Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been working from home for a number of years now and I’m not so sure I’d like to trade that in for a more conventional office setting any time soon. There are certainly some advantages to working from home, but these perks oftentimes disguise what is really a double-edged sword. The lifestyle of working out of a home office has both its ups and its downs, and these are really two sides of the same coin.
More or Less Free Time
“It must be nice to work whenever you want to.”
I hear that all the time and, if you’re a regular reader of this blog, then you’ll already know my standard response to this. While it is somewhat true that I can work “whenever I want,” the very fact that I can can work at any hour of the day makes me feel like I should be working every hour of every day. That’s why some freelancers choose to schedule their work days, clearly defining when they are and are not “in the office.”
And that’s the very nature of the home office arrangement. You do have more “free” time to accommodate grocery shopping and dentist appointments, but the more “free time” you take, the less you really have. Effectively, you have to make up for those lost hours and work even longer and even later, sometimes into the wee hours of the night.
Better or Worse Diet
You would think that by working from home, it would be easier to prepare healthier meals for less money. This goes hand in hand with having “more free time,” as discussed above. Ironically, what you may find is working from home lends itself to overworking from home, having very late lunches and eating too many meals at your desk while continuing to work. That’s arguably a worse diet.
If you follow me on Instagram, then you may have noticed the #kwanscreativecatering hashtag I use from time to time. For many of my dinners, I end up looking in the fridge and cupboards, assessing what I have on hand, and “creatively” throwing something together to eat.
Comfortable or Too Comfortable?
It’s true that you can be more comfortable at home, because it is your home. You can buy the furniture that you want, arrange the room the way you want, adjust the thermostat to the temperature you want, and so on. You’re not at the mercy of the rest of the office, as it were. At the same time, you could end up making yourself too comfortable. It’s far too tempting to “rest your eyes” on the couch for a few minutes, neglecting the work that needs to be done.
The Distraction Factor
When you work in a more conventional office, you could be bombarded by all sorts of distractions. You could get caught up in office gossip, for example. In this way, segregating yourself with a home office could help to reduce some of those distractions and let you better focus on the task at hand, right? The problem is that those office distractions simply get replaced with different distractions at home.
Without managers and supervisors hovering over your shoulder, you may be more tempted to veer into the bottomless pit of YouTube and Reddit. If you have children, pets or family members at home, they can easily become points of distraction too. You hear your spouse watching a particularly good TV show and you may be tempted to step out of the office to join her. Don’t fool yourself: the home office has just as many distractions as the conventional office.
The Issue of Work-Life Balance
As with all things in life, working out of a home office is all about finding balance. You may feel compelled to work far too much, just as you may be tempted into working not enough. You don’t want to neglect the important people and things in your personal life, but you don’t want your professional ambitions to suffer either.
Enjoy your free time (but not too much), eat healthier food, get comfortable (but too comfortable), and limit those distractions (but indulge when you must). The home office isn’t for everyone, but I’d say it has worked out for me.