Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Misconceptions about working from home.

I produce most of my income from the comfort of my home office. While it has been one of the best jobs I've ever had the good fortune of stumbling into, I'm often confronted by a number of people who have quite the inaccurate picture of what the home bound tele-commuter has to put up with on a daily basis.

There are a lot of people out there who seem to think that working from home is the best creation of man since pen and paper. I do agree, but I also concede to the fact that it is clearly not an ideal situation for most people. Of course each particular stay at home position varies from one another, but every single one carries several unifying traits and misconceptions that most people who have never done it have trouble understanding.

I'm going to try to break them down to the best of my ability. Tele-commuting can be both a blessing and a curse to the frugal folk of the world. It's important to weigh your options carefully before embarking on a rash career change.

  • You are NOT free from responsibility: While you don't exactly have to worry about an over bearing, zealous boss literally breathing down the back of your neck deadlines do exist in every industry, and they are no different when you have the good fortune of having access to your favorite recliner throughout your work day.

    In many cases the home worker has to have a great deal more personal responsibility than the office bound employee. You have to manage your time exceptionally well and you have to know when enough screwing around is enough. There's no one around to give you a stern look from across the office. And there are a lot of distractions at home. It's easy to get lost during your lunch break.

  • You don't save as much as you think: I used to chew through thirty dollars a week in gasoline driving my little Chevy Malibu up and down the interstate on a total commute of seven to eight hours a week. I'd often go out to eat every week, and even when I didn't I likely had to purchase specialty food so I could eat on the run.

    That changed when I started working from home. I started gassing up once every other week and all of my meals were made from scratch. Since I had access to my pantry and my kitchen I could make whatever I'd like. No longer did I have to chew through an epic quantity of hot pockets and soda.

    But those savings were offset immediately. It costs a significant amount of money to work from home. Instead of running up the utility bill of a faceless office condo I found myself home 24 hours a day, racking up a good deal of my own utilities. The most expensive definitely being heating oil.

  • You people skills suffer: I've never pretended to be a people person. I'm a very quiet, private individual. I enjoy being alone most of the time and left to my own devices. But I even felt the crunch. Sure, conference calls and emails are a dime a dozen. But even the most anti social person on the planet will still get a little lonely.

  • People think you're always on the clock: Unless you keep strict office hours and routinely remind your less fortunate comrades of your set schedule, people are always going to think you're capable of doing "one more quick thing" for them before the end of the work day.

    In a traditional environment once you've left the building, you're gone. People are used to the fact that if you're not there, you're not available. This goes away when you're on speed dial and your face is your email signature. I've often found myself working into the early morning on long projects.

  • People think you're always OFF the clock: Everyone you work with always thinks you're on the clock. But everyone you don't work with thinks your "scam" is the best thing ever. While it's true that working from home comes with a certain freedom to manage your time as you please you'll find yourself besieged with honey-do tasks and stern looks when the dishes are left unwashed throughout the workday.

    Unless your partner and friends understand that you work just as many hours as they do (if not more) they're going to assume your life is nothing but beer flavored lunch breaks and Married With Children reruns.

  • Loss of connectivity gives you the chills: Last week I was busy working away when, boop, my internet connection died. With it went my broadband phone line and my digital cable. The cable I can handle.

    If this would have happened in an office environment I likely would have shrugged, kicked up my feet and started to chat away with my coworkers. But when you're isolated from the whole your connectivity is your life blood. Sure, there's probably something you can do in the mean time. But what if it takes your ISP 24 to 48 hours to come out to your neck of the woods to resolve the issue?

    Say hello to two full sick days used because of a burp in a fiber optic line a hundred miles down the road.

  • You need certain equipment: Chances are if you're on someone's payroll as a tele-commuter they're going to meet you part way with office supplies. But if you're self employed as a freelancer or if you own your own home business you're going to need to fork out some cash for certain necessities like high speed internet and a reliable computer. And even mundane junk like paper clips and thumbtacks.
  • Communication is sometimes... difficult: It's likely that if you're reading this it's easy to communicate with you through written word. But with a lot of people, especially older people not exactly proficient at typing, communication begins to break down. Often enough email is the life blood of the home worker. And when it takes someone two hours to draft a paragraph reply or can't be reached via telephone immediately things begin to grind to a stand still.
Is a stay at home job ideal in some situations? Absolutely. Can it lead to an incredible sense of self satisfaction and relaxed outlook? Definitely. Will it help the frugal fellow looking to line his pocket book and keep the costs of commuting at bay? Not always.

So long as the situation is carefully constructed anyone can work from the comfort of their own home successfully, if they have the right type of personality and know about the trials ahead of them.



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