For the most part, working at home is great. Flexible, no commute, it’s easier to be there for your kids most of the time… good stuff like that. But it’s not all wonderful. There are drawbacks to working at home you need to be aware of.
Many people find working at home very isolating, especially if you’ve had a lot of time to interact with coworkers in the past. Most work at home jobs don’t give you a lot of time to interact with other adults, and that’s a difficult thing for many people to deal with.
If isolation is a problem for you, find a way to get some time out of the house and around other people (not just your kids). Some people work at coffee shops for part of the day so they can talk to other people. Others make sure to get out socially with friends more often after work and on weekends. Even picking up the kids from school can be a social time, if a little brief and often hurried.
2. Household chores are hard to resist
It’s really hard to ignore household chores that could use to be done when you work at home. Nothing wrong with keeping up your home, of course – just make sure you don’t let it interfere with getting your paid work done.
I recommend choosing times for housework. Set time limits on it and just don’t let it get in the way of what you really need to get done for the day with your job. Sure, laundry day may really keep you moving, but you can plan for that and pick a time when you can afford to lose the work time for laundry. Cleaning the kitchen, vacuuming, all those other chores can be done when it’s more convenient, and don’t forget to assign some of those jobs to the kids when they’re old enough.
3. Work hours are difficult to maintain
If I were always perfectly motivated, I’d go to the gym after dropping the kids off at school, come home and shower, then get right to work, take an appropriate lunch break, work some more, then bring the kids home from school. It sounds so easy yet it’s so difficult. Breaks can drag on longer than they should, there’s always something fascinating to read on the internet… you know how it goes.
The more you commit to a solid work routine, the easier it gets to maintain it. That includes your time working AND your time off work. Some people find it very difficult to get started working, others find it difficult to stop and have family time or a social life. It’s very important that you separate your work time from the rest of your life. Give yourself time to do more than just work.
4. All the distractions
By distractions, I don’t just mean the kids. Kids are usually huge distractions when you work at home. Pets can be little distractions – my kittens were having a battle on the back of my office chair just a few minutes ago while I was trying to work. Other times they’re so cute they’re hard to ignore.
The television can be a distraction. Maybe there’s a show on you’d love to watch, just to have some noise around, really. Amazing how easy it is to get sucked into watching when you should be working, isn’t it? It’s often better to resist temptation and leave the TV off when you need to work.
People coming to the door can be distracting. I’m very picky about answering the door when I’m working. If they’re trying to sell me something, I try to quickly cut their spiel off and tell them I’m working – most understand. We also often get people trying to sell solar power around here – telling them we rent usually gets them to leave fast.
Friends and family who don’t understand that you’re really working can be the worst distractions. Kids aren’t necessarily the worst – someone who just sees that you’re at home and assumes that means you’re available to chat, run errands or whatever can be even more difficult if you aren’t firm with them right at the start.
5. Productivity can be harder to measure
If you’re working for someone else, it can be more difficult for them to measure your productivity. They can see the results, but if you were dealing with a problem, they may never know what it took for you to solve it. If you aren’t tracking hours, it can be very difficult to prove that you put in a lot of time for the results you got.
6. It’s more difficult to communicate with coworkers
Communication with coworkers can be more difficult when you work at home. Certainly it’s easy to have online meetings or chats, but that’s still not the same as the casual or professional communication you have face to face in an office.
7. You may not get benefits
Many work at home jobs don’t offer benefits such as health care or retirement. Often you’re working for yourself or doing independent contractor work. If your spouse gets health benefits, that’s not too big a deal, but it can be more of a problem otherwise.
There are work at home jobs out there that do have benefits, of course. They’re harder to find, but they are out there. If you absolutely must have benefits, look really hard for such employers.