3 Sneaky Downsides of Working at Home (and How to Handle Them)
Working at home can be a dream or a nightmare, depending on the job, your preferences, and the disposition of your colleagues. It’s pretty easy to find guidelines to making a telecommuting situation a success: you know you need to keep your boss in the loop, for example, and make sure your co-workers can see that you’re really working. But, what about those pitfalls that arise only once you’re comfortably ensconced in your brand-new home office? Here’s what you can expect.
(Photo Credit: Luis LLerena/Unsplash)
1. Out of sight, out of mind.
There’s a promotion opening up, and you’d like to grab it. There’s a budget increase, and you’re long overdue for a raise. There’s just one problem: your boss doesn’t see you every day, so your name isn’t necessarily at the tip of her tongue when she’s asked who’s deserving.
This is obviously more of a problem if you’re working with people who come into the office. If you’re on a remote team, chances are that your company has evolved ways to make sure people stay visible and communicating with one another.
In the absence of helpful company policy, you’ll have to be your own advocate. While you stay in contact with your manager and teammates, don’t be shy about tooting your own horn. Show your progress with hard data, and let technologies like Skype and messaging keep you present in everyone’s mind.
2. There’s no factory whistle – or slowly emptying cubicle farm – to alert you that it’s time to go home.
When you work in an office, it’s pretty clear when it’s quitting time: people start packing up and going home. When you work at home, you have to be the guardian of your own time. It’s easy to start letting your workdays creep longer and longer into your evening, until your post-work life is confined to hurried evening meals and chores and bedtime. Do this often enough, and you’ll wind up without much life in your work-life balance.
Pick a starting time and a quitting time, and try to minimize the distractions that come up between those hours. If you catch yourself noodling around on Facebook or taking too many non-work-related phone calls, realize that you’re stealing time from yourself later in the day.
3. People think you’re retired.
“Can you walk my dog/babysit my toddler/take my grandma to the doctor’s?”
“I’ve got a friend coming to town, but I have to work. I told him you’d take him to lunch.”
“Why don’t I see your name on the team snack sign-up more often? You’re at home these days, right?”
In 2014, 23 percent of working people reported working at home for at least part of the day, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s American Time Use Survey – which makes it very strange that so many people seem unable to comprehend what “working at home” means, when you try to explain why you aren’t available to help.
The good news is that the most important person to convince is yourself. As long as you’re clear on the validity of your need to keep a work schedule, it doesn’t really matter what they think. Your conviction will shine through, or they’ll remain obstinate but disappointed, and move on to pestering that stay-at-home mom who has nothing to do but look after her twins all day. (If they do, maybe you and she can form a support group: Invisible Workers of the World, unite.)
Bottom line, working at home is really working, but even if it weren’t, you don’t have to be an unpaid chauffeur or activities director just because it’d make like easier for them. And, most likely, your friends and family already know that. They’re just hoping you haven’t figured it out.
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