The best and worst of working from home

This fall marks my six year freelance-iversary, and I’ve been thinking about the pluses and minuses of the past six years in order to plan for the future. Before becoming a translator, I was a high school French teacher, which is about as far from the home office environment as one can get (think screaming seventh graders hanging off you all day!). In general, I really enjoy working from home and I also think that it has a lot of benefits for the environment and the community. I’m interested to hear people’s thoughts on the ups and downs of the home office, here are a few of mine:

The best:

  • Flexibility. This is probably my favorite thing about working from home. If I want to go for a bike ride or to the grocery store or library during the day when most people are at work, it’s rarely a problem. If I want to work for 4-5 hours during the day and then 2-3 hours at night, again it almost always works out well.
  • Being available. When I was a teacher, scheduling an appointment with my dentist, financial planner, etc. was a serious logistical challenge. Now, it doesn’t require taking a personal day to let the furnace repairman in or wait for the new door to be delivered.
  • Improved quality of life for the family. Because of the flexibility of my work situation, we don’t use any after school programs or child care outside of school hours, which I think is a big benefit for my daughter.
  • No commute. Although I don’t mind the occasional commute by bus (a good chance to catch up on reading or pay bills), commuting by car is something that I now find intensely frustrating from the standpoint of wasting time and resources.
  • It builds community. I’ve gotten to know a lot of people in my neighborhood and other parents at my daughter’s school because I’m around a lot, which really adds to my (already high) enjoyment of where I live.
  • Resource conservation. Working from home maximizes the resources that already exist in your house. Even if you’re gone 12 hours a day at the office, you still have to heat/air condition the house, run the hot water heater, have a phone line, leave the digital clocks plugged in, etc. When you work from home, at least you’re using these resources rather than leaving the house standing empty while you use similar resources at the office.
  • The worst:

  • Flexibility. To me, flexibility is both a plus and a minus. When a friend asks me to do a favor during the day (watch a sick kid, let the plumber in, go out to lunch), it’s harder to say no than it would be if I worked at an office and was clearly “at work.” I find this especially hard when we have friends or relatives visiting; if I had an office job, I wouldn’t feel guilty about going to work, but the same is not always true when you work at home.
  • Social isolation. Even if you have an active social network, it’s still a little odd being completely alone for 5-10 hours a day. Sometimes I find myself making an excessive amount of conversation with the bank teller or supermarket checker, and I know it’s time to plan a date with a friend! Lately I’ve started seeing more press about “co-working environments” such as The Hive and have thought of those as an additional option.
  • The feeling of always being at work. Since I’ve been freelancing, I’ve found that I don’t really feel like I’m “out of the office” unless I’m away from home. Admittedly, this is a good excuse to plan lots of ski weekends and camping trips, but I do sometimes envy people who shut the office door on Friday afternoon and don’t think about work until Monday.

Any other best and worst out there?

11 Responses to “The best and worst of working from home”
  1. Damien December 3, 2008
  2. kslossner December 3, 2008
  3. Michael December 3, 2008
  4. sibylle December 3, 2008
  5. MT December 3, 2008
  6. Judy Jenner December 4, 2008
  7. M. F. Chapman December 4, 2008
  8. céline December 4, 2008
  9. Corinne McKay December 4, 2008
  10. Alejandro December 5, 2008
  11. Holly December 6, 2008

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