What’s it really been like working at home for over 20 years?
My perspective of the realities of earning my living from the comfort of my own home.
I work from home and actually have done so even in pre-internet days, and thus it was a very easy transition for me to begin working virtually in 2005. Times have changed since then and although most people don’t get a weird look when they say they work from home, there is still some skepticism around work-at-home jobs and the companies that hire people for virtual jobs.
After I finished school and before having my children, I was always drawn to jobs with a lot of independence and little supervision and so after my oldest son was born, working at home came natural to me, and in fact was very desirable. I have an entrepreneurial spirit and I think that goes hand in hand with the self-discipline required to be successful working at home. When my children were small, I not only wanted to be home with them, but financially it would have been very cost prohibitive to have had to pay for childcare with the type of salary I earned at that time, so working at home solved that problem. Back then I did a wide variety of work such as making crafts at home for a local craft supplier, having my own small craft business, I did legal and business transcription from home, and did some telecommuting as an administrative assistant.
- More Time for You
In the list that could be made up of the pros and cons of working at home, one thing I realized right away is that working 40 hours at home is not like working 40 hours outside the home. Once you eliminate the time involved in getting ready for work, driving to and from work, the wind-down once you get home, break times and lunch times away from home, it’s amazing actually how working 40 hours at home feels like part-time work in comparison. In fact, when I began working full-time hours from part-time, it felt kind of weird and a little unsettling…how could I be working 40 hours a week when I have all this extra time to myself?
- More Money in Your Pocket
The money saved working at home really adds up when you consider gas, wear and tear on your car, lower car insurance rates (no commuting), clothes, lunches, break time snacks and drinks, etc. Two-adult households might even be able to cut back to just one car instead of two, resulting in really big savings.
- Conveniences and Little (Or Not So Little) Extras
The first big snowfall (or heavy rain, fog, ice, any inclement weather issues) and you are sipping your hot cup of coffee or tea while watching the snow out the window, not having to brush off your car, warm it up, slip and slide through horrid traffic, knowing you’ll have to do it all again at the end of the day—well, that is a great feeling, for sure!
If you have children, the plusses add up very quickly and are way too numerous to mention here. (And okay, okay, I know, working with kids at home can also sometimes be on the con side, but on the pro side, I’m thinking of child care costs, kids home sick, school holidays…)
- Location, Location, Location
Then of course there is the “portability” factor — many virtual or at-home positions enable you to live where you choose, and offer the option of working where you want to. Not only can you live where you want to, but going back home to take care of mom or grandma after they had surgery is suddenly feasible when working virtual, or just making regular visits to family, and it gives you the ability to stay for a long period of time.
It’s not all a bed of roses, though.
Many articles, blogs, and forums that revolve around working at home don’t want you to know that piece of information, but it’s not all roses and sunshine, or some utopia that exists for earning a living in a perfect environment! Working at home, definitely has its cons.
If you already have an active social life, you are less likely to feel isolated working at home, or you may possibly find a virtual or telecommuting job that involves a lot of contact with people; however, many people have to deal with a feeling of isolation. If you have two working adults in the household, with or without children, there is simply much less time today in hectic lives for socializing and so for many people, the bulk of their social life actually happens in the work place and with coworkers.
The self-discipline of working at home is often much harder than people think. While it sounds totally awesome to roll out of bed whenever you want to, stumble over to the computer and work in your jammies if and when you feel like it—the reality is that it often sucks just as much to have to go work at your home office as it does to go to a cubicle in an office building. Not every work-at-home opportunity/job/profession means you can work when you want to, there are usually regular schedules that must be kept, meetings to attend or deadlines to be met.
- No IT or Maintenance Department
While many jobs may have technical support for software issues related to your job, often that’s all it will cover. You may also have to contend with power/internet outages that could have a direct effect on your income, in addition to the basic computer/hardware issues that now fall on you to resolve, repair, purchase, etc.
- Family and Other Interruptions
One of the things I have struggled with after working at home for several decades, is with family and friends who view me sitting where they can see me—I am not away at some unknown location, out of sight, out of mind—so that means I can be interrupted on a very regular basis and that of course means I should be available at all times. When I respond with “I’m working…” more often than not I get the look basically summing up: “What do you mean working? You’re sitting at HOME.” In fact, although working at home is no longer a rare or unusual thing to do, it’s not uncommon for people to think that working at home is not really working.
Having family support is crucial for some work at home jobs, such as virtual call centers, where you need to have no background noise, the two most common problems of course being kids and dogs – either of which will be very obvious to your customer/client on the phone (speaking from personal experience here) and impossible to cover up with any excuse. The irony of that is there are some customers on the phone who will question the fact that it’s so quiet where you work, which can seem as unusual as a lot of noise, although that can be much more easily explained than hearing a dog bark or a child suddenly screaming, “Mooooommmmmyyyyyyy!!!!!!!” outside your door. (Telling the customer you use noise cancelling headsets was a common response when I was working with a virtual call center.)
These are just some of the basics of working at home, and you should give a lot of thought to the pros and cons if you are considering it. For those who consider it almost a God-send, parents of young children, people who need a second income, those with a disability or chronic illness, and of course those with no available jobs in your local area – well, it can be just that – a blessing that can truly be life changing. There ARE jobs/careers/opportunities available in the virtual world, not just scams and con artists waiting to pilfer your money. Do your due diligence, read, research, and ask questions, and you may be surprised what you find in the vast internet space that could change your life and the more prepared you are, the greater your chance of success once you have landed that job and begin working.