For many of you, the benefits and challenges of working from home have become your reality over the past month. You may feel like you’ve really gotten the hang of it; you have your routine of waking up, heading straight to the coffee pot, then getting right to work in your own little office space you’ve created. However, your boss, coworkers, friends, and family (or maybe even you) aren’t fully convinced that working from home is a potential path to success.
The reality of working from home (like the reality of anything) isn’t quite as glamorous as it’s made out to be. Sure, you can work in your PJs, and not having a boss peering over your shoulder every second can be lovely. But the lack of a commute and fridge full of snacks nearby doesn’t mean remote work is easy.
Work is still work, wherever you do it from. And working from home poses its own unique set of challenges that traditional office workers may not be prepared for. If you’re currently working from home—or have a friend or loved one who is—you may have noticed that the following notions about working from home are all decidedly untrue:
1. It’s easier than working at an office
Certain aspects of working from home are easier. You aren’t faced with the constant distractions of ringing phones, your cubicle neighbor’s annoying pen-tapping habit, or coworkers wandering into your office to chat. You can take a break if you start to feel drained without worrying about getting in trouble. You can even run out for a quick walk around the neighborhood or stop to make another pot of coffee at any point.
But being on your own requires more discipline and determination than being accountable to an ever-present boss. Sure, you could spend the day browsing Facebook or catching up on laundry, but if you don’t keep yourself on task, you’ll pay for it later by having to pull an all-nighter. And if you aren’t sticking to a disciplined work schedule, you could have some unhappy clients wondering why their projects aren’t getting done on time.
Sticking to a schedule when you’re the only one responsible for enforcing it means you need to be very good at resisting temptations and adhering to a schedule (even a self-imposed one).
2. It’s not really “working”
Many traditional workplaces measure productivity using the “butt in chair” method: If the boss sees you parked at your chair at 8:50 a.m. and still there at 5:10 p.m., they’ll think you must be working hard. In reality, this can be far from the truth.
Plenty of people can look like they’re being productive by surfing the web, shuffling papers whenever the boss walks by, and staying just a little longer than anyone else. But what really matters is results, and when you don’t have that “butt in chair” accountability holding you hostage, you can actually find yourself working a lot harder. When you have control over your own hours, why would you want to waste your own time?
In addition, many people who gravitate towards working from home (freelancers, entrepreneurs, and the like) are naturally self-starters who take their jobs very seriously and challenge themselves to produce their best work. This can translate to lots of late work nights and weekends because when someone else isn’t turning the lights out at 5:00 p.m., there’s nothing to force you to stop working.
3. You can do whatever you want, whenever you want
While it’s true you’ll be able to get those coveted midday doctor’s appointments you weren’t “allowed” to take as an office worker, that doesn’t mean you can throw your to-do list to the wind and binge Netflix whenever you feel like it.
If you work in any sort of customer or client-facing position, chances are you’ll be doing a lot of your work during the typical nine to five window, simply because that’s when the people you need to interact with will be most available. Mornings and early afternoons are also peak productivity times for many people; while you can pull a night owl shift and finish up a project at 2:00 a.m., many people won’t do their best work then. And, if you live with others, it can also be easier to get your work done while they’re also online for their remote jobs or classes.
If you’re a savvy scheduler and able to keep yourself on task, you might be able to get away with the occasional free period to play hooky, but for the most part, your business depends on your dedication, so too many absences can come back to haunt you just like they would in the corporate world.
4. It gives you a better work-life balance
When I worked a traditional nine to five, as much as I hated it I could at least take comfort in the fact that I could turn off my “work brain” the instant 5:00 p.m. hit. My evenings and weekends were a completely different world in which my work played no part. Now that I work for myself, however, I find myself working more hours than ever.
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Part of this comes with the hustling you need to do when starting and growing your own business, and part of it comes from the fact that it’s hard to balance work and life when there’s no physical distinction between the two. I don’t leave home every morning and commute to an office; I step from my bedroom to my den. If I have a project that needs tinkering on, I can all too easily pick away at it after dinner, once my husband goes to bed, or on the weekends.
5. Working from home isn’t an option for me
While there are several vocations that require the physical being in a space in order to get the job done, many people are surprised to see just how many jobs can be performed from home. With the mandatory shelter in place orders due to the Covid-19 pandemic, employees and employers alike are taking their work to their own homes and finding that it actually works.
As you may have learned by now, working from home is not a cakewalk. If you’re the type of worker who needs a little handholding to make sure you stay on task, then working remote has likely been a challenging transition for you. However, as long as you see the above as challenges to rise to then you are likely going to thrive in this new age of remote work.
Work from home resources
If you’ve been struggling with the transition to remote work, or even if you’ve thrived but want to keep improving, we have a handful of useful articles you may want to check out.
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The ultimate work from home checklist
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