What It’s Really Like to Work from Home

Posted November 29, 2012 by Ellen Hunter Gans in On the Ladder

My commute is pretty stellar: It’s about 15 steps from my bedroom to my office; 25 if I swing by the kitchen to guzzle a few gallons of coffee.

I genuinely enjoy working from home, but it’s not necessarily the cakewalk that many cubicle-dwellers imagine. When people learn that I work from home, I get a lot of the same comments and questions. I’ll address a few of those here:

“So…you just get to sit around all day in pajamas?”

Well, let’s put it this way: I don’t think the FedEx guy would recognize me if I had make-up on.

I will admit that my home uniform is a wee bit heavy on…shall we say…comfortable attire. And by that, I mean fuzzy slippers and a shirt emblazoned with the line: “Bad grammar makes me [sic].”

Fortunately, I have enough meetings at clients’ offices to prevent me from completely sinking into schlub status. This is key. 

“Do you get lonely during the day?”

As I said, I have some off-site meetings and a lot of phone calls. I’d be in trouble without those.

If you work from home and your job does not inherently involve interpersonal interaction, you run the very serious risk of becoming a bizarre shut-in who starts telling cashiers and bank tellers and dental hygienists about your day. (“But the barista was totally digging my story about how quickly I finished the crossword puzzle!” No, Ellen. No she wasn’t.) 

“Can you just sit around and watch The Real Housewives of Saskatchewan all day with no one telling you what to do?”

Not if I want to make a living.

There are distractions in any job. In an office, there’s your friend down the hall or the ability to get around the company firewall so you can spew LOLZ all over Facebook. (Not that you would do that.)

At home, depending on your situation, there are varying combinations of online cat videos, laundry, television, kids, pets, kids who behave like pets, and the relentless desire to “just lie down for a minute.” But in both situations, if you don’t do the work it doesn’t get done. And if you’re your own boss, that means you don’t get paid. End of story.

I don’t have children, but my mother was a freelancer when I was growing up, and I distinctly remember deliberately interrupting her work so I could get attention. I was a jerk. 

“Does every day feel like a weekend since you’re at home?” 

What’s a weekend?

About a year ago, we moved into a house with a dedicated office. I thought that being able to close the door and walk away from my computer would demarcate my home and work lives.

Not so much. With the exception of one glorious email-free vacation, I have felt “on duty” for three-and-a-half years straight. The physical proximity to my dedicated workspace creates a constant need to respond to emails and take care of one more thing and one more thing. I know I’m not alone; many of you take your work home with you even if you work in a traditional office setting. Working from home doesn’t eliminate that problem. Trust me.

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So there you have it: the good, the bad, and the ugly. My fuzzy slippers and I are going to get back to work now.


About the Author

Ellen Hunter Gans

Ellen Hunter Gans is a freelance writer and communications strategist. She's also a marathon runner, an Ironman triathlete, a wildly untalented cross-country skier, a newly minted Crossfit junkie, a yoga devotee, a wannabe culinary genius, a voracious reader, a grammar snob, a world traveler, an outdoorswoman, an oenophile, a mediocre gardener, and a secret fan of awful television. Her blog is at www.lifeinreviews.com, and her business website is at www.wordcoutureconsulting.com.