There’s no denying that working from home comes with a lot of perks, but there are some downsides too. When you’ve got all your luxuries close to hand and nobody to hold you accountable, it can be tough motivating yourself.
In this article, we look at the good the bad and the ugly when it comes to working from home and give some top tips on how to make it work.The Good
There are lots of great benefits to working from home. Little things like having your home comforts around you or being able to take a quick nap if you’ve been burning the midnight oil, can make a real difference. However, it’s the more significant things like spending more time with family, saving money and having more flexibility that provides the real benefits. Here are just a few of the good things about working from home.
No more waiting on train station platforms in the rain, freezing your fingers off while de-icing the car, or sitting in rush-hour traffic for hours on end. If you have a home office, then your commute is just a couple of steps – you can do it in your slippers.
The average commute time for the UK is between 40 minutes to an hour per day, and in London, this rises to around 90 minutes. When you work from home, that’s an extra hour a day you can spend making money or being with family. You’ll also save on petrol, train or bus fares.
When you work from home, you can start and finish work as you please. Get up early and squeeze in a couple of hours before the kids wake up, work while everyone else is out for the day, or finish work after the children are in bed – it’s entirely up to you.
Everyone has different ways of working. Some people can work solidly for large blocks of time, while others prefer to work a longer day but with more breaks. When you work from home, you can do whatever works for you.
Cheaper than office space
Having a professional office for your business is great, especially if you have a lot of client meetings, but office space comes with a cost attached. If you don’t need an office, then you can make huge savings by working from home.
There’s no shortage of meeting or training rooms for hire if you need them, and you could always go to clients’ offices or meet in a quiet coffee shop. You might have to pay for drinks every now and then, but it’ll be far cheaper in the long run than renting an office.
Better work-life balance
Working from home allows you to spend more time with friends, family and pets. You can incorporate the school runs into your day, take your dog for extra walks and eat dinner with your family every night.
School holidays, sickness and inset days are easier to manage because you don’t have to take time off. You can simply rearrange your schedule around childcare.
The flexibility of working from home does allow you to create a better work-life balance, and this is a huge benefit of freelance life.The Bad
With all the above advantages of working from home, it’s easy to see why it’s so appealing. However, there are some disadvantages too. With no set hours, it can be tough to find a routine that works, and there are lots of distractions. Here are some things to watch out for when you work from home.
When you’re at home, you are surrounded by temptations. Snacking on biscuits or raiding the fridge can quickly become a habit if you’re not careful, and this can lead to weight gain. It can be tempting to take an extended lunch break to watch an episode of your favourite TV show and end up watching an entire box set. A twenty-minute power nap can quickly turn into a three-hour snooze.
The ability to self-motivate is essential, and you have to learn to be strict with yourself. Form good working routines and avoid getting into bad habits.
Demands from friends and family
Friends and family who go out to work each day don’t always appreciate that just because you don’t have set hours, doesn’t mean you aren’t busy. Because you aren’t ‘at work’, people are more likely to ask for favours. It can become challenging to say no to requests to put some washing on, weed the garden, or go and feed your friends cat while they are on holiday.
All these small favours can really eat into your time, so you have to limit the things you agree to, even if it sometimes means occasionally upsetting people.
Lack of physical activity
Forcing yourself to leave the house when you don’t have to can be tough. You might have hit the gym straight from work in the old days, but it can be harder to motivate yourself to go out when you are already at home.
Lack of physical activity can have a knock-on effect. Not only will your physical health suffer, but your mental health can start to suffer too. Try and at least get out for a walk a couple of times a week, do a short HIIT session or sign up for your local park run.
There are so many distractions when you work from home. The dog needs feeding, the kids want to play, your partner needs some advice, you’ve got some shelves to put up, you need to empty the bin, wash the pots, clean the car – the list goes on.
Get yourself into the mindset that when you are at work, you are at work. You can always schedule in an hour for household chores or block out some time to spend with the family.
Procrastination isn’t exclusive to freelancers or to those working from home, but it is much easier to waste time when there is nobody else around to hold us accountable. We can always find something that we ‘just need to do first’ before actually getting down to the important work.
Procrastination often kicks in when you need to start a new project. Even if you love what you do, starting a new project from scratch can be daunting, and that’s why it’s so tempting to put it off. Then there are those tasks that you just don’t enjoy. Rather than simply getting them out of the way, you find every excuse to avoid them.
You might have heard people talk about ‘eating frogs’ when it comes to time management. The saying goes that if you have to eat a frog, you should do it first thing in the morning, then you can go through the day knowing the worst is behind you. In other words, if you start your day with the most daunting or most unpleasant task, the rest of the day will be much easier.
Whether you eat your frog’s first thing or not, the only way to beat procrastination is to develop good working habits and self-discipline.The Ugly
We’ve covered the good and the bad, but now it’s time to delve into the ugly. The inability to switch off from work and the isolation of working alone can be two of the toughest things to deal with when you work from home. Here are some tips for managing both.
No separation between work and home
When you go out to work each day, it can be easy to compartmentalise things. You leave the stresses of home at home and switch off from work when you leave the office for the day.
When you work from home, it can be harder to separate the two. It can feel like you are always at work even when you aren’t working, and if you have a particularly stressful day, you can’t physically walk away from it.
Fortunately, there are some things you can do to separate your work life and home life.
Create a separate work area, whether it’s a desk under the stairs, the box room at the back of the house or a converted garden shed. It makes it easier to switch on and off when you can physically walk away from work.
If you can’t have a separate space, then pack away all your work things at the end of each day, put files and paperwork into a box or drawer, close down your laptop (even if you switch it on again later) and clear the area of all work related stuff.
Having a routine can help you get your mind focused on work and then help you switch off at the end of the day too. It could be as simple as have a shower, get dressed, make a coffee and switch on the laptop. You might even find it useful to go for a short walk after you finish work to make it feel as though you left for the day and then arrived home.
Find routines that work for you and stick to them as much as possible.
Perhaps one of the most significant drawbacks of working from home is the loneliness. Having pets, kids and a partner around helps, but you still miss out on the workplace camaraderie and having someone who you can bounce ideas off or discuss problems with.
In our article on freelancer isolation: 5 ways to combat the loneliness, we share some tips for how to deal with working alone. Try working away from home at least once a week, whether it’s attending an event, working out of a local coffee shop or hot-desking.
This can help ease the feeling of isolation and give you the extra support you need. Don’t be afraid to seek out help and advice. Join online freelancer communities, take part in events and get out and about networking.You’re not alone
At Dinghy, we understand all too well the ups and downs of freelance life and the joys and pains of working from home. The good news is you aren’t alone. There are hundreds of freelancers and business owners who have the same highs and lows, so connect with them, get support and share advice. The freelance world is a friendly place, so make the most of it.