Career College

The Downside of Working From Home

With a work-from-home occupation, both employer and employee win. The employer saves on operating costs while the employee can work in their pajamas. Both my wife and I work from home frequently, and have had several other jobs in the past that are remote occupations. I generally prefer it, but there are some drawbacks, too. I'm a systems engineer and she's a healthcare administrator, and although we have very different roles, the vast majority of our experiences are the same.

First things first -- it's a great gig, but there are some negatives as well. The upsides are obvious: less gas, cheaper car insurance, no commute and you don't have to spend time on your appearance in the morning. But rather than talk about the benefits, there are some drawbacks you probably haven't considered yet. They don't necessarily outweigh the positives in my opinion, but it's best to be aware of what you're getting yourself in to before you agree to a remote position.

It's Tough to Stay on Task
Compared to working in an office setting, working from home requires more motivation and self-discipline, which isn't for everyone. If you're the type that slacks off a little when the boss isn't around, you'll probably have a hard time being productive at home.

And then there's the fact that you have to provide your own office space. It's a common misconception that people who work from home sit in bed all day watching soap operas while typing away on their laptop. After two weeks and a visit to the chiropractor, you'll learn this isn't the best set up. Invest in some legitimate chairs and a sturdy desk -- and do not skimp on your ISP (Internet Service Provider).Trust me on this one, I am an IT guy after all.

If you have to provide your own computer equipment to boot, you'll definitely want to plan on purchasing dual monitors. I've never met anyone with a home office who wishes they'd just bought a single monitor. I have two 24-inch monitors now, and they make work a breeze. Before that I had a single 36-inch HDMI TV which I used as a monitor, it looked cool but was a functional disaster.

Noise Pollution Problems
Remote positions can be great, but if you have pets, make sure they're well trained. My Mastiff, whose bark sounds like Cerberus itself, once started barking at the mailman in the middle of a conference call with client -- talk about awkward. I couldn't even pretend it hadn't happened, I just hit mute as quickly as possible and took the rear-chewing after.

If you're more of a social creature, working by yourself all day could get lonely. But on the other hand, if you don't mind some solitude then this is probably your dream situation. For those somewhere in between, it can require varying levels of coping. Some weeks I'm glad I don't have to deal with people, and other times it sure would be nice to be face-to-face. Even with Lync (or another IM platform) there's no substitute for picking up your laptop, walking over an aisle or two and simply sitting down with someone. The same principle applies to the social part of a water cooler -- not everyone appreciates the solitude equally.

Now if it sounds like I'm trying to scare you away, I'm not -- I'm simply presenting another side that is often left unmentioned. Understanding both sides of the coin is important to making an informed decision. And for me, working remotely is a decision I've made and continue to love.

Photo by Martin Cathrae via cc