The common wisdom that any decision can be assessed via a simple pro/con list has always appealed to me. For one thing, it involves writing, and heaven knows I’m always up for writing down things pertaining to my tender, delicate feeeeelings. For another, it just seems… tidy. Concrete. No matter the situation, being able to lay out the pros and cons in black and white can help just about anyone gain new perspective, I’ve found.
When people ask me how I like working from home, I’m effusive in my praise for the convenience of it. Truly, I worked in a variety of places for many, many years before turning to freelancing, and I do love having a home office and the freedoms that come along with it. But in thinking over all of the realities, lately, I realize that my standard disclaimer of “it’s not for everyone” is a kind of warning. If I lay it out logically, I’m not sure it makes sense.
Let’s take a look. Surely ye olde pro/con list will help me out, here. Quick and dirty, off the top of my head… no editing.
Pros of the home office
No commute. I’m in the office about 30 seconds after I wake up in the morning. Handy!
Proximity to the kitchen. I don’t have to pack a lunch, plus healthy snacking is easily accessible.
Availability to the kids. If the kids need me, I’m here.
Flexible schedule. If I need to take time away from work I can and do, and I can always get back to work later that day or whenever, largely without repercussion.
Dog in the office! Everyone knows that having a cute dog at work makes everything better. (Okay, to be fair: I once worked in an office where my boss brought his dog in every day. But that’s unusual, and it wasn’t my dog.)
Multitasking during work hours. Some of my most productive work days are also the ones where I’m also doing laundry, baking, or otherwise tending to household chores I wouldn’t be able to do concurrently if I wasn’t at home.
Cons of the home office
No commute. Work-time creep seems unavoidable when I can quite literally work from anywhere I have a computer. Too many evenings I say I’ll just “do a quick thing or two” and I end up in my office well past when I should be doing other things.
Proximity to the kitchen. I can remember lamenting kind coworkers who brought junk food to work, when I worked in a cubicle farm. On the other hand, here at home there’s rarely anyone to see me sneaking into the kitchen for my second (or third or fourth) snack. Oops.
Availability to the kids. I’m still learning to be a little less available to my children. Conversely, they seem completely unconcerned with this whole “work” thing I’m trying to do when there’s stuff they want. Weird.
Buh-bye, benefits. The flip side of the flexible schedule is the whole don’t-work-don’t-get-paid thing. I’ve managed to structure my schedule such that we’ve managed a few vacations here and there over the years, but to take more than a couple of days offline is really, really difficult for me to manage in terms of keeping clients happy and staying on top of things (and that’s aside from the lost income involved).
Dog in the office! I adore my dog. And she’s pretty low-maintenance. But I’m trying to be a professional, and…
Multitasking during work hours. Some of my least productive work days are also the ones where I’m constantly distracted by things that need doing around the house. You should me a home-office-based freelancer and I’ll show you someone who ended up scraping gunk out of the corners of the microwave on a really busy work day because “I couldn’t stand to leave it there.”
Again, I say: It’s not for everyone. I’m not sure I can defend it as a “logical” choice. I love it (most of the time). But… well, hey, it’s not everyone who gets to make a meme photo of their dog being a jerk for work purposes, right? Right.