(Ten Myths About Working From Home OR “What
Jerks People Really Think When They Hear You Work from Home”)
People think working from home is a cushy gig. Well, it is in the sense that you don’t have to fight the traffic, or that you don’t have to prepare lunch ahead of time (unless you have kids like I do which means you are making approximately 20 lunches a week—at least). I like working from home. It does have distinct advantages (no need to wear make-up or deal with office politics) but its definitely not as easy as some people think. I listed some things I have heard people say about working from home (“the myths”):
1. You set your own hours. Yeah, right. You still have to maintain decent working hours both for your sake and for your sanity. In my case, office hours are not that important because I teach online and the environment is asynchronous. BUT, our school staff still works normal office hours which means I have to be available for the conference calls, respond to emails within a decent amount of time, i.e. within hours, and I have to return calls, again during normal business hours. So yeah, the “set your own hours” does not exactly work. No working at midnight for this girl.
2. You don’t need childcare. What? Why is that? Can you imagine taking a call with kids screaming in the background? Or worse yet, saying something totally inappropriate? True story: I was trying to multitask while I was on the phone with a supervisor when I said “Yes, baby.” ON THE PHONE. When I actually meant to whisper it to my toddler. The response on the other line? Dead (awkward) silence followed by me apologizing profusely. Screams professional, no? It was one of those moments when I hoped the earth would open up and swallow me. Thankfully, my kids are now in school which gives me time to work before they come home. But there are still days when I need help especially if a conference call or a deadline is looming. I do have to admit that because I do not work full time, their prior preschool hours were also part time, saving me money. But for someone who works full time at home, child care is just as much a necessity as for someone who works outside the home.
3. You get to do errands in the middle of work day. Sure, errands. The only errands I get to do are those that are work related. Post office run? Check. Ran out of printer ink? Check. Sure I can grab a few things at the grocery but this is not the norm as I utilize my child-free hours not running errands but rather finishing my work as much as I can. It’s easier to run errands with kids, than to get work while they’re home.
4. You get laundry done. And the dishes, complete with a well-scrubbed bathroom. Ok. Tell that to the pile of laundry I have waiting to be folded. Or the dishes waiting to be loaded into the dishwasher. There is never enough time in a day.
5. You save money without all that commute. Um, ok. But that also means I need to run the a/c or heater the whole day, and the lights on. And I do not get reimbursed for my equipment at home—the printer, the ink, the paper, the upgrade to software, or even a new computer. I just sprang for a new computer which is obviously not paid for my the company. (Note: Some companies do provide for equipment and reimburse expenses but not mine). I don’t mean to sound ungrateful that I don’t have to put gas in my car every week but in the end, it evens out. P.S. Some of these expenses though are tax deductible (thank you Uncle Sam).
6. You can work anywhere you want. Define “anywhere”. Certainly, not at the park or at the beach (Sand on my laptop? No, thank you). No wi-fi? No work. The coffeehouse? Forget about it. Those loud cappuccino machines or that loud group of teenagers is not my idea of “working anywhere”. But I have worked inside a bathtub before. No, I was not taking a bath. I was trying to drown out the noise of my children while we were inside a hotel room while on vacation. And, yes, I have four (FOUR!) young kids–that’s a lot of children and a lot of noise in what felt like a dozen square feet of space.
7. You will love working alone. Well, yes and no. I love that I can accomplish far more if I was in an office setting but I miss the community of workers, the friendships I made/make (ok, I admit, also the office gossip but not the politics). Without a co-worker next door to me, who do I complain to about my boss? NOTE: If my boss is reading this, I have no complaint. Absolutely none. You’re fabulous. A tip: working from home can be isolating so surround yourself with friends and try to be a part of your community (both on-line and in real life).
8. If you work from home, it’s not real work. Excuse me? Says who? I am no less a professional than a person who commutes to work. My responsibilities are no less real than someone whose in a traditional work setting. Some people may consider working from home as not “real work” but my paycheck is real enough (and so do the taxes I pay). I teach college, I can’t think of a job that is more real than teaching. I am not in it to enrich myself but its real, honest work. As an aside, if someone knows anyone who became rich teaching, I’d like their contact info please.
9. You work in your pajamas the whole day. Sure, people do all the time. I wouldn’t advise it though. If I were to take my job seriously, and if I want people to take me and my job seriously, I treat it as a typical job which includes getting ready in the morning. No, I don’t wear a business suit or heels–that’s just ridiculous unless I’m on a video chat. I wear comfortable yoga pants or jeans and a shirt, and flip flops. It really does not matter what I wear but I do NOT stay in my pajamas. For me, the ritual of getting ready for work at home is a mental switch. It means I’m here. I’m ready. It’s not what you wear, it’s what getting ready symbolizes: the beginning of the work day.
10. You can’t earn a decent living working from home. This depends. For me, no because (a) I work part time and (b) I live in a ridiculously expensive part of the country. But for many of my colleagues, they are able to support a family living in cheaper parts of the country and working full time. I should move. But I can’t because my husband’s work is here and I like the sunshine. It’s a trade-off. Also, what you earn depends largely on the industry you’re in. There are many, many jobs out there that have work-at-home programs that pay in the six figures. Yes, they require a degree, and they require years of experience, but they are out there and the wages are real enough. I don’t know about you but I’ll take the six figures salary any day (not my salary though—I wish because otherwise, I’d be writing this blog post in the Bahamas).