Many people who want to work at home are looking for something flexible. They picture being able to grab the kids from school, hit the gym in the middle of the day, or meeting up with friends. The disadvantages of a flexible work at home job aren’t fully considered. This can lead to problems at work as reality sinks in.
The simple truth of the matter is that even flexible work at home jobs rarely give you complete freedom to work when you want. There will be online meetings scheduled, for example. You may need to coordinate with someone on a project. There will be days when your flexible schedule isn’t so flexible.
Employers that let you work at home with a flexible schedule will have the same requirements of you as those who insist upon a regular schedule. They’re just more relaxed about which hours of the day you get your work done.
Your Employer Isn’t The Biggest Challenge – You Are
The worst of the disadvantages of flexible work at home jobs have much more to do with the employee rather than the employer. To put it simply, it’s hard for many people to keep to an appropriate work routine without a regular schedule.
That’s all on you as a flexible work employee. If you can’t handle the work required without someone else telling you to work certain hours, the job will not work out for you. You must prepare for productive work each day.
A flexible work at home job isn’t like high school or college where you can try to get the whole project done the night before it’s due. It wasn’t a particularly good idea then, but it’s an even worse idea in your job. Most projects at work are far too complicated to be done so quickly.
This is why no matter how flexible the job is, you should give yourself a regular work schedule. Don’t take advantage of the flexibility by working different hours every day unless you have a reason to keep changing. If you don’t work fairly regular hours, it’s much too easy to work too few hours overall.
Employers Aren’t Entirely Off The Hook
Much as the employees create many of their own problems with flexible work at home jobs, many employers create problems as well. They may expect “flexible hours” to mean that employees are available, practically on-call, at any hour. If that wasn’t in the job description, it’s a problem.
A good employer understands that giving employees flexible hours to get their work done doesn’t mean the employees have no lives of their own. To the contrary, employees usually seek out flexible work hours so that they can live their lives while earning a living. Employers must be realistic about how many hours a week they expect employees to work, and how much needs to get done during those hours.
Other employers have difficulty trusting flexible work at home employees. How do they know you’re productive and not goofing off? They need to track what flexible employees are accomplishing so that they know things are going well.
All work at home jobs have some communication challenges. It can be difficult keeping everyone up to date when you aren’t talking face to face. Tools such as Slack make this much easier, but it doesn’t suit everyone. Combine that with the many kinds of work at home schedules, and it can be difficult to keep up with each other.
Flexible hours make this into an even bigger disadvantage for people who work at home. Scheduling online meetings that everyone can attend becomes more difficult. You also can’t rely on the person you need to communicate with being available right when you need them.
Good employers will have plenty of options for keeping in contact, no matter how flexible your hours may be. A part of your learning curve may be learning how to keep up with everyone using these tools. Communication within remote teams has improved so much in recent years, but not every employer takes full advantage of the possibilities.
Friends And Family
Your friends and family can create their own disadvantages to your work at home experience, especially if they know your hours are flexible. Many will mistake that for you being available to them at any time.
They might think you’re available to babysit their sick child so they can get to work, or watch for a delivery while they’re at work. You’re home all day – why can’t you help them? Don’t you care???
If you have a flexible work at home job, teach your friends and family that there are limits to that flexibility. You will need to set many of those restrictions yourself. It may take time to teach them to respect your work hours just as much as they would respect the work hours of someone working outside the home.
The Fun Distractions
When you work in an office, coworkers and coffee breaks are acceptable distractions, within reason. When you work at home, there are quite a few more distractions that most people wouldn’t dare pay attention to in the office. Sometimes these may seem like they’re perks of working at home, but they’re as likely to be disadvantages.
Some people like to binge favorite shows on Netflix or other services, for example. It’s easy to get into the habit of streaming a show while you work. What many people don’t realize is how much time they lose to watching their shows rather than focusing on their work.
Kids and pets are fun distractions as well. One of my cats loves to get on my lap if she’s cold. She also sits on my head and chair headrest if she’s playful. It’s pretty distracting sometimes, even when it’s fun. Kids bring in homework questions or just want company.
Have a plan to deal with these fun distractions. Take advantage of your flexible work at home job, for example, and schedule yourself around when the kids may need you.
When you decide to work at a flexible work at home job, make sure that you’re ready to deal with the advantages and the disadvantages, especially the ones you have control over. If you aren’t committed to making the time for your work, the job won’t be a good match for you.