I’m often told how I have a dream job. That I work for a great company, get to deal with the leaders in blogging and social media every day, and, especially, that I get to work from my home.
Usually the people who tell me that working from home is wonderful and glamorous have never worked from home. Like me, they spent most of their career working from an office and hated it.
Now, before I go on, please know I’m not complaining. I love being able to work from my own office and make my own hours. I truly appreciate being able to drop what I’m doing to attend kids stuff, take my turn at the carpool or go shopping, but there’s a side to it we don’t often talk about. The hard side. The side no one wants to believe because they feel people like me have absolutely nothing to complain about because we work at home. Really, I’m not going to complain, but I do want to share a few things about telecommuting that few home based people want to tell you because then it doesn’t look so glamorous anymore.
1. You’re Not as Flexible as You Think You Are
One of the reasons I love my job is the flexibility. I know that I can volunteer for school projects, meet the girls for lunch and work out for an hour each morning as long as I get my work done. But did you know telecommuters have to make up time if they wish to pepper their days with fun distractions? So while the rest of the family is watching a movie, I’m working until midnight.
Also, it’s not so easy to be flexible and do things with or for friends and family because you do have a job and you do mostly have to be there for working hours. When you work from a remote location, you’re especially beholden to your phone and Skype. So we may tout the flexibility thing when we talk about our jobs, but the people we with (or for) want us around to talk to during business hours.
2. Childcare is a Bigger Issue for Traveling Telecommuting Parents
If I worked a traditional 9 to 5 office job, I’d have childcare in place for my son. Thus, if I had to travel for my job, having someone available to care for him wouldn’t be too much of an issue. Most telecommuters don’t have a babysitter on the payroll. Because we’re home, we’re the caretakers. Traveling for my job is one of the reasons I love my job so much and I wish I could do it more often. However, finding someone to care for my son while I’m traveling has gotten to be an issue. There isn’t always someone available to be here when I’m not – unlike people who have childcare in place every day. Plus, I turn down offers for sisters’ weekends or spa weekends with friends because so much of my time is taken up with work travel, I don’t feel that it’s fair to my family to take off even more time to have fun with friends without them.
3. When Your Child is Sick it Messes Up Your Day
Last week my son was home with a virus. The entire week. This week is spring break and my son is home. The entire week. Now, I love my son and I love having him home, but I can’t get as much done when he’s here. If he’s sick I’m soothing, entertaining, medicating and doing everything that moms of sick kids do. If he’s on school break, I’m driving him around to activities and friends’ houses or having to work to a soundtrack of 8 year old noises. I realize how fortunate I am to be able to work from my home, but having to continuously stop to see to the needs of my son does sort of mess up my day because now I have to work into the night. Plus, breaking focus every ten minutes to delegate activities and referee battles isn’t very productive. While I realize that it’s a worthy trade off, I also enjoy the days I can shut down at 5:00 and decompress with my family.
4. Despite What They Tell You, Other People Don’t Think You Work Very Hard
The flexibility thing is more of a blessing than a curse. You can tell people you have job, one that’s busy and important, but if you’re always playing Class Mom, meeting friends for lunch, or shopping during the day when the supermarket isn’t crowded, folks don’t believe this too much. Because if you had such a busy and important job, you’d be doing it at 10:30 on Thursday morning instead of examining pork chops at Stop ‘N Shop.
5. You’ll Always Feel As if You’re Neglecting an Aspect of Your Life.
This telecommuter is always feeling guilty. I feel guilty if I have to take a call or work while my son is at home. I feel guilty if I have to stop working to take my son to taekwondo and I have a deadline. I feel guilty if my house isn’t getting cleaned because I’m balancing kid and work. I feel guilty if I travel and guilty if I have to finish my day’s work rather than spend time with my husband. I feel bad when my boss or co-workers want to schedule a call and I tell them no because my son has an activity, and I feel bad when I have to find other arrangements to said activity because I have to stay home for a call.
I realize I’m living the best of both worlds, but there’s a lot of give and take here as well. People who work at home don’t always have the kind of help, traditional office folks have and very few of us can leave our work behind at 5:00. So while I’m fortunate to be able to work from my back deck while watching the kids swim in the pool, I also know that there’s a lot more give and take to this than people realize.
Do you telecommute? What are some of the realities of a home – based life?