When I tell people that I work mostly from home, their first reaction is one that illustrates how much they wish they could do the same thing. It all sounds like a dream come true to them. However, when you blur the lines between your business and your personal life, difficulties can arise. As the popular Internet cartoonist The Oatmeal hilariously points out, people who work from home often face distractions, loss of regimen, and even degradation of social skills.
There is a dark side of working from home--something that many of us don't think about until it's too late. In my opinion the perks and benefits outweigh any dark sides or disadvantages for the most part. But, it's important to be aware of what you are getting yourself into when you decide to work from home full-time.
Friends and Their Faulty Ideas
You may not have thought about the effect that the other people in your life will have on your work-at-home situation. No one wants to think that their friends and family members might be part of the dark side of their business, but dealing with the people we love can be one of the most difficult challenges you encounter. Some of the things you will probably have to face head on include the following:
1. The Idea That You Don't Work
Yes, you will likely have friends and family members who to some degree don't believe you actually do anything at home all day. "Get a real job" or some variation of that may become hurtful phrases you hear from time to time. Many people actually think that if you don't clock in or have a pay stub from an employer, you aren't working. It doesn't matter how many hours you work or how much money you get paid to do it. The best way to respond is not to. Otherwise, you may end up making an enemy or just wasting your time worrying about what other people think. If the person really cares about you and sees you in action, they'll pick up on the fact that you're working your butt off anyway.
2. You Have Unlimited Free Time
Family, friends and colleagues often believe that people who work from home have unlimited amounts of free time. This means that they might expect you to babysit, run errands, chat on the phone whenever they want, or drop everything for a lengthy brunch. Through your words and actions you'll need to make it clear to these people that they've gotten the wrong impression. Create a schedule and stick to it like glue. When people want some of your time, make sure you fit them in around the schedule you've already created. You'll have to have very strong time management skills to pull off working from home, but it's worth it if you're disciplined.
3. You're Getting Rich Overnight
Yeah I know. Try to hold back the giggles at this comment. Amazingly, I still get it from time to time. Some people assume that you're independently wealthy if you work from home. They admire the fact that you work when and where you want, and they may want you to let them in on the secret to that success. Quite a few people would like to run a prosperous home business and maybe they think you have the info that can get them there. Many of these folks don't necessarily want to do the work to get there; they just want you to give them the tools, tips, and tricks to make it happen. Then, when they realize there's actual work involved, they end up not wanting to do it--but that won't stop them from saying how "lucky" you are or how "easy" it is. The best thing you can do here is, again, ignore such people. You should consider the idea that these people aren't actually your friends and you don't need to devote time in your life to them.
Parenting and Family Issues
Sometimes when things aren't peachy keen at home, going to the office can be a bit of relief most of us may not want to admit to. However, when you work at home, there's far less separation between those home problems and your work life. In cases where emotion is involved, people in your own household may not treat you like you are at work. This may be especially difficult when it comes to children who want your attention and have a hard time facing the fact that your body is at home, but your mind is at work. It's a good idea to establish a routine with the kids, give them certain parts of the day, and set limits early on to deal with this. In fact, I have talked to several startup founders who still take the children to daycare even when they work from home, just to ensure that work time is separated.
The darkest side of working at home can be just dealing with other people who might not have anything to do with the business. Once you figure out how to be productive and make the most of your time, it will be easier to set boundaries with others. For most people who work from home, the perks are well worth battling any of the dark sides that come with running an office from home. It's up to you to stay motivated, organized, and on track.