Two years ago, thanks to a cross-country move, I made the switch from working in a large, bustling office to telecommuting from the guest room of my 1,000 square foot apartment. While I knew that I would love working in my Uggs and that I’d miss the constant interaction with my co-workers, I couldn’t fully appreciate all the perks or understand all the downsides of home office life until I’d lived it.
Thinking of trading your cubicle for the couch? Here’s the real scoop about working from home: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
The 5 Best Things
1. You Can Work in Your Pajamas
Yes, it’s the most cliché working-from-home perk. But not having to put on a suit (or anything, for that matter) every morning is a huge plus. Aside from the mere comfort factor, not having to try on outfit after outfit, shave, curl, primp, and prime saves you a good five hours every week. Cut out the commute, and you’ve earned a full extra workday of time.
2. You Avoid the Drop-By
In an office, it’s hard to avoid the impromptu visit from your boss, the CEO, or the co-worker who wants to give you a play-by-play of his kid’s soccer practice. At home, you can avoid all this. Sure, you may get the phone call version—but if you’re too busy or not prepared, you can ignore it and call back later. “Sorry, I was on a call with a client” works every time.
3. You’ll Never Miss a FedEx Package Again
Not being tied to an office from 9 to 5 opens up an entirely new world when it comes to life maintenance tasks. Like being home to receive deliveries. Or going to the grocery store at 3 PM, actually finding a parking space, and not having to enter a fist fight over the last jug of non-fat milk. Small things. But amazing ones.
4. You Can Multitask in Meetings
Calling in to a meeting rather than being there in person does not give you a free pass from participating; in fact, it’s even more important that you speak up. But there are, of course, those meetings that veer off track or that really only require your presence for a few minutes. And those are the times that working from home means that you can actually work instead of being tied up in meetings.
5. You Can be Loud and Crazy
Are you at your most creative with Metallica blaring? Love doing yoga to think through a difficult situation? At home, you can sit on your Pilates ball, pace (or stomp) around, or live out any other crazy habit without your co-workers getting annoyed or, more importantly, thinking you’re insane.
The 5 Worst Things
1. There’s No Water Cooler
Working from home is really, really lonely. Sure, you can Skype, call, or IM, but nothing beats being in a room with someone and having pals to grab lunch with every day. But even more, being out of the office means that you miss all the elevator gossip, impromptu meetings in the hallway, and being fully in the know about what’s going on in your organization.
2. You Never Really Leave the Office
You know that good feeling you get when you leave the office building? That you’ve accomplished all you can for the day, and that everything and everyone else can wait until tomorrow? Forget about it. Since there’s really no difference between being in the office and being at home, the boundaries that your clients, co-workers, and boss would normally draw (like not calling at 9 PM on Friday night) are not extended anymore. You’re always on the job. Work, and all of its piles, are always there.
3. You Never Really Leave the House
For all of the benefits of not having to go in to the office everyday, there’s also a major downside: you can turn into a hermit. Entire 12-hour periods can go by when you don’t see the light of day or actually speak to another person. Please, for your sake—and the sake of your spouse, partner, or roommate who may come home from his or her workday and actually want to be alone for a bit—go to Starbucks once in a while.
4. There’s No IT Department
In an office, the minute the Internet goes down or your computer gets a virus, you call the Help Desk, and it’s someone else’s problem. At home, it’s all you. Which means that you can waste several hours at a time waiting for the cable guy to show up or trying to explain your laptop’s problems to Customer Service. Yes, you’re the boss, but you’re also the IT guy, the courier, and the administrative assistant.
5. You Need an Insane Amount of Self-Motivation
In an office, you might be tempted to update your Facebook status or browse the Banana sale, but being at home adds looming chores, the Wii, and your comfy bed to the list of appealing taboos. And without the threat of your boss walking down the hallway, it can take a huge amount of discipline to stay focused. Just because you can work from bed or take a couple of hours off here and there doesn’t mean you should. You’re going to need to draw some boundaries for yourself.
What are your favorite and least favorite things about working from home? Any tips for people thinking about making the change?
Adrian was The Muse’s very first employee (ask her about the early days!) who built the Muse editorial team from the ground up. Now, she serves as Editor-at-Large, launching new content products and sharing expert career advice with Muse audiences online and off. When she’s not Musing, you’ll find her planning her next dinner party or international vacation. Say hi on Twitter and Instagram.More from this Author