The Joys and Pitfalls of Working from Home

I love working from home. With two children, the flexibility working from home brings is invaluable. When I worked in an office, I had used up all my sick leave within the first few months, and none of those days were for my own illnesses.

I certainly don’t miss the mad rush to have my kids up and dressed and out the door by 7am. Every time the alarm went off, I would groan and hope that I was just dreaming and the beeping was part of my dream. Now, I sleep until I hear my baby playing in his cot. Then I know it is time to get up. We casually get breakfast and dress. When everyone is ready, we head to childcare.

Not only is the lack of panic and haste in the morning having an effect on my stress levels, my kids are benefiting from it too. Come evening, they are less cranky and the protests over bedtime are easier to manage. I love that I can alter my work times to suit their needs and feel so much more energetic.

I love that on some days I can work in my pyjamas! Over summer, I couldn’t afford to take time off but found a happy compromise. We spent the summer at our caravan by the river and my partner entertained the kids for a few hours each afternoon while I worked. Looking at the river (see my picture) and sitting outside in the sun certainly made for a nice work environment.

However working from home does have its drawbacks. The lack of company is one of the first things you notice. I drop the kids off at childcare and head home to a quiet, empty house. While there are days when I welcome the peace and quiet, I am beginning to find that the lack of adult conversation during the day is becoming more obvious. Where I once stood in the kitchenette chatting to colleagues while I made my cup of tea, I now find myself alone and telling the kettle about my day. Not surprisingly, the responses I get are somewhat lacking. When my partner gets home from work, I tend to talk his ear off. Afterall, it is often my first adult audience for the day! He finds this frustrating as he has spent all day with people and would prefer to be left alone.

I have also found that when you work from home you get very little feedback about your work. In an office, it is quite easy to gauge your progress. You get a “good job on that one” as you pass a colleague in the hall. You can see the boss smiling and you know you are on the right track. At home, no one bothers to call to tell you have done a good job. In fact, you usually won’t get any feedback unless something has gone wrong. This can leave you feeling that you are a failure and that your work is below standard. To combat this, I have started working on the “no news is good news” philosophy.

To work at home , you need to be dedicated. With no one to supervise how you spend your time, it is quite easy to get distracted. The washing needs doing, my Facebook account needs checking, the bed wants me to have a little nap in it. It is important to stay disciplined. During my work hours I allow myself only a certain number of distractions and each distraction must have a time limit.

That is not to say you shouldn’t have breaks. When I first started working from home I felt guilty every time I stopped to do something else. These are billable hours! You must work like a Trojan and not take a break. It took me a little while before I realised I was working about twice as much as I did in the office. Afterall, you stop to chat about your weekend, get a cup of tea, go to the toilet, find out the latest gossip on the girls in admin or complain about your boss. At home, you don’t do any of this. It is just you and your work and there are no interruptions. So I suppose I shouldn’t feel guilty about making a cup of tea. As long as my work is completed, one cup of tea isn’t going to hurt.

When you work from home, the distinction between home and office becomes increasingly blurred. I have found myself of an evening or on a weekend just trying to quickly “finish off things” that I didn’t get completed during the day. I have put on movies to entertain children while I just try “finish something quickly”. The more I did this, the more I realised I had to set myself boundaries. My work hours are those when my children are in childcare. Once they get home, my time is spent with them. One or two evenings a week I will finish things off but not more than that. The rest of my evenings are for me. And weekends, they are for family. It sounds pedantic but it ensures that the lines between home and work are not fuzzy and my children are not being pushed aside in order for me to work. It also ensures that I do take a little time for myself. This is important for my sanity.

So with a few careful rules, I love working from home. I happily chat to my kettle and pounce on my partner with a babble of stories when he walks in the door. I love the flexibility and I feel free. With a few simple rules I think I have finally found a nice balance.

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7 thoughts on “The Joys and Pitfalls of Working from Home

  1. Pingback: Being a Working Mum « a hectic life

  2. Although I no longer have little children, I, too, enjoy the flexibility of working from home. However, I agree that you have to face the challenge of staying on task and watch “blurred lines” you mention. I am not a “pajama worker,” but find it’s better if I get dressed – even though not always in career clothes.

    I also find it helpful to work at a local coffee shop once a week; this particular place has a great internet room. Since the shop is in a small beach town near me, most of the time I have the room to myself or share it with one other person with whom I can exchange ideas while I work. Oh, and did I mention, it is 1/2 block from the beach and I can see the ocean from the window where I work? Doesn’t get much better than that. Gets me away from the home office and I stay so focused there. And they have great lunch and coffee/tea/smoothies too.

    We all have to find our comfort level when working from home. So do whatever works for you!

    • Sounds like a lovely place to work! Maybe I should try a coffee shop sometime. A change of view is always a good thing. Unfortunatley no beaches near us but still some lovely city views.
      P.S. Error corrected. I make typos all the time!

  3. Great post for anyone considering working from home!

    Like you mentioned, one of the favorite joys for me is the lack of the mad rush in the morning. It’s so much less stressful than when I was working for someone else.

    And you are totally on the mark about working harder than ever. If an employer would have demanded as much of me as I demand of myself – I would have quit the first week on the job! 😉

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