The Downside of Working From Home

People often tell me how jealous they are of me because I work from home. I don’t have the morning commute, I can structure my own time, I get to spend more time with my family etc…We’ve all heard it.

I smile and nod my head thinking to myself that it’s all true but that there are also disadvantages to working from home:

The endless day: Think about it, when you work from home you never leave the office. There is always something else that you could be doing and there is nothing to physically stop you from doing it. I do a little farming on the side, and I know that when it starts to get dark I can go up to the house with my mind at ease knowing that I did my maximum for that day and even if I wanted to continue I couldn’t. When you work in front of a keyboard all you have to do is turn on the light when it gets dark and you’re good for another 12 hours. What makes it even harder to decide when enough is enough is the fact that to fully exploit your freedom of working at home you take lots of breaks; to go for a walk, to clean up the house, to take a nap, to spend time with your kids or whatever your priorities are. After all what’s the point of working from home if you start work at 9:00 and get up from your desk at 5:00 everyday with only a 1/2 hr break for lunch? You might as well be a corporate grind like everyone else. This makes it harder to figure out how much you actually worked and may cause you to feel like you have to get back to work immediately after dinner and work until midnight to make up the time that you missed.

It’s true that it requires self-discipline to work from home and get things in on time without a boss breathing down your neck, but it takes even more self-discipline to look at things in perspective and know when to call it quits for the day.

Family: When my kids were little they never quite understood the concept of Daddy is at home but he is not at home. They would constantly come in to my work room and ask me for things or just want to play. This of course can be nice, but it really does a job on destroying your concentration. I solved the problem by having a little office built for me in the yard that is physically separated from the house. Now, this is not so much of a problem as my kids are teenagers and aren’t very interested anymore in talking to me. When my wife is home I have a similar problem. Sometimes I’ll take a break by going up to the house to make a cup of coffee and just zombie out. My wife sees me, and though she wouldn’t normally disturb me when I am in my office, when I enter the house she interprets this as that I am now free for carrying out missions. Don’t get me wrong, during the day when no one is home I do lots of domestic chores but I do them according to my schedule, and it’s not always appropriate for me to take someone to the mall when I had only planned to sit on the back steps and drink a cup of coffee for five minutes.

Isolation: It’s nice not being involved in office politics and having to attend endless meetings. However, sometimes it can get kind of lonely sitting in front of the desk all by yourself. I like to get out to meet with current or prospective clients twice a week. It’s also nice to go to conferences to get a feel for what’s going on and to interact with other people. It doesn’t have to be an international conference, a regional meeting of whatever profession you’re in will also do the trick.

When all is said and done, despite the drawbacks described here I don’t see myself ever working in a 9-5 office job again.


The Virtual Company

I remember the first time that it happened to me. I was visiting a company that I was writing a manual for. The office of the company was reached through a hole knocked in the wall of an empty factory. I asked my contact if I could see the device (it was a medical device). He explained to me that all the manufacturing is done by subcontractors and I would have to visit the subcontractor who does the final assembly to see the device. OK, no problem. I next asked to speak to the programmer who designed the interface. He gave me a phone number and told me to set up a meeting with him at his home because he too is a contractor. It turned out that the entire company consisted of  a guy sitting in an office who had an idea and used subcontractors to develop, manufacture and market his product. I subsequently heard that his company was bought by a larger company for a nice sum. I later worked for a client who had the same sort of setup,except that he didn’t even have an office. I met him in a cafe, and when we all had to get together we used a conference room in his lawyer’s office.

In Israel, at least, this seems to be fairly widespread phenomena, and if you think about it, it makes sense.

Carried to the extreme the situation could end up something like this:

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