Challenges of Working from Home
Disclaimer: I personally love working from home. That said, it’s not always rainbows and roses unless you have all your ducks in a row.
This blog post is dedicated to the potential dark side of working from home, especially as a freelancer.
As if you needed a reminder, right?
If you are already making a living from the (dis)comfort of your home, then you already know everything that you must deal with on a daily or weekly basis.
Sure, there are countless benefits to working from home, and most are quite obvious to us (rush hour traffic, anyone?). But do these goodies outweigh the painful annoyances of living the so-called dream?
Here are the most common things you will put up with at one point or another.
A Distasteful Lack of Discipline
When you first enter the work-at-home lifestyle, your mind is blissfully contemplating the many ways you’re going to have the perfect schedule.
“I will get up at 8am, make some coffee, stretch and get started,” you say.
“I will take a 20-minute break around 11am to walk the dog, enjoy some lunch, and continue my work.”
“Finally, I will be all done around 3pm and still have the rest of my day to do as I please,” you conclude with a smile on your face.
You have been down that hole before, and I have been there myself. You know exactly where I am coming from.
You didn’t sleep well last night because you were anxious or were out drinking one too many with your friends.
Maybe you were just catching up on those old X-Files episodes you’ve been meaning to watch since 1998.
The next day you may or may not wake up at 8am, but if you do, you feel like you were hit by a truck.
But wait, Facebook is showing you an abundance of funny updates from “friends.” You must check that out in order to wake up and start the day on a happy note…
…that is, until you realize it’s already 11:30am and you jumped from the social network to your inbox, followed by your three most favorite websites, and ultimately back to Facebook or Twitter.
Maybe you even went back to MySpace if you were that desperate to avoid work. After all, nothing beats nostalgia, correct?
This routine happens on a weekly basis as you continue to lie to yourself, thinking it will all be better tomorrow or this coming Monday.
Annoying Friends and Family
You come up with the fantastic plan to turn your little room into an office, or maybe even the old basement.
You go as far as creating a sign that says, “Do Not Disturb” so that friends and family know to stay the hell away during your work hours.
This routine works pretty well for a few days, making you feel like you’re on top of the world.
Some people may have knocked on the door once in a while, but they weren’t intrusive enough.
All in all, working from home is the best thing that has happened to you in ages.
The battle for work-from-home dominance is suddenly getting tough. You never saw any of it coming.
Not long from now, a random friend or relative texts because he needs help running an errand.
Perhaps they wish to have lunch. At the last minute. Without forewarning.
Since you feel like a total dick by ignoring them, and that “Do Not Disturb” sign makes you look asocial, you reluctantly reply back and accommodate them into your already-tight schedule.
After all, spending some time with them shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes, right?
This is one of the most common challenges of working from home, and we all know how it feels.
You notice that you’re spending a little too much time on the computer and that your perfect schedule isn’t panning out.
No worries, you say to yourself; you will get back on track as soon as you catch up on yesterday’s late assignment on your to-do list.
This coming Monday will be a new beginning. You will get back on track like the champion you know you are.
Thanks to the fact that nothing has worked out as you’d hoped, you start to put in a few more hours into your work schedule.
Even worse, you actually start to “space out” those work hours; you perform some work around 10am, then a little bit around 2pm, and the rest gets done when you feel like it.
Suddenly, it’s now 11pm. Voila! You’re finally done with work!
… at 11 freaking pm!
Oh, wait, you forgot to do some small stuff here and there. You’ll get to that tomorrow.
The end result is an increasing amount of time stuck at home, in front of your computer. Your plans for free afternoons and hanging out with your buddies aren’t quite happening.
You just polished your resume, found some promising telecommuting gigs and are ready to kick ass.
You go to bed anxiously waiting until morning, expecting to hear back from those lucrative clients you emailed the previous day or so.
You realistically know that you can’t always land the job, but today you feel confident thanks to your ever-growing portfolio.
This includes an article you published for a mildly popular website a few months ago.
Days go by, and then reality sets in like a brick. The one client you were really hoping to get ended up ignoring you despite your best efforts.
But wait, one of them actually got back to you!
Oh, wait, the gig sounds scammy. That website is promising $1,200 a week for writing between 2-3 short blog posts.
You decide not to go through with it due to the fear of identify theft, working for free, among other things.
Thankfully, a few clients eventually reply back and seem quite genuine. You’re golden.
That is, until you realize that they are asking you to give them the world – one cent per word at a time.
Some of them will spit in your face and say, “We are a startup, but there’s plenty of room for growth! Join our exciting platform and help shape the web! Be part of the revolution!”
Screw you. Screw you and your revolution.
This is great and all, but it won’t quite pay the bills this month.
Those Damn Burnouts…
You expect to take some breaks in between work, as it keeps you from crashing in the middle of the day.
There is nothing like a good cup of coffee and a half-hour of your favorite TV show. You plan to resume your amazing work day right after finishing that old Everybody Loves Raymond episode.
While you have many successful days, there will (almost) always be a time when you simply can’t function. Maybe you worked too hard over the past couple of days or weeks.
Now you can only accomplish half the tasks or no tasks at all.
This naturally leads to a snowball effect as the amount of late work keeps accumulating, thus really setting you back – and not just physically.
Before you know it, you’re overwhelmed and the rest is history.
Good News: Working from Home Doesn’t Have to Suck
Again, these are the most common challenges of working from home that you will likely face sooner or later. Most writers and bloggers are intimately aware of them.
The great news is that this is all very subjective, which means that you can control the outcome. You can win this battle and reclaim your ideal lifestyle.
Some things will certainly happen no matter how perfect of a human being you are (burnouts, for example). But you’re only human, right?
So what can you do when your perfect plans are threatening to crash and burn?
Analyze the root of the problem, then switch things up.
Sometimes it’s not the tasks, friends and family holding you back; it’s the way you set up your schedule.
In essence, you may have set yourself up for failure.
Questions to consider:
Are you trying to accomplish too much throughout the day?
Are you sleeping as well as you should?
How serious are you about that “Do Not Disturb” Sign?
Are you really in the most efficient environment?
If you must work a lot, can you outsource some of these tasks?
These questions can ultimately help you redesign a better work schedule, and thus higher productivity levels.
Don’t feel bad for ignoring family and friends during work hours; you had no problem doing so while working a regular 9-to-5 job.
Don’t sweat those days of isolation, as long as you dedicate some time to catch up with those that care about you. This may include sending a few emails or just seeing them every other week.
Open your computer’s notepad application and brainstorm the following, in addition to the above questions:
What areas of your work day are failing?
Why are they failing?
What can you do to improve them?
Then, and only then, will working from home become the job you always wanted.
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