Perks and Pitfalls of Working from a Home Office
Solopreneurs and other work-from-home professionals are often the envy of those who need to wake up extra early, pack their lunches and fight traffic on the freeway to get to their desks to start their work days.
As a freelance writer, I do most of my work from the office space set up in the corner of our home’s rarely used guest bedroom. I admit it: I like it a bunch. It’s nice…but it doesn’t come without challenges.
If you’re thinking about – or have recently started – working from home, you’ll need to keep a few things in mind to make the most of the upsides and counter the downsides. A home office has a great many perks, but there are also pitfalls that can sabotage your best intentions.
Perk #1: You can wear what you want. Dress codes don’t apply to home office workers. Unless you’re required to go on client appointments, you can sit in your sweatpants and ratty old t-shirt all day so long as you get your work done.
Pitfall #1: You can wear what you want. Yes, this perk is also a pitfall. In my experience, sloppy clothes can lead to sloppy work ethic. I’m not saying you should wear a suit and tie or skirt with blazer and heels in your home office, but I’ve found that wearing comfortable “street clothes” helps with productivity. If you’re dressed to get up and go, you’re more likely to get things done. Plus, you’ll be all set if your client or boss calls an impromptu video conference.
Perk #2: You can take care of personal things at home when you want. Laundry pile out of hand? Throw a load or two into the washer and dryer. Didn’t mop the dining room floor over the weekend? Fill the bucket and take care of it before you email that client. Forgot to call Grandma last night? Give her a buzz now.
Pitfall #2: You can take care of personal things at home when you want. Another perk that’s a pitfall in disguise. Although it’s tempting to take care of things on the home front that are nagging at you, resist the temptation to regularly break up your professional work with intervals of domestic duties. Keeping focused on the task at hand results in better productivity. And the more you get done professionally in one fell swoop, gives you more time to focus later on the home tasks without worrying about behind-schedule business obligations.
Perk #3: Nobody’s looking over your shoulder. No pesky co-workers walking in on you when you’re deep in thought on a project. You can focus on what you need to, without being diverted to something else on someone else’s whim.
Pitfall #3: Nobody’s looking over your shoulder. Although it’s nice not to have your thought processes interrupted by a colleague barging into your space, it can get lonely being a solo-worker. Try to schedule some face-to-face appointments now and then with clients, or work from a coffee shop with wi-fi occasionally to get some human interaction. Volunteering with an organization that requires you to get out and interact is also a great way to avoid hermit-itis.
Working from home provides a great deal of freedom and flexibility – and it’s perfectly fine to reap the benefits after you’ve set some ground rules for yourself. The key is to recognize that with the agility in activities and schedules that a home office atmosphere provides, it also requires some self-control and conscious effort to stay focused and productive.
What perks and pitfalls of a home office have impacted you the most?