So you want to work from home?
Think again. Working remotely from home or wherever you decide to work isn’t what it’s all cracked up to be. You’re not going to be sitting in your pajamas all day, effortlessly knocking out tasks. In fact, that’s probably the least productive way to work from home.
It sounds easy, but working remotely requires a ton of discipline to be effective and productive. Before trying to convince your boss you want to work from home, here are a couple things you’ll want to take into consideration.
Pros of Working From Home
Flexibility in your schedule
When you work from home, the 9-5 hours aren’t set in stone. Instead, you will usually have a set number of hours for when you’ll need to be available and still sit in on regular meetings or project updates via phone or web conference.
Flexibility allows you to have more options when scheduling ‘life’ around work. Have a doctor’s appointment? Likely not an issue, take off when you need to and make up the work later that evening or on the weekend.
Work better in the morning? Great, start earlier in the day and remain ‘on-call’ in the late afternoon. Flexibility allows you to take advantage of your most productive times while giving you more options to take care of the other things that are important in your life too.
Reduced transportation costs
Driving to and from work has two costs. For one, the gas, wear and tear on your vehicle, and the insurance all have a price. For those in bigger cities, the metro, subway, or other public transportation may have similar costs. Lastly, the value of your time from when you leave home to when you arrive at the office.
If it takes you 20 minutes to drive to work 5 days a week, that’s 40 minutes worth of driving a day. There are about 261 workdays in a calendar year, so that is the equivalent of 10,440 minutes, or 174 hours, or 7.25 days you spend in the car not getting paid or doing something you enjoy.
For someone that makes about $40,000 year, their time is worth approximately $19.00/hr. At 174 hours, that time you spend driving costs you $3,306 per year + the maintenance costs of the vehicle.
You could even argue the stress of driving and navigating rush hour traffic takes a physical and mental toll on your body.
Compare this to a 15-foot walk from your bedroom. The better option is obvious.
Less wasted time
In a corporate setting, you’re ‘at work’ from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM with an hour or so lunch somewhere in there. Of those 8 hours with an hour lunch, how much of that time are you actually working? If you said, “All 8 hours,” you’re a damned liar.
The truth is there are all sorts of unnecessary bullshit added into a corporate office setting that has nothing to do with getting the results or pushing projects forward. Instead, superficial discussions, gossip, etc. are only there to create the illusion of a ‘company culture’ or help employees momentarily escape the cubicle they’re trapped in.
Side Note: I get it; I sound like an authoritarian jerk that only cares about money and results. However, at the end of the day, what would the employees rather have - an occasional Friday afternoon of ‘fun time’ where you’re forced to interact with your coworkers and make small talk because, “...everyone’s been making such great progress,” or a bump in their salary?
The point here is when working remotely, you strip away all the excess fat from the workday. Your focus is on getting work done, not getting through the workday. When you complete all of your tasks for the day, you can spend more time doing things you enjoy.
From an executive-level perspective, you get more productivity out of fewer hours, which results in happier employees.
Ability to multitask
Take this one with a word of caution. When you start working from home, I highly recommend against doing any sort of housework in addition to your regular work throughout the day. I talk about this more in another article, but it comes down to building discipline first.
After you have built that discipline, it’s easier to take advantage of the 21st-century luxuries we’ve been given. It takes less than 5 minutes to start a load of laundry or load the dishwasher (at least for me). You can do this at the start of the day, in the middle of the day, or maybe when you have 3 minutes before a call is getting ready to start.
Clean clothes or clean dishes is a passive activity once started, so all you are required to do is load or unload the machine when it’s done. So instead of having to do all of these things as soon as you get home, most will already be 80%-90% complete by the time you clock out for the day.
Choosing where you want to work is your decision, and you can start to think outside the cubicle (see what I did there?) in terms of design and environment.
Are you most comfortable working in a semi-outdoor space with 90’s alternative music playing at a 4/10 volume in the background? Great, you can set your area up that way.
Maybe you’re a programmer or work in the field of computer science. You might prefer your space dark with a few small accent lights and ‘The Office’ playing the background. Totally cool, set it up that way.
Or maybe you’re like me. I utilize a TV as a second monitor placed right next to the window. Sometimes I open the window, sometimes I keep it closed. Sometimes I blast Alternative through a soundbar, and other times I have classical tunes humming through my headphones. Occasionally I’ll change the scenery up and work from the kitchen, or even in the garage.
And usually, I have Reese sitting right at my feet to keep me company.
The point is, it doesn’t matter what your space looks like. It’s your space, and you can customize it to your liking. Just keep in mind that you will need some level of silence for calls, and if you use your webcam, you still want to maintain a professional appearance.
You get more done
If you’ve read other articles I’ve written and implemented even just a few of the things I’ve learned, it’s difficult to not get more done in the day. The less time you have to spend on non-project related tasks, the more efficient you are.
Eliminate the drive to work, the superficial office conversations, and enhance your personal space, your processes, your discipline, and it’s difficult to not achieve and produce more. It’s a straightforward concept when you break it down. Spend more focused time on actual work, and you’ll get more done.
Cons of working from home
Discipline is difficult, and there’s no shortage of distractions
Ever tried to stick to a new diet or new workout plan? It’s hard, isn’t it? The same goes for starting a new work routine. It takes a lot of directed effort and discipline to avoid non-work related tasks and stay on track.
Keeping yourself accountable is a job within itself and simply said, for some people, it won’t work. For some, the office is almost like an escape from home for a little while. Your kids, pets, roommates, or spouse may also have a hard time adjusting to your new schedule.
It’s easy to get sidetracked with, “...just one quick task,” and the next thing you know, an hour or more has been spent on something unimportant. If this becomes a bad habit, your work performance will suffer and you might ruin the opportunity for anyone thereafter that would want to work remotely.
There’s little separation of work and home
On the other hand, some folks work too much and don’t know when or how to turn off. Know someone that is constantly checking the work email on his phone? I’m sure you do, everyone knows someone that can’t mentally leave the office.
Now imagine what it would be like if that person had their office 6 feet from their bedroom.
It can become a much bigger problem when the only thing separating you from work is a turn of the doorknob or opening up your laptop. I’ll be the first to admit that there have been times I start working again after dinner or right before I was planning on going to bed.
It starts with an “I’ll just check a couple emails and respond, so I don’t have to do it in the morning.” Next thing I know, it’s 11:00PM, and my body is going to wake me up bright and early, whether or I’m well-rested or not.
While you have to be disciplined to get work done, you also have to have the discipline to stop working and know your boundaries. Your spouse and kids won’t appreciate it if your mind is always at work and not at home. Trust me, it’s harder than you would think.
Feelings of isolation
Some might see this as a positive, but it gets old after a while. While pointless conversations with coworkers in the hallway don’t serve any business purpose, they do serve a social purpose. Humans are social creatures and thrive on interaction.
Spending a third of your day in your home office can more or less feel lonely. Sure, you’ll probably have phone calls, Zoom, or WebEx meetings, but it’s not the same as physically being in the same room as other people.
Difficult to build relationships and communicate
Building on the previous point, not physically being in the office makes it difficult to build relationships and interact with other people. It’s harder to get to know someone on a personal level when you rarely, or never, see them in person.
The minutes you spend before a meeting starts, chatting about whatever - whether it be a coworker’s kid’s baseball game the past weekend or the beer fest you found out that you’ll both be at this weekend, is non-existent.
Think about how you first made friends in grade school. You pretty much were stuck in a room with 20-30 other kids, and you interacted until you found some common ground. The workplace isn’t that much different in regards to learning how to make friends and establish relationships.
Without these personal connections, you might find it more challenging to get some things done when you need a little extra help on a project, or someone else needs your expertise to push a project forward.
Your company may not fully trust you
This varies from company to company, but some will install software that monitors whether or not you are present on your computer. It could be as simple as checking to see whether the mouse moves every so often, or it might use your webcam to take a photo at random intervals.
If your boss is a micromanager, he or she may actually watch your screen just to see what you’re doing. In my opinion, if your boss has to go to these measures to ensure you’re working, they either don’t trust you or are wasting their own time.
Regardless, that’s the sad reality for some who work remotely.
Coworkers might become envious and make accusations
If you have immature coworkers that will stoop to levels of tattle-telling or snitching, this could be an issue. While it’s a pain in the a** to deal with, this is another reality of working remotely.
Coworkers may be envious wondering why you can work from home, and they can’t. Maybe it’s because of the nature of their role, perhaps it’s because of your tenure, who knows. Expect some jealousy if others aren’t allowed to telecommute and make sure your bases are covered.
In another article, I outline some methods to project tracking and reporting that not only shows you’re doing work, but you’re moving the needle (coming soon!).
With all that being said, I still would choose to work from home over an office. It fits my style of work and allows me to get more done in less time. However, it’s not for everyone, and after doing it for over a year now, I’ve learned it’s not as easy as everyone thinks.
You genuinely do have to put effort into staying on task, avoiding distractions, and you will need to spend some money on your space.