Having been self-employed for over a decade now (!), I’ve noticed there are quite a few misconceptions about what it’s like to work from home. I hear the same comments and observations from people over and over again, and most of them aren’t even close to the truth – or not for me, anyway. Here are 5 things people say about working from home – and why I think they’re wrong…
You’re ‘stuck at home’ all day
Something I’ve always found interesting is the fact that so many of the things people see as negatives about working from home, are the same things I hated about traditional employment. One of the biggest myths about working for home, for instance, is that you’re “stuck at home all day”. “Oh, I couldn’t stand it!” people tell me, their eyes wide with horror. “I’d go crazy stuck at home all day!” I’m not sure where this misconception comes from, but working from home doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to ever leave your home – far from it, in fact.
I actually have far more personal freedom as a home-based worker than I ever did in an office, because when I was in traditional employment, I actually WAS stuck in the office all day – and I really wasn’t allowed to leave it, other than at designated times. InI talked about how “trapped” I felt by that, and that’s not too strong a word – I felt claustrophobic and utterly miserable arriving at work every morning and knowing that I wouldn’t be allowed to leave until a ‘superior’ gave me permission, and that all I’d see of the outside world for the next 8 hours would be the view from the window: if I had one.
In one job in particular, every movement was monitored: I wasn’t just “stuck” in the office, I was stuck to my desk, not allowed to get up and leave it without first of all tapping a code into the computer to tell my supervisors why I was leaving my workstation, and what for. Even toilet breaks had to be logged in this manner, and if I spent too long in the bathroom, I’d be asked to explain why. To me, that’s what being “stuck” is like: and working from home is nothing like that, because the fact is, I can leave my desk, my office, my home any time I want – and I frequently do. I run errands, go for walks, keep appointments, have days out – all things I couldn’t do in traditional employment because I was stuck in an office all day.
Working from home is lonely
This one, I think, really depends on the person. For some people, yes, working from home would certainly be lonely, because you’re on your own all day, and if you’re someone who needs a lot of social interaction, it would probably make you feel very isolated and unhappy.
In my case, however… well,: I don’t mind my own company, and actually find it quite stressful having to be around other people for hours at a time. In my previous jobs, while I always got on perfectly well with my colleagues, and even became friends with some of them, I didn’t really feel like I NEEDED their company in order to be happy or do my job. Like many introverted personality types, I prefer to spend time with people on my own terms: at work I had to be around people ALL the time, even when I didn’t feel like being social, and that’s not something I thrive on.
In short, I think working from home is only “lonely” if you’re someone who finds ANY company at all preferable to NO company. I only enjoy the company of people I’ve actively chosen to spend time with, and I don’t mind being on my own – as I’veI only ever feel lonely in a crowd. I also, as I’ve mentioned above, have plenty of opportunities to socialise during the day if I want them: just as working from home doesn’t mean not being allowed to leave your home, it also doesn’t mean you can’t pick up the phone and call someone, or invite them over for coffee.
There are too many distractions to get much work done
The fridge, the TV, the internet… people who don’t work from home imagine that all of these things would deter them from getting any work done, and that they’d end up sitting on the couch, watching daytime TV, while the work piled up around them.
The reality, of course, is quite different: yes, there are distractions, and yes, sometimes I’ll fall down an internet rabbithole and not emerge until an hour later, but ultimately I know I HAVE to get the work done, too. When people ask me how I motive myself to work from home, I always tell them that I don’t: the bank manager does it for me. The blunt fact is that if I don’t work, I don’t earn money, and if I don’t earn money, I can’t pay my bills every month. If that doesn’t motivate you, nothing will..
Also: have you SEEN daytime TV? It’s really not much of a distraction! (Netflix, on the other hand…)
You’re always available, and can arrange your schedule any way you like
One of the most difficult things about working from home is that a lot of people don’t take it seriously, and assume you’re “not really working”, so are basically at their disposal. I can’t count the number of times someone has assumed I’d be available for whatever they want me to to do, because I can “just work in the evening instead!” Sometimes I can “just work in the evening instead”, true: but what if I don’t want to? What if I had something planned for the evening – which I now have to cancel, so I can spend the night catching up with the work I missed in the afternoon? What if I had a deadline to meet, or some other reason why I needed to work at a particular time?
People assume that home-based workers – and especially bloggers – don’t have deadlines to meet, but that’s not necessarily true. When I was a freelancer, for instance, I wrote for newspapers, who had strict print deadlines: if I’d missed one on the basis that “someone turned up for a coffee”, I’d never write for that publication again – and possibly not for any other ones, either. Terry, meanwhile, does work for clients, who expect him to be available during normal working hours, and have projects completed at the agreed time, whether or not someone decided to drop in for coffee.
You work in your pyjamas, and never get out of bed
I‘m sure this is true for some people, and it’s also true that there are days when I’m still wearing my dressing gown at lunchtime – although, to be fair, that’s more of a consequence of parenthood than of working from home, really. For me, though, I have to get dressed to feel productive. I’m not saying I put on a suit, or even get particularly “dressed up”, but I do have to be wearing clothes I wouldn’t be embarrassed to walk to the post office in, say, at the very least. I also don’t work in bed (other than on a Saturday morning, when I’ll set up my laptop there for a few hours): it’s actually not particularly comfortable, so I have a home office, with a desk, and that’s where the vast majority of my work is done.
With all of that said…
While these are all “myths” in my case, I know working from home isn’t for everyone, and there will most definitely be home-based workers out there who totally agree with some or all of the points above. Any other home-based workers out there?
Image: @eimyfig via Twenty20