Working from home may not be good for everyone

Working From Home: Is It For You?

Working from home is an idea that’s received a lot of attention lately, for school and for jobs. As someone who’s always done this, I mostly hope it sticks for everybody else’s sake. The obvious question is whether it works for you; the more accurate one is that it’s actually two questions. After all, working a normal job remotely, and being self-employed from home are very different things.

Either way, whoever is reading this, I don’t know you well enough to make that decision, and it would be a bit worrying if I did. What I can do is explain the ins and outs of it, and leave you to make the choice!

Bear in mind that while ’I would rather not get sick, please and thank you’ is any kind of factor, this isn’t going to be a very fair comparison, but it can still teach you a little about what to expect.

Let’s start with remote work. Don’t do well with other people around? Then this might be an improvement or not depending on how the level of crowding looks between your normal workplace and home. You probably also need to still work within particular hours, and so on. It’s not exactly a huge leap in freedom at a glance, and depending on your home environment, focus might be easier or harder, especially if you’re still adjusting to the novelty of working from home. That said, the relatively scheduled and structured nature of it might make the transition easier when compared to full-on freelancing.

The advantages are probably obvious: No commute, a bit more freedom in what you do around the house compared to the office, and probably a more comfortable environment. Depending on how you get to work, you might be saving a fair amount of money too. If you can multitask a bit, things start to look even better in terms of how much you can get done alongside your work (say, going back and forth to fix up a meal, or talking to friends at the same time, or something like that). Meetings — which tend to be heavy in the sort of work that can be done remotely — reduce dramatically. Finally, if your work happens to be based on a set amount of work done, the ’sit in your cubicle for a couple more hours and look busy’ phase that I often hear about can be made, at minimum, a lot more bearable.

When it comes to remote alternatives to standard office work, I really think it’s just an unequivocal advantage.It’s also, unfortunately, not usually up to individual people to make that call, so I just really hope it catches on.

Freelance is a bit of a different beast. The benefits and challenges of working from home are both magnified here, with a couple unique difficulties of its own thrown in. One of the biggest issues is discipline, although I don’t really like framing it that way; let’s try focus instead.Concentration can be very difficult for some people (including me), and with a fuzzy distinction between work and home, as well as many more available distractions, it can be difficult to get anything done. You really do have to just learn this one, if it’s feasible for you at all.

On the other hand, I don’t know if I would survive a ’normal’ job, so personally I don’t feel there are many alternatives.

The advantages are many. No set hours assuming it’s deadline-based, you can take your work anywhere (even more readily than ’standard’ remote work), total scheduling flexibility so long as you can still finish your work, freedom to take more or less work depending on when you can handle it, always working from comfort, no commute, etc. You can also set your own rates, often, although that’s a tricky one to balance.

On the other hand, you necessarily need to learn a bit of management for yourself. Specifically, negotiating with clients, finding work and advertising yourself (you will never leave the job hunt, in a sense, although thankfully it cuts out cover letters and formal interviews from the experience), vetting clients to make sure they’re actually trustworthy, and so on. There’s a lot of upkeep, and sometimes I really wish I could just work and cut out everything else from the process. Doesn’t work that way, though.

The other major hurdle to cover is work/life balance. When your job and the rest of your life occupy the same building, it can be hard for some people to get to work, but equally, it can be really hard to draw boundaries and say ’okay, work’s over now, I’m not going back to it until tomorrow’. The fact that calls and emails might come in at any hour doesn’t help. If you get the whole ’time is money’ idea too ingrained in your head, you might start worrying or feeling bad about any time not spent working— get rid of that thought as quickly as you can, and if you have to, think of any time spent relaxing as maintenance on yourself; you can only work so well if you’re tired and stressed. Do as I say (remember to relax sometimes), not as I do (occasionally glued to the PC for 30 hours); I’m better at advice than I am at using it for myself!

If you’ve seen the pros and cons — and I’m trying not to downplay either here — and think it suits you, it might be worth a look! I don’t want to understate the challenges, but on the other hand, it suits me in a way no other type of work ever could, and I think it would do others a lot of good too.

I always think we can use more freedom in our work. If you can get past its challenges, then any way of working from home is a nice step towards that.

Owen Kinnersly