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Do You Have What it Takes to Work from Home?

Photo courtesy of Megan Ann

These days, more people are leading a more independent work life because many start-ups and even some older and larger corporations are allowing a number of their employees to work out of their homes for part of the work week. Some companies have even gone a step further by adopting some form of virtual office structure – which allows them to save money on rent and utilities while maintaining a flourishing business.

For entrepreneurs and freelance workers like myself, working from home means less hours away from family (I have a zero minute commute, each way), virtually no wear and tear on a vehicle, possibly maintaining only one family car, and flexible hours. Rearranging my schedule can happen when I need to, even if it means working into the wee hours of the morning. I can then immediately slide right into bed – because it’s fifteen feet away.

In case I’ve made it sound like a life of luxury and leisure, let me reassure you that working from home presents plenty of challenges. Most of us in the working world today grew up thinking that eventually we’d be working anywhere but inside our own homes, so it’s a different way of thinking about employment. Besides making changes to your mental image of what a work day looks like, anyone considering self-employment or telecommuting will also have to prepare themselves for a whole new way of working.

Firstly, there are no distractions in a home office, and yet there are a million, depending on your point of view. There won’t be any coworkers sidling up to chat with you every morning at 10 AM on the dot.  However, with a simple flick of the eye, your laundry pile’s in view, and, “What would it hurt to throw in one load?” That line of thinking can lead you to a spotless house…and no paycheck to show for it.

Working from home requires that you set your own boundaries and take your own breaks. Your best bet is to set up a home office and close the door while you’re working, to stay focused on your daily tasks. Since the only water cooler excitement occuring at your home involves trying out your new Brita filter, set specific times to stop working for a few minutes. Do some yoga or other exercise during these breaks.  You’ll need to get your blood flowing throughout the day, just as you would if you worked in a traditional office setting.

It’s easy to feel isolated from others when you don’t leave your house all day.  A few times a week, call up a friend who is free to talk for a few minutes.  Perhaps you’ll be Skype chatting with your in-office team as part of your job description, which will help you feel in the loop. Take a walk every day with a neighbor or have regular lunch dates with a family member who lives nearby. Finding small ways to stay connected to others is essential to your sanity and will ultimately make you more productive, too.

As much as possible, stick to a schedule that works for you. While you will probably be able to set your own hours, if there is no rhyme or reason to them, you’ll never settle into a routine. Routines allow us to form good habits, and good habits mean working more effectively.

In my opinion, the pros definitely outweigh the cons of working from home, but it’s a delicate balancing act that requires a certain level of restraint and self-control. If you possess neither of those two qualities, you might be better off clocking in at a job where someone else can set your boundaries for you. However, if you think you have what it takes, nothing’s stopping you from exploring a career that lets you work outside the box.

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