Work From Home – Benefits, Drawbacks, & Tips

Are you going to work from home? I started to work from home after leaving  a 40-hour per week desk job – what many would consider “a good job.” It was stable, it had structure, yoga was available in the lounge on a weekly basis.

There is value in working a “normal” job – you finally have a chance to make use of the rules you were confined by growing up ie. specific lunch times, limited bathroom breaks, perhaps raising your hand to speak, asking permission for the majority of things. In essence, it’s a continuation of structure that works so well for some, and not so much for others.

To be honest, I didn’t think I could handle working independently without coworkers around me. I thought I would get distracted by the laundry, or social media, or any excuse to get me away from working. But then I remembered that I actually like working. I like the feeling of doing a good job and putting in honest effort. And these are the things that keep me focused, motivated, and able to flourish in an independent work setting. It is important to note that my previous job and current job are quite similar – online marketing for nonprofits.

From someone who has experienced the office-life and the legging-life, I give you a list of pros and cons to consider when deciding whether or not to work from home.

home office used for digital marketing work from home

Work From Home Benefits

  • Flexibility of work: I often start my day with a manageable list of five to ten things to do, only to find myself down a rabbit hole related to task one. But there is beauty in the rabbit hole – you can find some interesting things when you pop out the other side. Working away from the office creates a different head-space to explore these areas. Of course, I still return to my list, but with a better understanding of the business as a whole.
  • Flexibility of time: People work differently. Some do their best work in the mornings, while others would prefer to break up the day into a few hours chunks dotted with errands and exercise and eating in between. And of course, there are the night owls. A flexible schedule allows people to work at their best times while also maintaining a healthy work-life balance, and honestly, having that balance only makes me a better worker.
  • Flexibility of work space: When I left my last job, I worked in a windowless cubicle packed in a hallway with other cubicles. I cannot express to you how much I value natural light now. Switching up my work space whether it’s in my home office, the living room, a coffee shop, or, dare I say it, a bar, fosters new perspectives to better brainstorm and problem-solve.
  • Focus: An office environment is a breeding ground for conversation squirrels – in the hallways, before, during, and/or after meetings, and especially first thing Monday and all day Friday. In other words, time spent tackling work from home is more productive. I hate to say it, but I can accomplish what I did in eight hours at the office in six or even five hours away from it.
  • Eating habits: This one may be a little silly, but dodging the cakes, cookies, crackers, and more for so-and-so’s birthday, or celebrating a milestone, or simply because it’s Tuesday, became incredibly difficult to avoid. Overall, I’m eating healthier which naturally puts me in a better mood.

Work From Home Drawbacks

  • Social: I am an introvert and think of myself as a relatively hard-worker – a deadly combination to those working by themselves or at home. I have to make an effort to leave the house and interact with people, whether I want to or not.
  • Quitting Time: When your home is your office is your home is your office, it can be difficult to find the off switch.
  • Wi-Fi: If you do venture out into the world with your laptop, beware the spotty wi-fi.
  • Variance of schedules: If you work best in the morning and your team-mate works best in the evening, it can be difficult to coordinate, brainstorm, and actually be a team.
  • Relationships: This is akin to the social media dilemma – pinging your friend on social media does not replace spending time with them in-person, just as a brainstorm via email or a messaging service does not replace the benefits of doing it in-person. Additionally, manners are the lubrication of social interactions. Perhaps office small-talk is the lubrication for work-related discussions.
  • Proof of progress: I think one of the biggest obstacles preventing organizations from offering the option to work from home is not actually seeing their employees at work.

Work From Home Tips

Master many forms of communication:

  1. If you have a virtual team, layout what your work-style is like ie. early-riser, a random worker, a night owl, or some combination therein between.
  2. Adopt a chat platform. My previous job relied on email for virtual conversations and it became too difficult to keep up with and organize. The new gig tried Google hangouts for a while, which was fantastic until we had multiple conversations going. We switched to Slack and it has been amazing.
  3. One of my favorite things our team has adopted is what we call our daily stand-up – we outline what we did yesterday, what we plan to do today, and any blockers we might have. We keep this ongoing conversation in Slack to refer back to as needed. Great response to your proof of progress.
  4. Your calendar is your friend, your partner, your life-line. Share it with your co-workers to show when you’re running an errand or meeting with a client. Don’t forget, most calendars have a private setting – no need to share absolutely everything with them.
  5. If you have the ability to meet with your team in person, try to do it at least once a week.  You can capture a lot via Slack, email, and the phone, but you cannot replicate tone of voice, facial expressions, and body cues that create the human experience (yet).

Try to maintain some semblance of a schedule:

  1. Get ready as if you were going into the real world: Doing your work from home does not mean you can give into the power of sweats. Put on normal clothes. It will put you into a work-mindset and you’ll be ready should anything come up that involves leaving the house.
  2. Schedule one thing a day that gets you out of the house: Literally anything. Meet a neighbor for a walk, run an errand, go to the gym, etc.

Overall, I enjoy completing my work from home, for now at least.

To spice things up, check out the best coffee shops to work from in Bellingham.