There are a lot of benefits associated with working from home. Many workers find that they’re more productive and happier once they’ve made the switch. However, that doesn’t mean that working remotely is all fun and games.
There are some common struggles associated with working from home. If you’re considering telecommuting, you should know about these potential pitfalls. And, if you’re already working from home, it may be interesting to see how many of these challenges you’ve personally encountered. Do the benefits really outweigh the drawbacks?
So, before you finalize your professional plans for the coming year, be sure you’re being realistic about the advantages and disadvantages associated with the arrangements available to you. Working at home isn’t as easy as it may seem.
Here are some work-at-home struggles to keep in mind:
“Time is really the only capital that any human being has and the thing that he can least afford to waste or lose.” – Thomas Edison
1. You’ll work more
Sure, you’ll save time in some ways when you work from home. (The average one-way commute is about 26 minutes in the U.S. these days. So, you’ll most likely notice this impact pretty quickly when you make the switch.) However, you could end up making up for it somewhere else in your schedule. Research has found that remote workers often tend to log more hours than their peers who work in traditional office environments. One study found that remote workers said they work over 40 hours per week 43% more than workers who go in to the office.
2. There are so many distractions
Yes, working from home can help you get more done. After all, you aren’t interrupted by coworkers all day long. And, you save time simply by eliminating things like your commute and getting ready for work from your daily routine. (Keep in mind that it takes money as well as time to dress for an office job, buy lunch, etc.)
However, despite these advantages, working from home isn’t for everyone. Not all workers are more productive when they take on this kind of arrangement. This is mainly because there are just so many distractions available at any given moment when you work from home. Your bed, the TV, the fridge, your phone… they’re all available to you. And, it’s up to you to resist them.
It’s not always easy to stay focused on your work when so many tempting disruptions abound. Some workers even find that they’d prefer to work in an office instead where there are fewer distractions.
3. You have to be intrinsically motivated — every single day
You’ll have to learn to be more independent when you work from home. You’ll need to be a self-starter who’s disciplined and reliable in order to be successful. But, keep in mind that you don’t just have to be able to tap into an intrinsic sense of motivation once in a while. You have to do it consistently, every single day. That’s something that’s easier said than done.
Sure, there are a lot of good things about not having managers, clients or coworkers breathing down your neck every minute of the day. But, are you really disciplined enough to be your own boss in terms of setting your work schedule on a daily basis? Will you be able to accomplish all relevant and required work tasks to the best of your ability without that kind of external pressure? And, can you sustain that effort day after day?
4. You’re more isolated
Keep in mind that working from home can be really isolating. But, you probably won’t notice the full weight of this difficulty until you’ve maintained your new schedule for a few months. At first, it might be really nice to have some quiet and a break from coworkers and clients and just the general hustle and bustle of a traditional office. After some time passes though, you’ll probably begin to experience some of the more difficult aspects of this reality, too.
Researchers have often found that isolation is one of the biggest pitfalls of working from home. You’ll be alone a lot more when you work remotely. If this feels super scary to you, you might want to think twice about taking on this kind of setup.
5. There’s less chance to dialogue about your work
One thing you might really enjoy about working from home is that you’ll probably attend fewer meetings than you would if you worked in a traditional office. (A lot of people kind of hate meetings, and for good reason. Unfortunately, they tend to consume a ton of valuable time.) However, one of the pitfalls of working from home relates to missing out on conversations that are sort of adjacent to these gatherings of colleagues.
The thing is that it’s not just that working from home makes you more isolated from your team. It also separates you from the industry specific dialogue, both formal and otherwise, that tends to happen in the workplace.
You might find it harder to keep up with news related to your field, for example, without heading into the office everyday. Or, you might find yourself falling behind when it comes to understanding popular trends or other new ideas that are industry specific. Missing out on this type of dialogue can hold you back professionally. And, even if it doesn’t, you may still find yourself longing for the kind of causal conversations and general work banter that happen among industry professionals. It’s a lot harder to come by when you work from home.
6. You’re less likely to be promoted
There may be some real truth to the saying “out of sight, out of mind.” Remote work is associated with a reduced chance of promotion.
A study conducted by Stanford University, which was reported by Business Insider, found that employees who work from home are 50% less likely to get promoted than those who regularly go in to the office.
Perhaps these workers are more likely to be forgotten when opportunities arise because of a lack of face-time. Or, maybe they don’t build relationships with higher-ups in the same way they would if they were in the office every day. No matter how you cut it, this is a disadvantage worth considering.
7. You feel misunderstood by friends and family
Keep in mind that you might feel pretty misunderstood by friends and family when you step away from a traditional working arrangement and schedule. For them, the fact that you work from home might sort of overshadow any potential challenge you could be experiencing. You may feel as though your loved ones don’t understand how difficult your work is and that they underestimate your stress.
As a result of these misunderstandings, your family might expect you to take on more responsibilities around the home. Or, friends might think that you’re available to talk or get together during the workday. Keep in mind that you’ll most likely spend some time explaining the reality of your day-to-day to some of your loved ones when you first start working from home. There can be a bit of a learning curve for everyone involved when you make the switch.
8. You take less time off
You’ll probably take fewer vacations if you work from home. Remote workers are less apt to take time off than their peers in traditional set-ups. The 2019 State of Remote Work report found that 43% of remote workers took between two to three weeks of vacation time. And, an additional 20% said they took no vacation at all or just one week per year.
Remote employees can sometimes work when traveling so they many not feel the need to take time off as often as other workers do. But, it can also be difficult to ask for time away when your regular arrangement allows for flexibility. As a result, you may end up taking less vacation time than you’d prefer when you work from home.
9. You kind of feel like you’re always working
It can be really hard to unplug as a telecommuter. There’s less of a separation between your personal and professional life when you have this kind of work arrangement. You may feel like you’re always on call — like work is right there at any time for you to engage with — when you work from home. It’s more difficult to establish strong and healthy boundaries between work and personal time as a telecommuter.
10. It might not last forever
There are a lot of challenges associated with working from home. But, there are a ton of advantages too. When all is said and done, you might find that you enjoy the arrangement and that you want to keep it up. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees that you’ll be able to work from home forever.
Lately, some companies have been calling their remote workers back into the office. And, the transition isn’t easy. The challenges associated with working in a traditional office can feel even more difficult after a bout of telecommuting. At the end of the day, one of the drawbacks of working from home is that it might not last. Is it worth putting the time and effort into transitioning into this kind of arrangement when you may just have to transition out of it all over again?
The prospect of working from home can feel more than a little exciting at first. But, be sure to carefully weigh your options before jumping in. Remember that there are both advantages and disadvantages to consider.
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