179: Work from home: pros, cons, and tips
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Someone recently told me they admire that I can work from home because they wouldn’t have the drive or organization to get anything done without someone else telling them what to do. I told that person that I admired them for being able to live underneath someone else’s schedule and to-do list—because that would drive me nuts.
People need different things, and that includes when to comes to their work environment. Not everyone prefers working at home. Some people actually hate it. Some people would like to like it, but tried and realized they aren’t as productive, or they felt really isolated.
Now, some of the things in this article will only apply to those who are work from home, self-employed entrepreneurs. Not all of this will line up exactly if you’re working from home for someone else. Likewise, not all of this will apply if you are a self-employed entrepreneur who spends their whole day out and about dealing with other people. In writing this I sometimes wondered if it was a piece about starting your own business or working from home and I realized most of the things in this article tend to do more with the fact that I work from home, by myself, so that’s what I went with. Take what works for you in this article and leave the rest.
Work from home pros
Control: You’re in charge! You get to make the decisions. No one tells you what to do. You are free to figure out and implement any ideas that strike your fancy on how to set your business up or how to make it grow.
Flexibility: You want to start working at 3 am? 10 pm? Change your hours everyday?
Availability: You’re available for your own life, and being a part of it is more convenient. Life doesn’t seem as segmented into work/home or work/play.
More productive in less time: Much like with homeschooling, when you work from home you can get more done faster because a lot of the extra has been taken out. Working from home means you don’t have a commute as well as a lot of other things, and you can make the absolute most of your work day hours.
Work from home cons
Flexibility: Wait—wasn’t this also listed as a pro of working at home? Yes, it was. But as is often the case, the things that make something really awesome can also be the downfall of that thing. This plays out in many ways:
- people knowing you have the ability to be flexible and will hint or flat out ask that you to change your schedule to accommodate them in some way.
- not getting as much done as you could because you know you have the option to do it later, do it tomorrow.
- “a task takes as long as you have to do it” — expanding a task to fill the enormous amount of time you have in your day instead of just getting it done quicker and moving on.
Distraction/getting off task: It can be hard to stay on task with the things you need to do for your business when you are sitting in the midst of home things that need to be taken care of. And while taking a minute to throw a load of laundry in isn’t a horrible idea, it’s really easy for the laundry to turn into fourteen other things that need to get done in your house. And now you didn’t get the things done that were on your to-do list for your business.
No separation between home life and work life: When your work space is at your home, it can be hard to separate the two of them, especially if you don’t have an office space. Especially if you do a lot of things on a phone or a laptop that travels around the house with you. Which leads to…
Working too much: Sometimes it’s so easy to just sneak back in to the office and do “a few more things”. It’s crazy how just quick checking your email or looking that one thing up turns into three more hours of work.
Isolation: If you’re one of those people who needs in person interaction, the work at home life might be difficult. I’m an introvert and I refuel my energy by being alone. Being around people actually drains me instead of filling me up, so working from home is a great set up for me. However, if you need to hang out around the water cooler, attend that in person meeting, or have that face to face pep talk, the work at home set up might not be your best choice. Social media and online interactions certainly fill that need for interaction for some people (myself included) but if you are a hardcore people person, work at home life can feel isolating and lonely.
Tips for a successful work from home set up:
Set boundaries with yourself: I mentioned earlier that it can be really easy to blur the line between work and home. And it can be really easy to just pop back into the office to work on a few things. It is so important that you set boundaries with yourself about those things. It’s also important to realize that you do not have to be available to your clients/readers/fans/listeners 24-7. You really, really don’t. And that’s a you thing, not a them thing. Some suggestions people have used to work on this:
- set work hours, and the office door (or whatever space you designate as your work space) doesn’t open before or after that
- take email off your phone, only check at your computer (preferably in your work space)
- turn off notifications on your phone
- protect your time away from “the office” – unless it’s a business emergency, get back to it later.
Set boundaries with other people: Being self-employed and working from home means I have the ability to change my schedule to help others out if need be. It also means that I can switch my schedule around if “something comes up.” But. If I always change my schedule to accommodate other people’s needs, that means the things I want to do/need to do for my business aren’t happening. It also means that I teach other people to expect that I will change my schedule for them. Even if I CAN change my schedule, it doesn’t mean that I always SHOULD.
Set a schedule: I work best when I have a schedule and work hours. For me, that is to guard against being a workaholic. But it’s also a struggle because sometimes there is no one here at my house and it’s very easy for me to say “hey, there’s no one else here, I’m just gonna go back in my office and work.”
At this time of year, the best schedule that works for me is working on Farmish Kind of Life stuff from about 5 am to 1 pm and then closing my office door for the day. However, that’s also tricky because now that I’m making more video content, sometimes that video camera comes out because I need to get some footage of what we are doing or what I’m making for supper.
I’ve also discovered that having some set hours for what I do when is helpful: for instance, knowing what I work on before the sun comes up (writing, editing audio/videos) and what I wait to work on until after there is natural light (filming). Knowing what’s best to knock out in the morning when the house is still quiet (recording any audio!) and what I can still accomplish after the house starts to wake up.
It’s important to remember to be flexible when that schedule needs to change. For instance, in the summer, I often do do more outside stuff in the morning and wait to do “office work” in the hotter part of the day.
Make a to-do list: If you are anything like me, you will not remember all the things you want to accomplish in this day unless you write them down. Every morning I will sit with my coffee and a sheet of paper, divided in four sections (office, house, outside, out and about). And I fill in the things I want to do that day under each section. It helps keep me productive, makes it easier to make a plan for the day, and I always know what the next thing is I am going to do.
Also, realize there is flexibility in what you get to do, but if something needs to get done, you have to do it . Even if you don’t want to write that article today, Amy.
Get out of your jammies: I know the cool thing about working from home is you can be comfy, but there is something to be said about getting out of your jammies, taking a shower, and dressing in regular clothes. I’m not saying you have to dress like you’re going to a board meeting everyday, but resist the urge to just stay in your jammies. I find there is something that shifts mentally for me, even if I get out of my pajamas and just put on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. I mean, I’m not fancy, I’m just farmish, but I’ve found that failing to change out of my comfy sleeping stuff means my brain never really fully shifts from comfy or sleeping.
I hope you found this discussion about working from home helpful. If you have any pros/cons/tips to add, please leave them in the comments!
— Amy Dingmann, 1-11-22
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