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5 Ways to Survive Work-at-Home Hell

Most workers work from home occasionally at some point in their career, and some of us do it on a full-time basis. After all, if you've telecommuted at all, you know how your home-based environment can dramatically improve your productivity. Distractions are limited, and you're able to focus on the project at hand. So, why do some companies forbid, discourage, or in other ways inhibit their workers from telecommuting? In short, it's because there's also a downside to working from home.

Most workers work from home occasionally at some point in their career, and some of us do it on a full-time basis. After all, if you’ve telecommuted at all, you know how your home-based environment can dramatically improve your productivity. Distractions are limited, and you’re able to focus on the project at hand. So, why do some companies forbid, discourage, or in other ways inhibit their workers from telecommuting? In short, it’s because there’s also a downside to working from home.


(Photo Credit: Phil and Pam/Flickr)

Some employers worry that telecommuting means unreliable employees, or at least, less collaboration within teams. That was the inspiration behind Marissa Mayer’s decision to ban telecommuting for all Yahoo workers. At the time, Yahoo argued that it was a move to improve their competitive edge in the marketplace, but what many people (particularly women) heard was that she was throwing flexibility for workers out the window. While the naysayers were very vocal, a few did see the benefits
of having all employees present and accounted for. 

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There are definite advantages to having employees in the same room once in a while, at least. Beyond ensuring a team-approach to projects, everyone has had those conversations in the elevator or hallway that seemed to answer that critical question for a project. But, whatever side of the fence you ended up on, the Yahoo/Marissa Mayer controversy vocalized and complicated a reality that telecommuters have always encountered when they work-at-home. Even though telework has increased nearly 80 percent since 2005, workers find that they often have to prove themselves much more to receive recognition.

It’s something of a work-from-home hell, what Samantha Cole calls “the flexibility gap.” In her article for Fast Company, Cole talks about her personal experience with that hell: working incessantly from morning until late evening, and constantly checking emails, while simultaneously feeling the constant guilt that it’s never enough.

Here are a few ways to live with your work-at-home hell:

1. Be transparent.

You may be out-of-office, but you’re still an employee. You need to find a way to demonstrate what you’ve accomplished. In the busy, madcap schedule at work, it may not be easy to track what you’re doing (and make sure your boss knows what’s going on), but you may find that your transparency will help to transform your work-at-home hell into something more manageable and livable.

2. Schedule it.

Don’t leave your employer and co-workers guessing what you’re doing, or where you are. Of course, one of the reasons you may have chosen to work from home is because of the flexibility, but you still work with others, which means you need to rely on one another for project management, knowledge sharing, collaborative tasks, and customer-service management.

3. Maintain balance.

Even though you may feel stressed, like you need to prove yourself, you also need to keep your work in perspective. Working at home is attractive because of the flexibility, but if you burn out, or allow yourself to become frustrated and angry about how your work has taken over your life, you’re potentially affecting your work-life balance and productivity. Be sure to maintain a sense of balance.

4. Use technology.

This one probably seems like a given. We’re able to work at home and be more productive largely because of technology. But, you still may not be using the tools that are at your disposal. Some remote workers take advantage of Skype to regularly check in, face-to-face, while others use tracking and other project-management tools to more easily collaborate with co-workers.

Technology allows employees to work smarter, not harder. One of the biggest benefits of working from home is increased productivity; use technology to gather data proving that you’re doing more than you would at the office, and get the recognition you deserve.

5. Move back.

Telecommuting is not for everyone, or every company. It’s possible that your company will change the degree to which you can work at home, or you may decide it’s just not for you. You’ve probably heard friends and colleagues say that they could never get anything done when they worked at home, because the dishes, laundry, and kids can be distractions. If you find that you can’t be productive at home, don’t wait until your boss says something. Move back to the office, or find a way to split your time between your home office and the work location. It doesn’t have to be all one way or the other, but you need to be realistic about what you can accomplish at home, and whether it even works for you at all.

Tell Us What You Think

Have you dealt with the unfortunate side effects of working from home? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Esther Lombardi
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22 Comments on "5 Ways to Survive Work-at-Home Hell"

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I feel it never really caught on big because your peers and boss want to SEE you suffer with them at the office with them.


Companies that take the home office work in Brazil, has experienced many problems with the labor courts. In our country, laws are not flexible to the point that certain actions. But I believe this is the future of labor relations in some activities. In certain productive activities do not believe that the home office is possible. thank you

I have been working from home for 10 years and the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. You have to be the type of person who can flexi on and off while still being available to the main office. Mobile phone, skype, email are all essential. I have struck a happy balance by making myself available to train new staff at my home or in the office and I attend all meetings to liaise on new ideas, etc. I visit the office for a couple of hours each week just to keep in touch with the boss and staff there and… Read more »

I have worked from home for 11 years. I love what I do so that what makes it easy. It does require a balance with your home and work life. What makes it work for me is being really organized and being able to set my own schedule pretty much with the exceptions of staff meetings. I love the flexibiity because if I need to make adjustments to my schedule I can.


it is a great boon for employee and employer. Employee can get comfort of time and money save employer may get more produce without transport allowance, annoyance of leave request, less office maintenance, etc. Less persons in the office less power consumption so eco friendly. Win win. This needs out put monitoring.


I worked from home and love it. I’m dependable, communicative & productive. I made less mistakes working from home. The unfortunate thing is the Co. Let go many workers and my job is changing to come in everyday. I’m not happy with this. I want to work from and hopefully find another job to do so. As long as the Co has email, set up for texting and Webinars. If wouldn’t be a problem.


If you don’t trust your employees to get the job done no matter their location then don’t hire them …

Tough one. Telecommuting is one of the best things to happen to employees in my lifetime. Snowing outside? Roads horrible? No problem, you don’t have to drive in dangerous conditions and can still work a full day. Feeling sick today? It’s okay, you can work from home while in pj’s and pampering your illness – and not infecting the entire office. You save on car maintenance, gas, tolls, car repairs, and get to keep your car a lot longer. You can start your day earlier and end later because there is no travel time involved. You might be able to… Read more »

Are there any legitimate work at home gigs out there? I need it and would be great at it. I see a lot “the great big idea” where read and listen for 30 minutes – only to be asks for money to buy into some sort of scam that amounts to nothing. I’m all set up, just need something real and serious.


My view is that if an employee can’t manage their time at home, they probably can’t manage it in the office either (they just hide it better). Effective WFH is essential in the professional market place now.


A long time ago when I got my AA I wanted to work from home because it was so rough finding anyone who was willing to hire someone with an AA. Either HS diploma or a BA was desired. So I looked around for work at home jobs and the issue I found was finding the ones that were legit. I don’t have kids, but it would be really nice for when I do to be able to set my schedule, so I can raise my kids and still contribute to the family funds.


Biggest drawback is that your work is always just a few steps away. It is extremely easy to hear your email or phone ring and be sucked back into work at all times of the day or night. It takes discipline to separate your work time from your home time.

Tele commuting or wfh is a great boon for parents especially while juggling work and home and in general people to manage things. You have laid it out well. there is a thin line between use and mis-use which employees and managers need to take responsibility for. I’ve worked in both environments and always feel the benefits of wfh are enormous. Keeping a separate space in the home free from distractions is a must. I feel you can wfh if you have a 8 year old sick kid at home who needs attention for couple of hours as opposed to… Read more »
Paul Chisunka
Esther your 5 Tips are especially timely as the number of people telecommuting increases. As with everything it must be done with good measure. I find it rewarding to have an office away from the office for increased concentration and helps me focus on particular tasks even at awkward hours. However one ought to be careful to avoid the obvious pitfalls such as stealing quality family time. I try to keep an open channel or conduit to the office because there are times when data reinforcements or feedback are needed from the office so one has to be careful not… Read more »
For me the biggest drawback of working from home would be the distractions : those already mentioned of laundry, dishes, children, etc but also the distraction of wondering around – getting tempted to watch the favorite sports / serials/ movie on TV…:-) .Thus procrastination sets in… cause you know if you wasted this hour or two now, you can recover late into the night… etc. So frankly speaking i am not a telecommuting person at all… I come to office even on a weekend, if I had to focus and concentrate on work, which I could have always done from… Read more »
There are advantages to every job and working at home full time would be ideal to some. I would enjoy this type of employment if it were to provide me a stable living for tenure or more. I enjoy people presence not often especially boring meetings that don’t progress into a more productive workplace. The job career choice is also very diverse today in that technology does enhance productivity. I would like to try doing this and find however there are some sites that require thousands of questions to be answered for entering data. Data is non responsive in nature… Read more »
The biggest paradigm shift that needs to take place for successful telecommuting is with management, specifically project-management. The mindset/idea that an employee at their desk or in the office = a productive employee couldn’t be more inaccurate. How much time on average is an employee ‘not engaged’ in work activities, even though they’re present? Studies say about 2 or more hours a day. Project scheduling needs to be set by measurable goals, milestones, etc. vs. time. The bottom-line is project accomplishment, NOT the amount of time taken to get tasks done, when or where they’re done. If a task is… Read more »
Candi Smith

I have a balance between the two and the flexibility to choose, however my role and company also suite this type of arrangement. Of course, with load shedding, it all falls apart as most of us do not have the necessary infrastructure to work around this in our personal capacity.


The photo shows another hazard: poor workplace ergonomics. Look at the angle of her neck relative to her spine. If you work like this for long you’ll suffer pain and joint problems quickly. Invest in a desk with appropriate keyboard height, a decent monitor and stand that can be separately from the keyboard, and a supportive chair.


It should not make a difference as long as you deliver by working from home or office. In both the cases the level of commitment would remain the same. Working from home is no longer unproductive with platforms like,, etc


Hi, I’ve found this cool site about different methods on how to make money online.

Great article, Esther. Thanks for the tips! Since telecommuting is a booming industry, there is no need to wonder why there are now technologies and systems designed to help those who belong in this line of work, especially in terms of productivity. One of the types of software programs that you should consider using is a time tracking tool, much like Worksnaps ( This service tracks the time that you allot for a particular task, whether it is an individual or a collaboration project. A great improvement in visibility and accountability of how you spend your time are just two… Read more »
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