Working from home: the ideal work environment or a lonely state of being?

home office
Sitting in bed this morning, gazing out my window only to see thick snowflakes fall by the dozen, it was easy to make the call that today – I would be working from home. As I watched my poor husband trudge outside to wipe snow off the hood of the car and make his way – at a snail’s pace – into the office, I felt bad for the guy! That was, until I went to turn my computer on only to find that the internet was down, “what the…?”. No internet means no work and one very big problem. So, I packed up my stuff and headed across the street for breakfast and access to high-speed WIFI courtesy of Aroma Espresso Bar.

After this unlikely series of events – having the ability to stay home and avoid the storm only to face the technological breakdown of a home internet system – I really started pondering the advantages and disadvantages of working from home. I myself am currently in what I believe to be the ideal situation, where I work from home three times a week and go into the office twice a week to mix with colleagues and get up to speed on anything I’ve missed. That being said, working from home can really go either way depending on your lifestyle and the job traits that matter most to you!

If you are contemplating working from home, here are a few things you may want to consider…

The Pros

Flexible hours

Do you like to work out in the morning? Prefer to do your groceries at midday? Most productive during the late hours of the evening? No problem! Working from home allows you to set your own working hours which is probably the biggest advantage of operating from a remote location. Without the constraints of working 9-5 in an office setting, you can get up early and get things started before the sun rises or stay up late and work under the light of the moon! The world… or at least you’re home office… is your oyster!

No dress code

Are those pajamas you’re wearing? Sweet! Jeans and a sweater? Probably better. No matter what your day looks like, when you work from home, there’s no office dress code. This can be really nice for people (like me) who aren’t fans of the whole suit and tie phenomenon (in my case, substitute tie for nylons… my arch nemesis of the fashion world). If you like lounging around in sweats all day, this may be the life for you.

Enjoy spontaneity

You know how sometimes life just… happens? Well, the beauty of working from home is the flexibility to deal with it on your own time. Doctor’s appointment? One of the kids have to come home from school because they have the flu? Working from home certainly loosens the reins when it comes to setting a precise schedule. You never feel tied down or unable to do something because it falls within “working hours”… what are those anyways?

Goodbye living room. Hello beach!

One of the best parts about being in a position where you can work from home is that if you can work from home, you can work from just about anywhere. Whether it’s basking under the sun on a tropical island or connecting in a cafe on the Champs D’Elysee, if your bosses don’t mind you working out of the office, chances are you’ve got the green light to roam at will. This can make booking a vacation a whole lot easier, and if you’re really good and the nature of your position allows, you’ll manage to work overtime before and after so that during your working holiday you don’t spend too many hours hunched over the computer.

Escape from the bad boss

If you have a horrible boss – which I, thankfully, do not have – you’ll be glad to avoid running into them everyday at the office. Retreating into an area of comfort is ideal for creating an inspiring and motivating environment. This being said, not everyone is able to transform the home-office into a productive environment… read on.

The Cons

It can be lonely

If you are at all a fan of people, working from home can get very, very lonely. More than once, when I was working at home 100% of the time, my husband came home and found me glum after a day of having talk to absolutely nobody. I’ll have the odd conversation with my computer, but that doesn’t really count. All of a sudden Facebook became more than just a hobby, it became a way to connect with people, even if it was just virtually. This is my biggest warning to people who are social by nature; if you work from home, schedule lunches, coffees or just get out and interact with the public, even briefly. Taking the time to get out and about can potentially save you from experiencing mood swings, lethargy and at worst, possible depression.

Too much freedom and the end of productivity

The freedom that comes with working from home can go either way depending on what time of person you are. If you are self-motivated (or self-employed) and love what you do, chances are good you’ll be able to adapt nicely to the routine and set goals to keep you on track. If however you take full advantage of having nobody looking over your shoulder by cutting back on your workload, procrastinating and adopting a laissez-faire lifestyle, it’s likely you’ll get fired… and fast.

Hygiene becomes questionable

Did you shower today? Honestly, sometimes it’s hard to remember. I get up everyday around 7 or 7:30 with my husband and on the days when I’m working from home, I normally head straight into the kitchen, put the kettle on and then prep my computer so that the minute he leaves, I can start my working day. What happens – only if I have absolutely no reason to leave the house, which isn’t often – is that by the time 5pm rolls around, I’m still frolicking around in my PJs, not shower and entirely disheveled from a full day of work in from of my computer with no one to remind me of the time or to make me feel bad about the fact that I’m starting to look like a homeless woman… just a bit.

Longer working hours

For the same reasons that sometimes it’s easy to forget how to dress like a normal person, working from home can sometimes result in working longer hours than the average Joe. While, as previously mentioned, some will take full advantage of working from home by cutting down on hours and generally slacking in any way possible, others – like yours truly – feel a sense of guilt when it comes to working form home and hesitate to break for a bite to eat, let alone venture to take an early afternoon or join a friend for an early morning breakfast outside “the office”. Because of the perception from colleagues about working from home, some people actually revert to working much longer hours – starting the minute the first cup of tea of coffee has been brewed and the computer turned on, and stopping only when the significant other walks through the front door, or evening plans await. If you’re considering working from home, make sure to leave room to breathe during the day. It’s OK to take a break – as guilty as you might feel. Just make sure all your work gets done and stay in touch with colleagues via e-mail, skype, chat, etc. Informing them you’re stepping out of your home office indicated your commitment to adhering to working hours. If you don’t want to keep them so in the loop,bring your phone with you so you can check e-mails when you step out. You’ll feel better, and less guilty, knowing you’re connected.

(Too) free to graze without as much physical activity to balance the intake

Last but certainly not least comes the physical repercussions of working from home. While you may moan about getting up and going into the office every morning, at least you’re moving – I mean physically moving. Walking from the car into work, from the subway to the office, going to work promotes movement and set meals, and perhaps a scheduled work out routine. Unfortunately, as those who work from home can attest to, when you’re sitting on a couch or at a desk typing away on your computer, surrounded by everything you need to make you comfortable, it takes making a conscious decision to venture outside or go to the gym. And scheduled meals? Try the all-day graze which can easily lead to ingesting far more calories than required. Obviously there are some people who are great at following a routine even though they work from home, and to those people I salute you! While I try to have a relatively stable workout routine, I find that without the need to be somewhere at a specific time, sticking to it is pretty tough. Something to keep in mind if you’re considering working from home!

image credit: wmeissner

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