The Realities & Challenges of Working at Home
by Aaron Turpen of Aaronz WebWorkz
While many tout the wonders and independence of working from home, whether you’ve got a regular job that allows you to telecommute or you own your own home-based business, they often don’t talk about the challenges that face the home-based worker.
Not that I’m going to trade the benefits in for a “real job,” mind you…
Some of the challenges that face any work-at-home person, whether they have been working from home for years or are just starting out, are tough. For me, personally, they rank in this order: self-discipline, loneliness, family over-time, distractions, organization, and respect.
Self-discipline is by far the hardest thing to master when working from home, whether you’re working at your business or not. While it’s easy to envision yourself succeeding and “getting things done,” it’s much harder when the real rote and tackle of work is in front of you. Even if you absolutely love your chosen profession, there are at least some aspects of it that are tedious to you. These are your biggest stumbling blocks.
For me, mastering self-discipline was the roughest part of working from home. Other challenges on this list are easy compared to this one, since most of them are just the “excuse” you need to avoid discipline and getting things done.
Loneliness (aka “Cabin Fever”)
For some, this is no big deal. These are people we’d normally define as “home bodies.” I’m not one of those. I’m an extremely social person. Luckily, email and (some) phone interactions during the day abate this problem to some extent. I’ve also got other things I do to keep my normally fidgety self from collapsing in self-pity.
I walk the dog, I see a couple of friends for coffee at least once a week, I participate in political activities in my area, and I spend time with my family doing things… In short, I have plenty of things I do outside of my work (and office!) to keep me healthy socially.
This one’s tough and can sometimes coincide with the loneliness problem. When your family members are home all day, as you are, it can easily lead to friction, a breaking down of “structure,” and a lot of other similar problems.
For instance, when my wife is home with a day off or a short day at work, we can sometimes get on one-another’s nerves or distract one another from tasks. I have several ways to fix this.
The most preferable for me would be to own a large mansion with rooms defined as “suites” and organized into distance-separated sections defined as “wings.” Since I’m not a multi-millionaire (yet), this isn’t feasible. So I resort to plan b: a notebook computer and the library… I load the stuff I’ll need onto my portable computer, go to the library and spend a few hours working there instead of at home.
The above problem is also closely related to this one. There are a million things in your home environment to distract you: especially if the task at hand is particularly unsavory for one reason or another. Computer games, hunger, the dog, the cat, kids, spouses, and various forms of procrastination are all things that can easily be distracting to you.
In my own experience, the dog and computer games are my biggest nemesis in this department. The only way I’ve found to combat these issues is self-discipline using “rewards” for good behavior. I promise myself that if I finish the task at hand, I’ll play that game for an hour or wrestle with the dog for a while as a reward.
By nature, I’m not a meticulously organized person. However, I do have certain habits which seem to facilitate easy organization: namely I have a calendar and keep email archives. :
I recently purchased a $4 pocket calendar/weekly day minder. On my wall right next to the desk is a marker board on which I write “To Do” lists (coded with special symbols like “*” and “‘” to tell me importance of the item). I also have two marker-board calendars (one for the current month and one for the coming month) on which I keep short notes. These basic tools keep me on track for the most part.
Other parts of organization include your office/business files, your computer’s data and backups, invoices and debits, etc., etc. Coming up with **simple** ways to organize these items is key to keeping yourself from feeling “swamped” with details. I emphasize the word “simple” because if your organization is too complex, you’ll start “cheating” and it will eventually fall into chaos. KISS is a favorite military term: “Keep It Simple, Stupid.”
Lastly on my list comes respect. Many people assume that since you “work from home,” you must be fiddling around with some get rich quick scheme and burdening your spouse, significant other, parents, the government, or someone else with yourself as you while away the hours in a dream world.
These are people who see you during your best hours and don’t see the 16+ hour days you’re putting in slaving in your office, the struggle to coherently write a web page, email, etc., etc. while functioning on three hours’ sleep, or your long battles with the IRS when filling out “self employment” tax forms.
To work from home without going insane or maybe to jail for attacking some nay-sayer, you’ll have to grow a thick skin…or make a lot of money you can flaunt in front of them to disprove their foolish notions…either one will work. I personally use the first while working towards having the second. :
So working from home isn’t all gravy. Oh well. Nothing in life is. The true beauty of working from home comes from the independence, freedom, and self-reliance you gain in “going it on your own.” It offers opportunity, excitement, mental stimulation, and more. Take pride in your choice!