The Horrors of Working at Home
When companies are looking to hire, it’s customary for them to tempt applicants with a package of benefits and perks, to go along with the usual appropriate salary. Thanks to the advent of the wireless mobile networking age, and conveniences like the ability to save and access work via cloud storage, more companies are offering their employees the chance to work at home.
And doesn’t that sound wonderful?
No worries about commutes; no having to deal with sick co-workers coughing germs on your desk, no intolerably boring meetings where people simply sit there and waste your time as they try to make themselves look good by talking non-stop. No, say good-bye to all of that.
As if all of that isn’t good enough, you can wear (or NOT wear) whatever you want. Just as long as you get your work done, you work at your own pace, when you want, how you want, with no boss looking over your shoulder. It’s bliss, and nothing could possibly go wrong, right?
Like a beautiful rose that has nasty thorns, or a colorful, friendly-looking bug that has a poison sting and a short temper, working at home looks wonderful, but hides some nasty downsides.
Consider what you’re about to read as a warning about what you will most likely face when working at home. And yes, this comes from someone who was there once, and now will never go back. It should be pointed out that this warning/rant doesn’t really apply to people who are freelancers and have no actual “regular” job where they report to a boss. No, this specific work at home arrangement is strictly in the context of a so-called benefit of a normal, paid position offered by a business.
You’re Always “On-Call”
Since your hours aren’t really defined, no one at your job’s physical location has any qualms about getting a hold of you just about anytime, anywhere, armed with the expectation that you will drop everything and immediately tend to their issues.
It’s even worse if you’re part of a start-up, which implicitly expects people to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week; vacations, illnesses, and lunch dates be damned. When I worked for one particular company, there was a time where I sat in my hotel room, writing desperately needed material, while my friends were down in the hotel bar, having beers and a great time. And you can’t refuse these requests or try to delay them because…
You Work Under A Cloud of Suspicion
Since you’re working at home, you are essentially working unsupervised. Human nature being what it is, you will be tempted to slack off sometimes. Parallel to this idea, human nature also tends to be prone to suspiciousness, so people at work will find themselves wondering if you’re actually working or taking advantage of the arrangement.
Because yes, they know that humans sometimes slack off when unsupervised. They’d be doing the same if they could. So they will make it their mission to make sure that you aren’t!
That’s why you have to make sure you drop everything and address issues right away, and not only that, make sure that the resulting work is flawless. Otherwise, as far as the latter is concerned, people at your job may think your work is less than spectacular because clearly you’re distracted by non-work-related things. Which actually leads us nicely into…
Since You’re At Home…
Not only does your employer expect you to be on call and giving 150% of your energy and effort, friends and family who know that you’re home may start asking for your help. Maybe it’s a son or daughter who needs to be picked up; they would normally ask a friend, but since they know you’re home, well…
Or a friend who needs help moving and knows that you’re home may give you the “Please, no one else can help me! You can always work before and/or after you help me! It won’t take long, I promise!”
NOTE: Never in the history of helping someone move does the time involved end up being less than the promised duration. Never. Just so’s you know.
Naturally, you can simply refuse your friends and family, but if you’re prone to guilt feelings, you’ve just doomed yourself. Great! Now you have to focus on your job while wrestling with the idea that you’re some kind of uncaring monster!
To Be Fair…
This is not to say that working at home can’t happen smoothly and successfully; just that it’s not as rosy and wonderful as it may look at first glance. If you draw up a series of expectations and limits, it could work out for you.
Just be careful jumping at the chance without seeing what it is you’re getting yourself into!