay on task when you are on your own, and you don’t have team members around you to help you. A home business owner, especially a solopreneur without employees, has to be especially self-motivated and ready to start on his or her own.
As a home worker, you need to be able to get yourself started out on essential tasks. You also need to be motivated to see a project through. This can be very difficult if you aren’t naturally a self-starter. While self-motivation can be learned and developed, it can be a rough process if you aren’t used to it. Before you decide to take your work home with you, make sure you can keep things moving on your own.
Can You Quit?
One of the most difficult things for me is to put the work away. Since I work from home, there isn’t the same sort of geographical buffer that my husband has with his work. He can stay at the university and grade papers, and when he comes home, he doesn’t have to worry as much about what’s not done yet.
When you work from home, your tasks are in the next room. Even if you are done with the most important items on your to-do list, it’s still hard at times to stop thinking about what you could do next. Sometimes, though, you need to just take a step back and relax. Over the years, I’ve been learning to put the laptop down, and just relax. While a good work ethic is admirable, you don’t win relationship points with others when you’re always working. Working from home requires a little extra effort to separate yourself from the work. If you can’t manage that, you might find work taking over your life.
Don’t forget about the distractions. One of the reasons my husband finds working from home so irksome is that there is always something going on. My son wants to tell him about some new Lego set he wants, or I want to talk about a book I’m reading. Working from home also often means you have unfettered access to the Internet, the TV, and the fridge. You don’t have regular breaks, and anything can become an excuse to abandon your work and do something else.
While working in a traditional office has its own distractions, there are reminders all around you to keep on task. If you think that you will be too distracted at home to accomplish what you would like, it might not be the best situation for you.
It’s true, though, that if you really want to work from home it’s possible to overcome most of the challenges that come with a home office. There are ways to limit your distractions, find meaningful interactions with others, and to learn to motivate yourself. But before you take the plunge, make sure you understand what you are getting into, and how you plan to overcome the difficulties.
So, do you work at home? If so, do you like it and why?