One of the cringe moments in my life recently is when I go to a party and someone asks me what I do and who I work for. When I get to the ‘working from home’ part I am instantly met with ‘AHHHHH CANT BE BAD THAT MATE WORKING FROM HOME’. I nod and agree, go along with the ‘in joke’ and we slap each other on the back and change the conversation to talking about BBQ’s or gardening. Solid man chat really.
If I wanted to be a massive party pooper I could have continued the conversation and said ‘Actually young squire there are many positives and negatives around home working’ but that might have ended my social life once and for all.
I thought I would save the negatives for this post. It’s not all roses. There are some nasty sides to remote working which people looking to make the plunge need to be aware of. Furthermore companies who are considering this approach for any of their workers need to be aware of some of these things. Working from home is all down to the individual. It’s not for everyone. You’ve got to be proactive, self motivated and ambitious. Nice modesty there Ryan.
But in all seriousness you’ve also got to be pretty thick skinned and prepare for some of the negatives which come with it. I want to be open and transparent throughout Generation Y Working and offer an impartial opinion. It could quite easily ruin you if you aren’t tough. It can turn you into a social outcast if you struggle to socialise on a weekend. There are so many things which you take for granted in the work office which disappear once you sign up for home working.
You’ll have your bad days no doubt. I’ve been lucky and have only had a couple so far where I’ve thought to myself ‘Is this really for me?’. Deep down I know this is for me. It’s 5pm and I’m sat in the garden writing this post. No commute in sight, no pressure and no stress of battling people to get home. I’m feeling great.
But I suggest taking a read of some of the observations I’ve found since working from home and gauge whether it’s for you. It could be the worst decision you ever make or it could be the best. Ultimately it depends on you and you only.
Work more hours
You will spend more time at the computer and if you don’t I fear for your job. Sounds dramatic? It’s true. Given your home office is now your permanent office it might make sense to do away with your own laptop and use the work laptop all the time.
This is where the problem lies. You grab the laptop on the weekend to have a browse and you see an email. You are checking your online banking on an evening and one of your contacts tweets you. Do you leave it or do you reply asap to keep the conversation alive. You will reply.
Remote workers are passionate about what they do so there’s a distinct possibility you will struggle to switch off and spend longer than usual working. This becomes a slippery slope and it pisses off partners, chores pile up and you lose all sense of structure. I have found myself replying to work tweets and emails at 8pm. It’s not big and it’s not clever.
If something goes wrong with your hardware it’s your problem.
This point is quite current given I went to bed last night with my internet connection on its backside. As a home worker I was making contingency plans in my dreams. Which coffee shop can I hijack? How will I maintain battery life for my full shift and so forth? Let’s just say I didn’t actually get much sleep.
People may laugh at this but as a home worker you ALWAYS want to be on time. It’s the whole perception thing. People automatically stereotype you as a lazy, slacking guy who does nothing but still receives a pay cheque every month so having faults and issues can be perceived negatively quite quickly. It then becomes a slippery slope and anything in the future is scrutinised.
I was lucky I was able to fix my internet before my 7am start but it meant an evening of 3 hours sleep and a 5:30am start. It’s not ideal. If the internet screwed up while in the office environment everybody gets a pass and you can nip for a quick coffee. There’s an added pressure when working from home to always be available. Fixing hardware becomes your problem in the short term as you are expected to work.
Neighbours kids think you are unemployed.
Another perception point and for most this would be easy to brush off but for me it plays on my mind. The neighbour’s children basically think I am unemployed. They think my fiancé is the bread winner and I sit at home all day and go to the gym around 11:15am.
Most would say ‘But they are just kids Ryan’ but it’s a negative for me. I dislike the tag and it makes me justify myself and exaggerate how much I work. I am actually neither. I am an honest, hard working guy who is neither unemployed nor 17 hour a day shift working. I dislike the unemployed stigma whether it’s from Children or Adults. It’s a weird negative but it’s a negative for me none the less.
The point is as a home worker prepare to be disregarded by Adults and Children alike. People will fail to understand what you do and in reality probably don’t want to find out what you do. Adults will think they work harder than you because they leave the house everyday and Children will think you are a bum because you don’t leave the house every day. You will never ever remove this tag.
You drink a lot of coffee
Many home workers complain of putting on weight as they spend all hours in the household home but as a regular gym go’er the weight side of things is fine for me it’s more about the caffeine intake.
With remote working you have less outside influencers. You are essentially your own person with fewer meetings, face to face conversations and other time takers. I’ve found myself drinking more coffee as a result of this as I’m always at my desk working and the coffee comes as a welcome distraction. It’s not a huge negative but it’s a potential health issue long term if I continue to increase my consumption of coffee.
As a home worker you need self discipline. If you’re not very good with diet then working from home where you can easily eat whenever you are hungry is may be not good for you. It sounds dramatic but this is all lifestyle design. Although I’m drinking more coffee than I used to it’s still a manageable amount but this type of situation can easily creep up on you without that friend there to say ‘Woah dude you need to chill out on the beans you are WIRED’.
You miss ‘People’
Working in an open plan office you have no alternative but to be social. You are surrounded by work colleagues and you cannot escape day to day conversations or small talk. Working from home however you don’t have anyone.
Although it is fantastic to have the peaceful, silent surroundings and it helps significantly with getting work done, you do miss the conversations you used to have in the office. One of the main things I miss is my coffee break with colleagues. That five minute spell where you head to the kitchen and talk about nothing remotely interesting. It’s a great part of working in an office environment and something you miss.
People at work are a double edged sword really. In one breath you miss them however in times of concentration you are nothing but delighted you work from you. As I mentioned in my early observations post I found it impossible to work due to noise in the latter stages of my time with the previous organisation.
There are plenty of solutions to this isolation; lunch meetings with friends, regular gym sessions, seeing friends regularly and so forth but you still miss that ‘easy’ human interaction. Work colleagues are easy. You can talk to them loads or hardly speak to them the day after and it’s fine. Working from home however means you have to make an effort with mates to see them.
There’s always going to be negatives about any career change but this is a big one for me. As a bit of a social guy I miss office ‘friends’ I used to see on a daily basis.
School holidays distract you
This negative might not apply for everyone but by setting up residents in a suburban area you are likely to bump into school vacations from time to time. School vacations are a killer for home workers. If you are a family the severity is probably far superior to mine however just by living in a family residential area you feel the wrath of the children.
The UK summer holidays last 6 week and for those 6 weeks I have had the distraction of children playing out constantly. A little bit warm in the house and want to open the window? Children shouting and screaming outside. It’s one of those times when you long for the office environment. Fortunately my office is at the back of the house so the noise is bearable but still an unwelcome distraction.
I love kids but kids and work does not mix and having that distraction is a huge negative. Fortunately the UK weather means children rarely have much time to ‘play’ outside so you may be fortunate to get away with the summer holidays as the distraction.
Those home workers with families may find the whole ‘school holidays’ period a testing time as they will have in house distractions. I recommend some back up plans in this regard. Look for free Wifi zones in your area and make a spreadsheet of these locations as you never know when you will need them. If you are struggling to concentrate then grab your laptop and head out to a coffee shop or another public place with free WIFI. If you’re in the US then you can check here whereas those in the UK can use the following.
Under pressure to impress
Perception is everything in business. Your reputation precedes you. As a home worker it’s difficult to build up that perception or reputation especially if you are new to the organisation. You will of course have regular communication with your immediate team however the wider business do not see you. What is not there is usually forgotten.
It’s something I am personally struggling with and one of the main negatives of the role so far. The nature of my role is that I work on my own projects and been the only one doing my role in the organisation it’s difficult to build up that reputation.
My MD is in Singapore and I am in the UK. Naturally you feel under pressure to impress as you don’t have the luxury of been seen. He doesn’t know how hard I work; he doesn’t know I never miss a minute’s work and so forth. As a home worker you rely on your manager to paint the correct picture of you. You rely on your manager to ‘sell’ your skills set, highlight the great work you are doing and drive that perception for you. As a home worker you will always have this feeling, I’m pretty certain it will be hard to remove. The responsibility of removing this pressure lies firmly on the shoulders of your manager, after all he was the one who hired you and has faith in your ability.
Is Working from home for you?
Don’t get me wrong I LOVE home working. I genuinely do but what type of guy would I be if I only advised you on the good stuff? It has some crappy parts, real crappy actually but at the same time it has some brilliant parts. Personally the above are things I need to learn to deal with. My time as a remote worker will hopefully help do this.
You have the take the rough with the smooth and sometimes in life to have the smooth you need to learn to deal with the rough parts. I’m learning and if you are considering becoming a home worker then you need to deal with them too. There may be many more for you then what I have highlighted. These are merely my negatives so you may find it either more difficult. My advice is to read, digest and learn all you can from real home workers. It’s not all long lunches and lie ins. There’s also isolation, distractions and the pressure of been invisible. These are just obstacles though, I urge you to stride over them as the positives are worth every single negative.