Working From Home – The Pros, the Cons, and How to Survive

Corporate culture is steadily evolving. Many industries are bouncing back from previous economic downturns, and expanding, but the goal remains the same – make the most money, and spend the least to do it. Meanwhile, workers are continuing to flood major cities in search of better opportunities, burdening city infrastructure, real estate and other commodities.

Enter the telecommute. I remember when I worked at my previous job, our company was experiencing a steady pattern of expansion, which created more jobs. The company set forth to build two new buildings down the road, but we were well past capacity. There were hundreds of workers in our building, as well as a floor in the building next door, and two floors in a complex nearby. Y’all, there were people working in the janitor’s closet.

The company began to experiment with options like cubicle sharing (imagine how well that worked out…), but ultimately they sent a lot of employees home. When the new complex was finished, those employees stayed home. It was a win-win situation – the company saved space and overhead, and employees saved commuter time and gained flexibility.

I must admit, as an onsite employee, I was increasingly frustrated with not having some of the perks my telecommuter teammates had. For example, when we had snow days, the off-premises workers were largely unaffected by road conditions. The rest of us were told to come in two hours later, or take a precious vacation day. When I took my current job, the full-time work-from-home situation was one of the most attractive aspects.

Now that I’ve worked from home full-time for five years, I definitely know the ins and outs and pros and cons.

The Pros of Working From Home

No People! (Freedom) – I really do have a heart for people, but when I lived in Cubicleville, people would stop by all day. And sometimes, I just didn’t feel like talking. It’s also hard to get any work done with all the interactions. At home, you can control how social you want to be with your coworkers.

Minimal Supervision – If you are self-motivated and work well independently, working for home may be for you. Every company and manager will have different policies, but I have enjoyed not being micromanaged.

Bananas in Pajamas – You set the dress code at your office! I have saved money not having to invest money in clothes I would not ordinarily wear anywhere but work. I also save time by not having to primp and prep in the morning. Which brings me to my next point…

No Commute – So the population in the Nashville area has exploded. The infrastructure, of course, has not caught up. When I worked in an office, I only lived about 20 miles from work, but my commute averaged an hour and a half each way. By the time I got to work, my nerves were shot, and by the time I got home, I was too tired to be productive. Y’all know how much I hate wasted time. Working from home has given me three hours or more back in my day to actually live.

Cost-savings – Along with saving money on wardrobe and gas, some companies may offset the cost of certain job necessities like internet or phone.

The Cons of Working From Home

No People (Loneliness) – My coworkers who are extroverts often miss interacting directly with people in person. I work a job that is 80% meetings, so I interact with people over the phone all day. For me, that’s a con, but for others, it’s a welcome balance.

Solitary Confinement – If you don’t really love what you do, or your job renders your life inflexible, it does start to make your home a prison. You get up, go to work, and you’re stuck there until you get off. If your company requires some type of electronic monitoring, it becomes a proverbial ankle monitor. You really start to feel it in the winter, when you’re waking up in the dark, and logging off after dark.

Employee Perks (or lack thereof) – There are not pizza parties or picnics for work at home employees. Some companies completely forget about their off-premises workers when it comes to workplace culture and morale. Others do a better job at extending company perks and events, but you still have to go into the office to take part. For many employees, it’s not feasible to drive into the office in the middle of the day and drive back for Foodtruck Friday.

Concentration – You have to be self-motivated. You have the fluidity of dictating your environment at home, but the home is also full of distractions.

Family Matters – You know you’re working. Your colleagues know you’re working. Your family and friends see you working, but they don’t grasp it because you’re at home. It can be a difficult adjustment getting your family to respect the boundaries between work and home – and stop barging in your office space like the Kool-Aid Man.

Work-Life Balance – Work-life balance is very hard in the corporate world no matter where you work. In a world where companies routinely squeeze blood from their employees – I mean turnips, work at home-rs really feel the brunt. Work is always there, and there can be constant pressure to work early, work late, and work outside your normal hours to keep pace.

Telecommuting Tips

Here are a few tips I’ve learned to successfully work from home:

Dedicate space. Most companies mandate that you designate space just for work, but not all employees follow this rule. Working from home gives you the unique advantage of making your workspace the place that is most inspiring for you. Make sure you have a comfortable desk and chair. You will not be productive if you are uncomfortable or distracted. Also, if you set aside space that is clearly your “office” others will also respect it as such.

Try to keep a routine. Get up in the morning like you have a commute. Eat breakfast. Pray. Go to the gym. You may not know what to do with all this newfound time you no longer have to spend in the car, but your sleep pattern, amongst other things, will benefit from you keeping a solid morning and evening routine.

Close the door. If at all possible put your workspace in a place where you can close the door, whether it be an office, spare bedroom, or even a closet. That door serves as a physical representation of the separation of work and home. At the end of the day, when you finish working, empty your mind and close the door behind you. I promise it will all be there when you get back.

Leave the house. It is very easy to go days without leaving your home. Get out and get some fresh air. It has been scientifically proven that we need vitamin D, so try to see the sun at least once a day. Working from home can be very isolating, so getting out and being in the world can reduce symptoms of work-related depression and loneliness.

For the love of Pete, put on some pants. Yeah, yeah, I know I just said you could wear pajamas. Sometimes wearing decent clothes can help you get in the mind frame of being at work and concentrating better.

At the end of the day, working from home may not be for everyone, but I can definitely say I never want to work in someone else’s office full-time again.

Do you prefer going to the office each day, working offsite, or doing a little of both? Tell us what you prefer in the comments.

laptop, desk, journal, mouse

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