Dangers of working from home – and how to fix it

A short and sweet article about the “dangers” of working from home and how to fix them. (h/t to… I forget *blush*)

Speaking as someone that’s worked from home for 11+ years, I’ve gained some perspective into the matter. I’d like to add my own input to the author’s 5 points:

1. You don’t feel you are working

The author’s point here is how work life and personal life can blend. True that. To an extent, this is a good thing. You can have a greater flexibility in life, within the constraints the job allows you. For instance, I spent many years working with folks in California, 2 hours behind me. I’m a morning person. These two things together didn’t always allow our schedules to mesh because as I’m winding up my day they’d just be digging into theirs. But I didn’t let THEIR constraints control my life. Instead, I just had to make some accommodations, such as accepting that sometimes I’ll have a meeting that’s very late in the day for me. I also made a point to check my work email in the evenings.

But that said, you really do have to work at keeping work work and personal personal. You cannot let your life become one giant smear of workandpersonallifetogether. It takes discipline and learning to draw lines AND sticking to them. Plus, you have to ensure people at work come to respect those lines. As well, the folks at home also have to respect those lines.

Which brings us to…

2. Your family members won’t understand that you are working

This is simple (but not easy). Draw lines and enforce them. Make sure the lines and rules are clear to everyone, and stick to them. For example, if my door is shut, you don’t come in. If you need me, you knock. Do not expect an answer if I’m in a meeting or perhaps deeply ensconced in a debug session. You must respect it, unless it’s an emergency. Yes, kids will have to be punished if they violate the rules. Spouses too.

But that said, remember that part of the joy of working at home with the family around is that you can be around them. I’ve found that if I’m not truly deeply into something, just flow with the interruptions sometimes. Sometimes the kiddo just wants to show you what they did. It takes 30 seconds of my time (which I probably would have wasted on Facebook or something else), kiddo is happy, I am happy, it’s a win. Don’t shun your family. Just work to manage things. And yes, it will take time, failure, revision, and experimentation to find what works for you.

3. You are slacking off, because your boss is not watching

It’s very easy to slack because you’ll be surrounded by all your favorite things. You have to develop the self-discipline to keep working, because if you don’t, you’re out of a job. Bosses will eventually detect your level of productivity.

Take a little time to blow off steam, break up the day, all that stuff. But you still have to produce. In fact, it’s generally better to work to produce more, because really… you will have fewer distractions than being in the office. You can focus better. You won’t have everyone dropping by your cube. You don’t have a commute. You can be more productive.

And oh, get dressed every day. Just because no one has to look at your or smell you, you should still carry on as if people did. It will affect your psyche.

4. You alienate yourself from work community

This is true. You must work to overcome it. The author goes into the office now and again, but my office is thousands of miles away, so that’s not possible. You must make the extra effort to communicate with folks. IM is good, or maybe set up an IRC channel. Have ways to chat with people. Do pick up the phone now and again, because to hear voices is very warming and personalizing. If you can video chat, even better. Don’t be afraid to start the day with some quick pings to people to just say “hi”. You do have to have some sort of social setup with everyone, else well… you will be overlooked, you will be forgotten, and folks just won’t know much about you. Not always good for the long haul.

5. You work too much

Yup. This goes back to #1. You just have to draw lines and stick to them. Be flexible, but be firm. Don’t check work email in your non-work times. Don’t check messages. Work is work and should be put into that box and kept there. If you do not, everything will smear and work will take over your life. You can’t let it.

It isn’t easy to start working at home. It requires commitment and self-discipline. But I think the benefits are huge, both to myself and to whomever I’m working for. It’s a situation that’s worked well for over a decade for me, and I really can’t see any other way to work.

Working at home isn’t possible for every job. If your job can be done from home, consider it. But as well, know yourself. You just may need the constraints and environment “going to the office” puts on you. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s better to know yourself, know your limits, and know your capabilities.

One thought on “Dangers of working from home – and how to fix it

  1. Very informative and helpful especially that i’m still a graduate and need all the advice I can get from potential opportunities! 🙂

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