Working from home - the good, the bad & the ugly

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I’m one of a growing number people that work from home.  For me, it’s because I run my business from home and overall, I wouldn’t change it for the world.  But that doesn’t mean it’s perfect and there are times when I do find it hard. I know I’m not alone in that as you’ll see from this post!

This post has come about with the help of some brilliant input I had from a Facebook group that I’m in (Doing It For The Kids Community - find it here) which is a great, supportive community for freelancers.  Rather than just write it based on my own thoughts and experience, I asked what they found the best and the worst things about working from home. And I’m so glad I did because they came up with so many brilliant answers.  As I read through them I was nodding along with pretty much all of them.

So here it is, the good, bad and the ugly of working from home.  I’ll start with the negatives so that I can end on a positive note! That said, for nearly all of the points below you can turn them on their head to make the negative into a positive and vice versa.  

You might see some slight repetition below but I wanted to list these points as they were described to me.  You’ll see some definite themes emerging!

The worst things about working from home

  • Lack of interaction with people & nobody to talk to

  • Isolation

  • Monotony

  • No banter

  • Silence - not speaking to anyone all day apart from school drop off

  • Losing the ability to make coherent sentences because you rarely speak to anyone

  • Coping with distractions

  • Interrupting your working day to do housework and feeling that you have to

  • Loneliness

  • There’s nobody to bounce ideas off

  • Procrastination with chores and housework

  • No colleagues or team

  • No Christmas parties!

  • No work social life

  • It’s hard to shut the office door at the end of the day

  • There’s no ‘home time’ as such so it is hard to switch off

  • If there are things that you don’t like about your home they can get on your nerves at times - that horrible carpet is always there looking at you!

  • A constant desire to snack

  • Lack of structure to your day/week

  • You are the default child care provider in the household

  • Lack of welcome interruptions/distractions when work is going badly

  • It can be demoralising

  • It can be hard to concentrate especially if you have small children at home

  • Wimbledon!

  • Being the local parcel delivery office for your neighbours

  • It’s not easy not to work

  • Juggling - business/children/chores - what do I do first?

  • Cabin fever

  • Trying to/having to work when the kids are home for the holidays and trying to entertain them at the same time

  • Cats don’t give the most coherent second opinion!

  • You seem to never leave the house

  • Picking up lots of bugs as you’re not used to them

  • Snacking and weight gain

  • Working non stop -  you don’t take breaks and miss lunch

  • Taking accidental three hour naps

  • Bad eating/not eating

  • Separating work and home life

  • Laughing at your own jokes is a bit sad!

  • People popping in unannounced

  • People assuming you can do errands for them because you’re at home

  • People thinking you don’t work and that working from home is not a real job

  • Feeling guilty for doing work rather than chores and vice versa

  • Not being able to read on the commute

Oh gosh, it doesn’t sound great does it?  It’s not all doom and gloom though. So let’s move on to the positives:

working from home

The best things about working from home

  • You can work wherever you like

  • You can work when you want

  • You don’t have to answer to anyone

  • Flexibility to deal with all that life throws at you

  • You can take time out of the day to do something you enjoy and catch up later

  • Freedom!

  • Working in jeans

  • And slippers

  • Having no commute or rush hour to contend with - just wander across the hall to your desk

  • The ability to take a lunchtime nap

  • You can work in your PJs and nobody knows or cares

  • Being on top of the washing and not having to tackle that beast in the evenings

  • Making your own timetable

  • No travel or parking costs

  • No commuting time which gives more free time around your working day

  • Setting your own structure to the day

  • Not being ground down by office politics and bitching

  • No interruptions or distractions when work is going well

  • You can work at your own pace

  • Looking at your garden and working in the garden in the summer

  • Being able to pick up the kids from school

  • Having the school holidays with the kids

  • Not having to pay for desk/office space

  • Wimbledon!

  • Amazing focus

  • Working from bed

  • Being your own boss

  • Setting your schedule to suit your productivity

  • Peace and quiet to recharge from your kids

  • Peace and quiet generally

  • Being 8 feet from a place to nap

  • No other people around

  • Not having to talk to anyone

  • No office politics

  • Not having to care about what you look like daily

  • You’re in charge of planning your day

  • Taking the dog for a walk

  • Having your pets around you

  • Freedom to juggle home and work tasks

  • Being able to juggle being a stay at home parent with running a business

  • Access to the fridge!

working from home

From all of the many and varied answers above I think there are these main themes:

1. Loneliness - no interaction but also being at home all of the time

I can definitely identify with this and is the thing I find most difficult, especially in the winter.  I get to the point where every day looks the same and the only human you see is the postman. I find myself craving the bright lights of the supermarket before I do the school run - woo!  To counter this feeling I try to break up my week and have a change of scene, even for a couple of hours. I drop the girls at school and go straight to my favourite coffee shop for an almond croissant and a cup of tea, ready for a couple of hours working/watching the world go by.

2. Distractions

Suddenly the washing is vitally important or you feel the need to clear out that cupboard before you finish that email?  I do that a lot and really have to check myself to recognise that it is one of my many methods of procrastination! It’s not as if I even have a small ironing pile for goodness sake so distracting myself is not really working on any front!

3. Lack of structure or end to the working day

As much as a long, ‘free’ day can seem appealing, those days can really loom ahead of you with hours of potential work time.  And those are the days when I achieve the least because I have no deadline or time to be out of the house. By the same token, it’s too easy to just keep working into the evening because you can and, often, you actually want to.  Not the best for work/life balance though!

4. Juggling home/life/children/business & lacking focus as a result

Whilst being able to juggle all of these things is often a positive, the reality can work out quite differently. I’m sometimes quite envious of my former colleagues (very rarely if I’m honest) who go to work and can forget about what’s going on at home whilst they focus on their working day.  I sometimes have such a stupidly long list of tiny ‘home’ tasks to do during my ‘working’ day that I feel like I’m running around like a busy fool. That and the expectation from your family that you can ‘just quickly do’ X, Y and Z because you’re at home all day. No problem… The school holidays can also be quite a challenge on the days that you do no need to get work done - trying to encourage the kids to amuse themselves for a bit without resorting to their default setting of bl**dy YouTube is my ongoing battle.

And on the plus side:

1. Freedom & flexibility to do whatever you want

Oh the joy!  This is where I still get that happy feeling as I drive home from the school run in the morning.  I can’t quite believe that I get to work from home! The freedom and flexibility overall is second to none.  With nobody breathing down your neck, no explanation of why you need to leave a bit early today to go to that thing at school, I will always appreciate being totally flexible in how I work and the feeling of freedom that goes with it.

2. Setting your own structure and plans to suit how you work

I’m sat here writing this at 7am in my pyjamas.  That works for me, especially when it’s going to be over 30 degrees later on today and it’s the school holidays.  I love being able to dip in and out of work through the day, and working at different times in the day to suit what’s going on.  We’re all productive at different times of the day/week/month and working from home really allows you to structure your work plans and style to suit you.

3. Just being at home - whether that’s quiet, no travelling, what you wear, convenience, naps, food or watching Wimbledon while you work

Yes it can be lonely at times as I’ve said above, but after 14 years of having to wear a suit every day, you can’t underestimate being able to work in jeans, popping out for a dog walk, having a podcast or Netflix on while you work and enjoying the peace.

4. Being able to juggle home/life/children/business

Many of us run our businesses from home precisely because we want to be able to juggle the various aspects of our life.  It won’t stop us complaining about some aspects of the juggling from time to time (see above!) but being able to manage all of the different areas of our lives without having to rely on a complicated timetable of childcare, for example, is quite a relief.  When I became self employed, this aspect felt like a huge weight had been lifted.

If you were in any doubt before, it’s pretty clear that there are many pros and cons of working from home. For me the pros will always tip the balance even though there are days when I crave the company of humans. Having worked from home for nearly four years, I don’t think I could work any other way!