The Good and The Bad About Working From Home
A few years ago I distinctly remember saying two things ‘I never want to work from home’ and ‘I will never work for myself’, well fast forward to 2018 and here I am!
Working from home wasn’t exactly a choice, it kind of crept up on me. I took redundancy from my job at a local university in 2014. I had worked in education for 17 years and a couple of things motivated me to apply for voluntary redundancy. My job had been on the decline for a number of years and certain managers made it clear that they wanted to get rid of me (you will never believe what a political hotbed universities are until you have worked in one!) plus childcare costs were crippling us, so I asked to go.
My pittance of a redundancy didn’t last long at all so I started to think of ways to make a bit of extra money. Of course, as anyone with small children will know, it is virtually impossible to work with small children, so whilst Siena was still at home I kept this to a minimum. However, she started school in September 2017, by which point I had built up a lot of contacts and started securing freelance work as a Social Media Manager. I now work with small businesses and start-ups helping them to maximise their online presence. The key point to take from this is to never believe anything I say, within 4 or 5 years I am now working from home and self-employed!
In spite of what you might think working from home has its ups and downs and after 6 months I have had a chance to reflect on what is good and what is bad about the whole thing.
- Being around for the girls – I have two daughters aged 13 and 4. Working from home means that I am around for them all of the time. This has been incredible as I worked full-time when my eldest was younger. I take them both to school and pick the youngest up. I’m here at holiday time too (although that sometimes involves some late night working to juggle things).
- Choosing my work – to a certain extent I get to choose who I work with. I have been very lucky to work with an incredible bunch of people. The nature of my work means that I have some regular clients who I work with all of the time, but I also have some ad-hoc clients who stay with me for a particular project. I do turn down jobs from time to time if I think that we aren’t going to be a good fit or if I think that their expectations are impossible.
- No office politics – one of the things that I really disliked about working out of the home was the political side of working with other people. I am a pretty laid back kind of person, but I will assert myself if I need to. I am also incredibly business-minded. Unfortunately being business-minded in a university doesn’t always work, so I found myself playing devil’s advocate a lot of the time. People have so many agendas and I’m not really interested in that. It’s nice now to close my front door and not have to deal with other people’s egos.
- The flexibility – I love being able to plan my own work schedule. It means that if I need to I can rearrange everything at a moment’s notice. This is particularly important as I have my dear octogenarian parents, Mum is 85 and Dad is 86 and also my sister who has stage IV breast cancer. Being able to drop everything (within reason) and have a cup of tea with them is priceless. If the girls have anything going on at school I can attend, which is great particularly whilst Siena is at primary school.
- Solitary confinement – There is no doubt that working from home can be quite solitary. I’m quite aware that once I close my front door after the school drop-off I am on my own. Luckily I like my own company, but sometimes it can feel quite isolating. The cats are great company, but their conversational skills are incredibly limited (ok, non-existent!) If I don’t plan anything I can easily go the whole working day without saying a word to anyone.
- Office Banter – I can’t tell a lie, I do really miss the office banter. Even when times were difficult in my old job, there was a lot of office banter to be had. I don’t miss anything about my old job, but I do sometimes miss some of the people I worked with as we did have a good laugh. I also miss having people to bounce ideas off, something that doesn’t really happen when I’m on my own. Again the cats have little in the way of humour or banter although they are working on it.
- Never getting away from work – I am by nature, quite a workaholic. Before I had kids I was always in work early and home quite late. This hasn’t really left me and now it seems to be all the more important as I work for myself. I am always thinking about work and even when I am not supposed to be working I try and sneak a bit in here and there (gotta love a smartphone!) There is no feeling of having left work for the day which you get when you work in a job outside of the home. I am trying to address this now by setting myself proper working hours and keeping my work stuff on my desk.
- The threat of the housework – Before you work from home you think it will be great because you will be able to keep on top of the house at the same time. Well, that’s a complete myth! You have to really discipline yourself not to get involved in household tasks whilst you are working, otherwise you would never get anything done. I will do a bit of laundry and tidying up, but I have to focus on the fact that I am at home to work. I’m still trying to find the balance between working and making sure the house stays nice!
As you can see there are pros and cons to working from home, I do love it though and couldn’t imagine working in an office environment again (but then don’t believe a word I say!)
My goals moving forward are to continue to try and develop a proper routine with realistic working hours, and to get out and do more things during the day. I’m going to schedule in some downtime each day even if it means going out for coffee with a book or getting back to yoga classes. I am also going to try and schedule one day a week working from a cafe or something, just to feel like I am still part of the human race! Apart from that I wouldn’t change a thing.
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