Working at home can seem like a dream to parents who struggle on a daily basis to balance their personal and professional responsibilities. Losing the commute and working from the comfort of home may seem like the ideal solution to life’s inevitable chaos. The reality is, though, that working from home, like anything else, has its advantages and disadvantages. And it very well could be fraught with a bit of chaos.
The work-at-home life isn’t for everyone. Some people need more separation between their personal and professional realms. Others thrive when the things they care about most care are in the the same place. It takes a certain personality to manage everything in one place and still enjoy it.
For each potential advantage of working at home, there are drawbacks as well. Which particular ones carry more weight vary by individual. Look over these pros and cons and think about the impact they would have on you.
Time Spent With Your Children
Pro: You get to spend more time with your children.
Con: The extra time you spend with your kids may not be relaxing for anyone.
Clearly, most work-at-home parents count more time with the kids as a huge plus. The con here is more of a cautionary note than a reason to stick with the office commute. Work-at-home families spend a lot of time together, particularly in the years before children enter school and during the summer.
This can lead to burnout. It’s the old issue of quality versus quantity of time.
Be thoughtful about how you spend your time together and build in breaks for yourself and the children. Kids of work-at-home parents can be especially good at playing independently, but parents have to lay the groundwork in order for that to happen.
You need to set work-at-home ground rules and a work schedule so that all know what is expected of them.
Pro: You may be able to eliminate or reduce child care cost.
Con: Eliminating outside childcare may make you less productive at work.
The question of whether a work-home parents need childcare is a complicated one with no simple answer for all. If you are a telecommuter, your employer may require that you have outside childcare. Call center companies in particular often require it, but for any employment position it may be part of your telework agreement. However, if you are a home business owner you may think you can do without. And perhaps you can, it all depends on your goals for growth in your business and income. When you multitask, you are giving nothing your full attention, so expect the outcomes to reflect that.
Pro: Chatty coworkers and unscheduled, unnecessary meetings are greatly reduced.
Con: Home-life distractions creep into your professional time.
Many people who work from home find that they are more productive in their home offices than they ever were in their cubicle. In an office environment, many of the decisions about how you spend your time are made by, or greatly influenced by, other people.
When you are intensely working on a project, you have to stop and acknowledge the person standing next to your desk. At home you can you can delay reading an email or taking a phone call.
The flip side to this is that distractions when you work at home are more personal. When you are at home and your time is much more your own, it is up to you to use it wisely. It takes self-discipline and those work-at-home ground rules.
Pro: Working at home saves on commuting and other costs.
Con: In order to work at home, you may have to take a salary reduction.
Besides the commuter and potential childcare cost savings, work-at-home parents may save on clothing costs and lunches out. All of these add up. However, there is definitely the potential for lost income by working at home. If you can convince your boss to let you work from home at your current job, this is the best option for maintaining your income while at the same time lowering your costs.
If you have to find a new job, the pool of jobs that you are qualified for and allow you to work from home could be much smaller or there might not be as much full-time work. If you don’t work in a career that lends itself to telecommuting, you may have to change careers or start your own business. All of these things can mean a short-term (or possibly long-term) hit on your income.
Pro: You can work from anywhere.
Con: Career advancement could be curtailed.
Geography has less impact on those working at home. If you live in an area where jobs are not plentiful, telecommuting can open new opportunities for you and possibly even offer a higher salary.
However, there is some truth to the old adage: Out of sight, out of mind. Telecommuters are disadvantaged when it comes to networking. They have to make an extra effort to stay in touch with both coworkers and supervisors. And there are some jobs, particularly to advance in management, that may not lend themselves to telecommuting. This can force a choice between the work-at-home lifestyle and professional advancement.
Lifestyle and Emotional Health
Pro: The added flexibility may enable you to make positive lifestyle changes.
Con: A feeling of isolation can lead to unhealthy habits.
Gaining that time you used to spend commuting can allow you to exercise more or pick up old hobbies. It might give you the opportunity to volunteer in your child’s school or in your community. Perhaps you spend more time cooking healthy dinners for your family. All of this can lead to a healthier, happier lifestyle.
On the other hand, the refrigerator is beckoning for a snack anytime you like. The chaos of everyone home 24/7 can cause stress. And frankly, not everyone can effectively deal with the isolation that working at home can make you feel. Knowing yourself is the most important thing to ensure that a work-at-home life if a happy one.