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Pitfalls and Problems Working at Home

Updated on January 27, 2013
A not-so-neat home office.  Mine.
A not-so-neat home office. Mine. | Source

While a lot of people see working at home as being a magical thing to be desired, sometimes there are more disadvantages than you’d think. As someone who has been working from home, from part-time telecommuting to full-time online employment, for over 10 years, I can promise you that it’s not a bowl of cherries.

Shifting line between home and work life

Possibly one of the biggest issues with working from home is that there is no longer any “home.” Sure, it’s still where you live, but it’s also where you work. You often find yourself working more hours than you would at a traditional job because you don’t have that line that divides your home life from your work life. You don’t go anywhere to work; the work comes to you. It can be a bonus in that there is no commute, but there’s also no commute. You don’t get that time to shift your mindset from home life to work life, and that can make a huge difference.

Assumptions by friends and family

One of the biggest issues I and many other full-time “at home” workers run into is the perception that, if we’re working from home, we don’t have a “real job.” Because of that, people feel free to ask for favors – picking up kids from school, running errands, going out to lunch. On top of that, people will often denigrate what you do. At one point, my brother-in-law was shocked to learn that I earned more than he did because, after all, I wasn’t really working. While you can sometimes convince people that you’re truly employed, they have a problem seeing that you are really working because they aren’t used to the idea of working from home.

Distractions

You know that you really don’t want to do your work when suddenly laundry and dishes seem more important. And going along with people assuming you have the time, you may find yourself making the time, which then leads to a greater slide between the work/home life balance. It’s easy to decide to go for a jog at lunch or finish up the dishes and laundry during your “morning breaks,” but if you have work that has to be done by the end of the day, you’ll be stuck doing it. It’s easy to find those distractions leading to working 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. instead of just 9 to 5.

Technical issues

Depending on if you’re self-employed, telecommuting, or working from home, technical issues can be a real problem. For those who are self-employed, any technical issues have to be dealt with by finding (and paying) your own tech support. If you’re lucky, you have some tech savvy friends to help, but if not, you may spend time that you should have been spending working on hold with tech support. If you’re telecommuting, you may have limited tech support, often having to bring your computer or other hardware into the office. The other option is that you, once again, have to wait on hold. The same is true for working from home; while your company may provide you with the hardware and software you need, support may be limited.

So they're zombies, not bunnies, but the thought is the same.
So they're zombies, not bunnies, but the thought is the same. | Source

“Feeling professional”

Working in your pajamas is awesome. At first. But it quickly sours. There’s an old saying that the clothes make the man, and that can also be true of working from home. It’s hard to feel like you’re in a professional mindset when you’re wearing a tattered t-shirts, sweatpants, and bunny slippers.

Meeting clients

If you’re freelancing, then you will need somewhere to meet your clients. You don’t have an office, even if you have a home office, so where can you meet them? You can either choose to rent an office or meet at a coffee shop. Either way, it involves times and money.

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Phone conferences

It’s easy enough to take a phone call at the office, but living at home makes it harder. If you work from home and have children, then you have guaranteed background noise. Everyone knows that children only need you when you are already on the phone. If you work from home and have animals, guess who will throw up, bark, or find something to shred just as you say, “Hello?” And if you think you’ve lucked out because you don’t have anyone else in the house, something else will go wrong. It could be FedEx, a guy with a back-firing truck, or even just a cricket that won’t stop chirping. No matter what, you wind up with a lot less quiet and concentration.

Nerf on the Job: Taking Work Home (funnyordie.com)

Lack of human contact

Even with email and phone calls, working from home is a solitary profession. You don’t get to see other people, except for maybe the mailmen and delivery people, and it can lead to longing for human company.

No free coffee

I know, this one might sound like a joke, and it almost is. Almost. While not every office has perks like free coffee, most offices do at least have some sort of area where the workers can congregate and talk. It’s more than just the drink; it’s the companionship. The chance to talk about what’s going on. In the “old days,” it was smoke breaks. Now it’s coffee breaks and water cooler talk.

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    • OanaWriter profile image

      Georgiana Dacosta 3 years ago from London

      Everything you said could not be more true for working from home. I have to agree with the pajamas part. I've actually attempted to change that for a while but I always find myself slipping into my comfy clothes. Not anymore, not from today :)

    • nsnorth profile image

      nsnorth 4 years ago from Pittsburgh, PA

      I'm so glad you wrote this. Although I love working from home and being self-employed, it's definitely a bumpy road. The best thing I've been able to do to combat difficulties is to convert the extra bedroom into an office so that I can go to work and close the door, and then come home and close the door to work. Also, other people started taking my job and professional life more seriously when I quit answering personal calls during business hours.

    • old albion profile image

      Graham Lee 4 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      I agree it can be a little lonely. Yes, people think that you don't have a proper job it's the usual reaction I'm afraid. Still there are compensations. ( I hope). Very nice hub, thank you.

      Graham.