The ups and downs of working from home

A military wife who has set up a home-office in every city she has moved to talks about the dynamics of working from home

Man working from home on his laptop with his toddler in the background

I’ve been working as a writer and a health coach for nine years now, setting up my office wherever I find a spot in my abode. The experience of working from home has been dynamic and varied, to say the least.

While there’s plenty to like about this lifestyle, there are some bits that can be challenging. Let’s look at the good and the bad of working from home.

The Hassles

Interferences

Just as you fire up the laptop and jot down your to-dos, there’s someone at the door for the nth time, the domestic help has yet another question for you, your neighbour drops in for some tea and chitchat, the dog needs to be walked, a friend calls up with a request... Every time you try to get a chunk of work done, there are a dozen things vying for your attention.

You may go hoarse telling the world that you work from home and requesting them to kindly leave you alone for a while, but to everyone, even your most well-meaning friends, you’re just at home… And work? It can be done anytime.

Temptations

When your home is also your workplace, there are many temptations that can—and do—nibble into your work time. Without a firewall to block your online cruising, there’s no limit to the time you can fritter away checking your social media updates. Plus, you don’t have a boss hovering around to check how you spend your work day—so it’s easy to fall for the temptation to chat with your friend on Facebook, shop at the nearest mall, get a manicure at the salon, sort out the laundry, clean the kitchen, read a book… anything that seems more appealing than work.

Every time you try to get a chunk of work done, there are a dozen things vying for your attention

Snags

Just when you have a tight deadline to meet or an online conference call, the internet goes dead on you or your computer crashes. Or worse, there’s a power cut. A home-office professional’s life is punctuated [and punctured] with such challenges, especially when there’s a deadline/important work commitment nipping at your heels.

Responsibilities

If you have a small child at home, your parental responsibilities stay with you throughout your work hours too. There’s no way you can continue working when there’s a howling toddler banging at your door, begging to be cuddled. Not to forget, the constant reminders and instructions you have to give the babysitter.

Self-discipline

There’s a general impression among people that those who work-at-home professionals have it easy. On the contrary it requires a lot more hard work and self-discipline to make it work from home. For self-employed professionals, new projects don’t always land on the plate—they have to work harder, and keep looking for opportunities.

There’s no way you can continue working when there’s a howling toddler banging at your door, begging to be cuddled

The joys

If, by now, you’ve begun to think that working-from-home is overrated and that you’re ready to dump this option, hold on. While it isn’t for the fainthearted, there’s a bucket load of goodness in working from home.

Freedom

This is most definitely the biggest plus of working from home. The freedom that you enjoy is worth all the challenges that this option brings with it. For instance, you can do up your work desk as you like, play your favourite music if you want and do pretty much what you want, while you work. You can decide your schedule and pace of work as per your disposition and preferences. Some people are most productive in the early mornings, and some others prefer working at night. Some like to work quick, others like it slow and steady. If you work from home, you can choose whatever pace or schedule suits you. Working mothers can adjust their work hours as per their child’s school timings.

Comfort

Do you like staying in your pajamas and slippers? Why not! You have the luxury to wear whatever feels comfortable, at least most of the time. Formal attire is not a necessity, unless you do video conferencing with your clients and need to appear well-groomed. You can also sit where and how you want… even on floor if you prefer. Nothing and no one can come in the way of your comfort.

Food

Working from home affords you the privilege of fresh, hot and healthy home-made food that is always more satisfying than eating in a cafeteria; it’s also more economical.

You have the luxury to wear whatever feels comfortable, at least most of the time

Time and energy

Commuting to and from work, especially in cities, is cumbersome, unproductive  and often stressful, what with ever greater traffic jams and the rising pollution. Plus, there’s the weather that often plays truant, especially when it pours. Working from home spares you the daily commute and saves you time, money and energy, besides protecting you from the accompanying stress and those noxious fumes on the road. You can put the saved time and energy to better use by working on an additional project, spending more time with your family, pursuing a hobby, and exercising.

On the move

As a military spouse, I follow my husband to far-flung corners of the country where, had it not been for my work-at-home career, I’d not have been able to work at all. If travel is a part of your lifestyle, then working from home fits right in because you can take your work with you, no matter where you move.

Armed with a realistic picture of the pros and cons of a work-from-home life, you can decide whether this lifestyle will work for you, and what you need to plan for and work around when you do set up that home office.

This was first published in the April 2015 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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