10 Realities of Working from HomeWork From Home
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What is your daily work life like? You may assume working from home would improve your life by reducing stress, saving commute time, and generally making your work more enjoyable.
But what is working from home really like?
I’ve been working from home for more than 11 years. While I love it, I recognize that there are pros and cons to working from home. So let’s take a balanced look at what it’s really like to work from home.
1. It’s Not for Everyone
While some people who commute to an office think working from home would be great, the truth is working from home isn’t for everyone.
Some people love working from home and thrive being on their own. But other people struggle, feeling isolated and lonely.
If you need a lot of personal interaction, working from home may not be the best fit for you.
If you love to work on your own and don’t need to be around others much, you might appreciate the peace you can get by working from home instead of in a bustling office.
I love that I don’t have to deal with co-workers, and I never feel like I’m missing out on interaction, but you may not be the same.
Aside from the lack of interaction, another reason working from home is not a good fit for everyone is that you need to be self-motivated. You need some discipline to stay focused and on task when no one is watching. If you lack discipline, working in an office may be a better fit for you.
2. You Can Save a Lot of Money
One of the main reasons working from home is appealing is because it can help you save a lot of money. Here are some of the ways you might save:
Gas and Tolls: How much money do you spend on gas commuting to your job? The average commuter in the U.S. spends $41 per week on gas and $42 per week on tolls just getting to the office and back home, according to a 2019 Valvoline survey reported by the New York Post.
That’s more than $4,000 per year you could be save by working from home, just from this budget category alone.
Car Maintenance: More miles on your car will lead to higher expenses for maintenance and repairs. The exact cost will depend on the type of car you have and the length of your commute, but eliminating a daily commute can have a big impact here, as well.
New/Used Car: The less you drive, the longer your car will last. I’ve had my car for more than eight years, and it still has less than 50,000 miles on it. Working from home may mean you won’t need to buy a car as frequently.
Insurance: Part of your car insurance premium is determined by the number of miles you drive, and in some cases, the distance you commute each day. If you work from home with no daily commute and drive fewer miles each year, you may find your premium drops and you’re able to save money on car insurance. (Check with your insurance company, and update their records if you’re no longer commuting.)
Clothes: When you work from home, you’ll probably be free to dress however you choose. This can lead to savings on clothes each year, because you won’t need to spend as much on work clothes.
Food: If you commute to an office, do you pack your lunch or go out? If you’re eating lunch at restaurants, you could easily save a lot of money by working from home and eating lunch at home every day.
3. Flexibility Is Huge
Although the monetary savings from working at home can be nice, in my opinion, the biggest benefit of working from home is the flexibility it will add to your life.
The amount of flexibility you have will depend on the type of work you do and whether you’re self-employed or reporting to someone. But, in any case, the flexibility is much greater than what you would get with the typical office job.
You may have the flexibility to completely dictate your schedule, including the hours you work and how much you work. That allows you to base your work around your life instead of the other way around.
Flexibility can be especially important for stay-at-home moms and dads. I’ve been able to benefit from the flexibility to pick my kids up from school, attend school events during the day, and even spontaneously take a day off to do something fun as a family.
Little things like scheduling an appointment are also much easier when you have a flexible schedule.
I work just as many hours as I would with a typical office job, but I have a lot more flexibility to choose when and where I work, and that makes a huge difference.
4. Interruptions and Distractions Are Common
Working from home can be nice, because it reduces the distractions you’ll face from co-workers compared to working in an office. But that doesn’t mean you’ll have no distractions if you work from home.
I’ve found there are always plenty of interruptions and distractions popping up. If you have other people in the house while you’re working, especially kids, there will be plenty of distractions.
Aside from noise in the house, you may get distracted by people coming to the door, people walking on the sidewalk in front of your house, or any number of other things that happen throughout the day.
You may also find you get distracted and wind up taking care of personal stuff during the day, such as cleaning, doing laundry, emptying the dishwasher, and running errands. Those distractions may seem small, but they can add up to a significant amount of time over the course of a week.
5. Other People May Infringe on Your Working Time
Unfortunately, some people will treat you differently when you work at home. They may assume that, since you’re at home, you’re available to talk on the phone, help them with something, or watch their kids.
You may need to set boundaries and remind people you’re busy working during the day, even though you’re at home.
6. Dedicated Office Space Is Key
One piece of advice you’ll get from just about anyone who works from home is to set aside a dedicated place in your home to serve as your office. Ideally, this will be a room with no other purpose, and it should have a door you can close to minimize noise and distractions, especially if other people are in the house.
Trying to work from your kitchen table isn’t ideal as a long-term solution.
I’ve had a few home offices over the years, and personally, I prefer not to be on the main floor of the house. I’d rather be in the basement or on the second floor where there tends to be less noise and fewer distractions.
Your home may or may not have a room or a space that is ideal for your office. If it doesn’t, you may be able to finish a basement, repurpose an existing room, or even splurge for a prefab shed-like structure that serves as an office.
7. Opportunities Are Available
Traditionally, opportunities for work-from-home jobs have been pretty limited. This trend is changing quickly though: Remote work has increased by 44% just in the past five years alone, according to FlexJobs.
As more companies embrace the practice of allowing employees to work from home, a bigger variety of work-from-home jobs are becoming available. Some companies are transitioning existing employees from traditional office jobs to remote jobs. There is even a growing number of entry-level work from home jobs that are legit possibilities for a large number of people.
8. Balance Is Important (But Not Always Easy)
To have a positive experience working from home, you’ll need to find balance. One of the biggest challenges many people face working from home, especially those who are self-employed, is the loss of distinction between personal time and work time. When your office is in your home, you may wind up working too much. It can be tempting to check your email or do other small tasks in the hours that you’re supposed to be off.
This also goes back to the previous point about having a dedicated office space. The more separation you have between the spaces in your house, the easier it is to maintain balance. Even something as simple as having an office door you can close when you’re finished with work can help.
I’ve also found it helps to have a defined working schedule. Even though I have a lot of flexibility, I typically work regular hours unless I have a reason to change those hours. When you have set hours, it’s easier to distinguish your personal time from your work time and avoid working too much.
9. Getting Physical Exercise Is Important
Physical exercise is important regardless of where you work, but those of us who work at home have an increased need, in my opinion. If you work in a large office, you may walk a lot of steps just through the normal course of each day.
When you work at home, it’s easier to get out of the habit of daily exercise. You can sit in your home office without the need to walk much farther than a few steps to the kitchen or bathroom, and you may need to make a special effort to get some exercise.
I’ve found the flexibility of my schedule can be a big help here, but I need to put exercise into my schedule or it gets forgotten. I like to take 30 minutes at lunch to get some exercise without being too disruptive to my work schedule or family life.
I’ve also found that even a small amount of exercise can be a huge help for increasing energy and improving focus and concentration — some things you can easily lack when you’re working from home. When I’m struggling to focus, I can take a quick five- to 10-minute walk around the block and come back with a renewed focus that helps me get more done.
10. It’s Still Work
Don’t expect working from home to be a magic solution that eliminates all problems related to work. Working from home is still work and, of course, still requires a real effort. Although it may be a lot more enjoyable than working in an office, depending on your perspective, there will still be plenty of challenges.
Is Working from Home Right for You?
Now that we’ve taken a look at a lot of details related to working from home, hopefully you’ve been able to see how these details fit with your situation to see whether this would be a good option for you.
While there are a lot of pros and cons, the biggest factors are your personality and your productivity habits. Do you tend to work well on your own? Or do you thrive with personal interaction on a regular basis? Your answers to those questions will be important in determining whether working from home would be a good fit for you.
If you think working from home may be right for you but you’re not sure where to start, here are some resources that can help:
Marc is the founder of the personal finance blog VitalDollar.com. He has been a full-time blogger since 2008 with blogs in a few industries like web design, photography, and finance. Marc has been featured in publications like Business Insider, Forbes, CNBC, and many others.