By Corrie Benfield
This year, I took a position at a company that prides itself in “talent-based hiring,” meaning the company aims to hire the right people no matter where they are located, and every employee is allowed to work from home.
I had worked from home occasionally before, but never 100 percent of the time. I knew from past experience that I enjoy the flexibility and freedom, and I read a lot of tips ahead of time about how to adjust to the work-from-home lifestyle.
Now that I’ve been at it for a few months, I can honestly say I love it. However, I do come across a lot people who have some misconceptions about what goes on in a work-from-home job. Here are some of the ones I hear the most, along with some answers to them:
1. Sure, you “work” (with a wink) from home. When I mention to people that I work from home, some joke that I must get a lot of TV watching/internet surfing/household chores done during my workday. In all actuality, I probably get more work done at home than I ever have in an office. There’s no unexpected co-worker drop-ins, no being dragged into office gossip, no sitting in conference rooms waiting for a meeting to start. Just quiet time in front of the computer punctuated by conference calls and chat sessions. (However, I do manage to get some laundry done during my lunch breaks.)
2. There are too many distractions at home. There are distractions for sure, but no more than in a regular workplace. Sure, I’ve found out since working from home that my dogs get into random bark-offs during the middle of the day. But it’s really no different from a loud conversation among co-workers right outside my office door. I just ignore them and keep working. The key is that I have a home office that I pretty much stick to during work hours, apart from occasional trips to the breakroom (kitchen).
3. You feel isolated. As a people person, I was worried about feeling lonely with no co-workers around to talk to. But my company makes it a priority to facilitate monthly get-to-know-you video calls with random sets of coworkers, and my team meets weekly to chat about how things are going. Also, I have made it a personal goal to have lunch once a week with a friend, former colleague or new contact so I keep up my connections and get some face-to-face time in.
4. The line between work and home gets blurred, and you end up working all the time. It is definitely harder to separate work life from home life, especially when you know there’s work to be done and it would be easy to log in during your personal downtime to knock it out. However, at least at my company, standard business hours are typically observed, and it’s up to the worker to set personal boundaries and keep that home office door shut after quitting time.
5. You get to stay home with your kids while you work. Although I don’t personally have kids, I gather from what I’ve seen during Take Your Kids to Work Day that it is not possible to fully concentrate on work while entertaining a child, unless of course you work at a day care.
6. You never have to take a sick day. Sure, if you’re at that level where you would be staying home to avoid giving someone else the sniffles, you can still work. But if you have the full-blown flu and can’t get out of bed, let alone sit at your computer, concentrating on work is not an option either.
7. You are always available for phone calls, drop-in visits, or long lunches. We’ve all heard the phrase: “With great power comes great responsibility.” I’d say the power to monitor yourself and manage your time comes with a responsibility to stay focused on work during the workday. For me, that means ignoring most personal calls and texts and keeping lunch hours to as close to an actual hour as possible. And although I don’t have friends drop in often, I’ve been surprised by how many knocks on the door I have to ignore during the day. (How many pizza flyers does one house really need?)
8. You stay in your pajamas all day. OK, so this one may be true sometimes. Or at least I don’t have to go through the whole shebang of putting on a suit in the morning. However, I have heard that some people who work from home make it a priority to dress professionally in their home office, as it makes them feel more productive. Personally, I don’t wear heels unless I have to.
Of course, people’s experiences with working from home are going to vary from company to company, and if you own your own firm, you have a whole separate set of circumstances to deal with. But if you are considering taking the plunge and switching to a home office, here’s some additional reading:
Corrie Benfield is a web content editor at Consultwebs, which provides online marketing services for law firms.