Working from home is one of those sought out career setups that is also one of the most difficult to maintain. It’s a comfortable scene: waking up and walking into your home office sans bra only to switch to the dining room table if you so prefer or even (gasp) your bed! It’s effortless and homey and at all times of the day: you do what you want.
While often worked towards, working from home has its pros and cons like any other work environment. For many, working from home is a recipe for unproductive and lazy habits. I get it – it’s easy to sit on the couch and pop on Netflix as “background noise” only to get sucked into a TV marathon – hours later and no work done. Working from home employs more self discipline than expected at a normal 9-5.
I have been working from home for just under four months now and it’s no surprise that it works for me – I am a routine (as I mentioned here) and working enthusiast. I get up in the morning excited to start and I have no problem checking off my to-do list as the day goes on without distracting myself.
However, I have my other challenges with working from home – like none of my family or friends thinking I have a set schedule.
So, I have put together a comprehensive guide to working from home – the pros, the cons, the best tips to make your home work ethic successful, and so on! If you currently work from home, are about to start working from home, or are thinking about making the transition, this guide is for you.
Let’s begin with the PROS.
PROS TO WORKING FROM HOME
1. You get to set your own schedule.
When do you work best? What time of the day? Now imagine catering to that time. For me, it is 6:00 am – 10:00 am (I am not kidding) so I always make that 4 hour window a major priority. My mornings are off limits to anything other than work. Afternoons I am low on energy so I take it easy for a few hours and then pick it back up in the evening. You catch the drift. Working from home (and also for yourself mainly) means you have a flexible schedule! It also means you can work from your favorite coffee shop one day or at happy hour the next. Your alternative working locations are endless. This is 100% my favorite aspect of working from home. If something fun is going on with my friends or family on a Thursday, I can choose to work a half day and then make up a half day on Saturday morning instead. Bottom line perk? Flexibility.
2. No dresscode.
You can work in sweats if you so please. Or you can get dressed up head to toe in heels and a blazer to set the mood right. Whatever works best for you. For me, I am fine working in sweatpants or in my pajamas. It doesn’t make me lazy or unmotivated – however for some people it does. But no restrictions here – there is no upper management to tell you what is business appropriate. Wear whatever the hell you want! A kimono robe works perfectly fine, in my opinion.
3. Save money by eating in.
Working from home means your refrigerator is there at all times for you to make snacks and lunch (which could be dangerous…). The upside to this is you can eliminate buying lunch out on your lunch break because you didn’t have enough time to pack one as you were rushing out the door to the office. With a home office you can take 30 minutes to just cook lunch or prepare a snack whenever you need to – and it is your food, so cheaper and (usually) healthier than eating out.
4. Being the boss of your day.
This is the biggest appeal – isn’t it? Being your own boss of your days and weeks. Even if you don’t work for yourself and are a freelancer or have private clients, you control your day and your environment. It’s a pretty appealing deal and one of the reasons working from home and being an entrepreneur is so highly sought after. If you can’t work for yourself, working from home is second best.
CONS TO WORKING FROM HOME
1. There is no structure.
Working from home means you have to create the structure of your workday. For me this comes pretty naturally, but I still get stuck in outside commitments that contradict my work structure simply because I have the option to work later or on the weekends. Treating your days like they are legitimate work days is key. Also there is this thing called the couch. And it always looks more appealing than your desk. Always. No structure means getting caught in the distractions and comfort of your home. It also means not even starting to work in the first place. If you don’t have real daily and hourly structure, starting can be the hardest part. Sometimes people fall victim to not starting in the first place until they are under a super pressure deadline.
2. You are alone all day.
Some people overpass the detail that working from your home means that you are alone all day. Which can get – an obvious observation – lonely! It also can make you feel as if you haven’t seen the world or the sun for that matter in days. Human interaction and collaboration is important and key to the creative and business process. Working from home can strip you of those social yet crucial aspects of the work place.
3. People do not think you have to be at work.
When you work from home (and ESPECIALLY for yourself), your friends and family don’t think it is as big of a deal to whisk you away for lunch or stay out late for some wine on a regular basis. They don’t think you have to stay home – which at times you technically don’t unless under a major deadline – but that doesn’t mean your work schedule should be treated so nonchalantly. Under this outlook, you will never have a full week of work.
4. Pajamas can become your life.
I usually wear sweatpants or pajamas while I am working all day. This is because I have this deeply rooted belief that when I am home I should be in pajamas. However this deeply rooted belief didn’t take into account what that looks like when I am home 24/7. I’ll admit, I love being in my sweatpants and working! However, after a few days of that I am craving a social event to get dressed up and put on some jeans and real shoes.
5. Sometimes you won’t feel productive.
A lot of the times I won’t feel as if I had a large work day because I was in the comfort of my own home with no external anxieties of an office breathing down my neck. I have to write down all I did that day to let it soak in how productive I actually was. Sometimes we equate stress and a lot on our plate with other coworkers and/or bosses to being productive but you can also be highly productive and be relaxed and in no insane rush. Working from home can feel so relaxing you can wonder if you are actually working – even if you just finished a 10 hour day.
There is a lot packed into these pros and cons – and it is good to remember that everyone is truly different. For a lot of people, working from home just doesn’t work. They need that external push and drive of an office and larger collaboration to do their best work. Others (like myself) can get just as much done at home as they would with a boss keeping them accountable.
If you do work from home, would like to work from home, or are about to start working from home, here are my biggest tips I have accumulated to help me stay on track, focused, and productive.
1. Wake up at the same time everyday from Monday-Friday.
As in, set an alarm and treat it like a work morning. Sleeping in until whenever you want helps start your day off in an unproductive way. By waking up every morning at the same time Monday-Friday, it tells your body it’s time to go to work….down the hall! For example, I wake up at 6:00 am Monday-Friday. Saturday and Sunday I also work (surprise, surprise) but I let myself sleep in those days. Setting a specific time to wake up every morning will help build that structure that is so lacking from home office life.
2. Write a to-do list first thing in the morning.
Writing a to-do list will help set visual goals and create a mood of schedule for your day. It will help you ditch your excuses too (more on that here!). Without a to-do list for the day, your work can get lost in a hodgepodge of whatever you feel like doing next (which might end up being the couch…).
3. Switch environments.
Sometimes you just need to get out of the house. Once a week I like to go to my favorite coffee shop and work there for the day. It helps with the cabin fever and gives me a fresh perspective on my work. Just because you work from home does not always mean that you need to work from home.
4. Plan social events out of the house.
I like to make sure I am getting out for dinner or coffee with a friend or my fiancé at least once a week. Again with the cabin fever – it is important to get outside and be around other people. Don’t let yourself turn into too much of a hermit so that working from home can feel fun instead of isolating.
5. Identify your triggers.
After you start working from home, you will identify your triggers that make you lose all sense of self-discipline and determination. For me, it is when I turn the TV on and justify that it is just “background noise.” What really happens is I get deep into Project Runway Allstars. I have identified it and I now avoid the couch and the TV until I am truly done with my day’s work. No one in an office is watching Project Runway Allstars while working, so I shouldn’t be either. For you, it could be working in your bed. Or trying to work after you exercised. Whatever it is for you, identify it and avoid it like the plague.
6. Set long-term work goals for yourself.
Long-term goals will always help you stay afloat with the bigger picture. If you don’t have any long-term goals, it is easy to drop the ball and just stop working as hard. With solid long-term goals, a timeline is always in the back of your head. The bigger picture is at play and you are failing it if you don’t remain focused and self-disciplined. Without long-term goals, being unfocused and undisciplined will feel as if it has no consequences.
7. Decorate your home office and create your perfect ambiance.
On an aesthetic and energy level, you have to want to be in your home office. If your home office inspires you and makes you feel creative and energized, then you will get some great work done. If your home office is dark and drab, you might not want to work in a dungeon all day. That can lead you else where (aka into not working at all). Take some time and decorate your home office to match your dream aesthetic. This will help you fall in love with your work each and everyday.
So — did I cover everything? Where do you lay when it comes to working from home? Are the cons too big for you? Or are the pros enough to never step foot in an office again?
For me, home office life works just perfectly.
What is your home office life like?