opinion

The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

Joe D

Today many companies and employees are considering the work-from-home experience as an alternative to the traditional workplace.  While there are clearly advantages to working from home, it is important to examine both the pros and the cons before making a decision that could impact your life - and your lifestyle.

The Pros

You will discover that there are quite a few advantages to working from home.  Perhaps the number one advantage that attracts most people to this type of work is the freedom from having to go to the office. Offices can be stressful places and many studies have been conducted with regard to the volume of work that can be accomplished in such a setting versus the volume of work that can be accomplished from a home environment.  Not everyone does well in a cubicle setting, and it has been proven to lead to workplace-related stress as well as stress from strained relationships with co-workers and supervisors.  While there will still be deadlines and other factors that contribute to stress while working from home, the home worker will at least be free from the stress of the workplace and the over-bearing boss who watches over their shoulders.

Another excellent advantage is flexibility. Many people who work from home are able to set their own hours - particularly if it is a self-run business.  While this doesn't mean that you can just take a day off whenever you want, you will usually be able to set the hours that you work.  If you find that you crank out more work during the traditional 9-5 work schedule, or if you do better working in the afternoon, say noon to 8pm - whatever works best for you and allows you to work at your best, can make working from home a major plus.

Another obvious advantage here is economics.  When you work from home you will save a lot of money on things you would normally have to invest in for the workplace.  Things like work clothes, dry cleaning bills, parking costs, transportation to-and-from the office, food costs and even childcare.  The money you will be able to save will be obvious by the end of your first month at home.

The Cons

A lot of people think that working from home is all "ups" and no "downs," but there are some pitfalls that you need to be aware of in order to make the most of your experience.  The first thing you need to learn is the ability to balance your work-life and your home-life.  When you work from home your friends, family and neighbors will think that you are now available to have long conversations, do things for them or take them places.  If you can establish some ground rules early on about respecting your work hours, your space and the job you need to do, it will be much easier in the long run.  Learning to separate the things you need to do at home - like taking the kids to school, cooking meals, cleaning and family entertainment time - from the things you need to do for work, will help you to be more productive and in the end, will give you more free time to do the things you want to do with your family.

Another issue that a lot of people face when working from home is establishing a workspace to use during business hours.  If you do not have an extra bedroom that you can use as a home office, it is important to find a space that you can use and separate off for yourself that others won't disturb.  The kitchen table is by far the worst place that you could set up your home office - it is highly trafficked and other members of your household will eventually need to use it for other purposes.  Even if you can set up a workspace in a corner of the living room, bedroom or alcove within your home, it would be better than setting up and breaking down your workspace every evening for dinner.  If you have sensitive items that you need to keep away from little hands, you should invest in a cabinet or other type of locked storage to keep those items safe and secure.

The final challenge when working from home may seem like a small issue, but it's really very important.  A lot of times friends and family members won't take a person who works from home seriously. For some reason people tend to think about working from home as more of a hobby than a serious business.  It is important to present yourself professionally - not working in your pajamas, creating professionally-looking business cards, establishing a serious website, etc.  If you are serious it will show and others will take you seriously as well.

Lessons to Learn

Learning to balance your work-life and your personal-life when you work-from-home is very important if you want to be successful.  Freeing yourself from distractions, learning to complete tasks in a timely manner and even learning the warning signs of over-working, over-stress and the work-a-holic syndrome will help to keep you on-track and allow you to make the most of your work-from-home situation.  In the end it's all about balance and knowing how to identify the most important aspects of the work-from-home experience.

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