Helping Creative People Create

Technology and Expectations: Myths About Working From Home

Technology has had a huge effect on how we live and work. What used to take a whole day to get a response from a client, boss or co-worker now can be nearly instantaneous via IM, cell phones and email. The rate of how fast we can reply has increased dramatically thanks to these new technologies. Not only that, but these advances have helped the small business/home office worker out tremendously. Now just about anyone can have a web-based business, thanks to open source software, etc. The web has levelled the playing field so that small to medium size companies can compete with large corportations. Not only that, but the web has opened up lots of doors for non-traditional jobs as well. (Did you know that you can make a good living blogging?) Yes, it’s a great time to be alive and livin’ the American dream.

However, since more and more people have switched to working at home, there are still some wrinkles to be ironed out with respect to the general public’s expectations. Self-employed types are sometimes seen as lazy, eccentrics who only work about 3 hours a day and then spend the rest of it playing on sites like Digg. Let’s dispell a few myths right now about being self-employed and working at home.

Myth #1: Self-employed people can be lazy because they don’t have a boss

I work at home, and it never ceases to amaze me that people think I just fiddly-fart around all day mainly because I don’t have a “real boss”. But think of it this way: If I’m doing my job correctly, my “boss” should be the most demanding boss I’ll ever have. He always knows if I’m late or slacking off, and you better believe he can tell when I’m not managing my time well.

Self-employed people have it even harder. Most of the time there’s no company health insurance, no benefits, no retirement plan… you’re scratching a living with a lot more variables that are just taken care of when you work for a company. It’s downright scary if you think about it. You better believe the self-employeed workers are bustin’ their humps to make the bottom line every day.

Myth #2: People who work out of home offices work whenever they want

Unfortunately, becuase the rest of the world runs from about 8am-5pm, we have to work those ours too. Granted, this is becoming more and more flexible with our ever growing dependencies on rad, new technologies like email; but usually talking with people means on their terms, thus the normal work day.

Aside from that, working late at night isn’t really optimal for productivity. And if we’re going to scratch a living without working for the man, you better bring your productivity A game.

Myth #3: Home offices can be anything; they’re not that important because you’re at your home.

The office is important because it is your personal domain. It’s where you are comfortable, and can easily find things when you need them. And there is a very big difference between a home office and a traditional office space: it’s much more needed. With email and laptops, the common misconception is that working at home means you are 100% portable. You wanna work on the porch? No problem. The bathroom? It’d be a little weird, but why not? We have a freedom that traditional workers don’t: Mobility.

But we don’t really want mobility if we’re going to be productive, we want structure. Structure is the best thing to happen to productivity since notecards. Structure sets us in routines, and these routines help free our brains from extra running processes, giving us more juice for the real tasks at hand. The less we think about our surroundings, the more productive we are. I’m not saying that working in a totally white room with no windows is ideal, but rather a place where we’re comfortable and know where everything is.

Conclusions

In order to work at home, you have to be willing to give up a lot of luxuries for not having a boss. Things like insurance, paid vacations, retirement plans, and many others. But there is a lot more freedom attached to your job; and odds are you’ll find a lot more satisfaction because you’re doing the thing you really want to do. Just don’t think that working from home is going to be easier than your previous job… it’ll probably be harder.

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  • http://sablog.com Shanti Braford

    I work from home, and just got up today @ 1:30 pm.

    Sometimes, I get up at 8PM and start my day.

    But yeah, every once in a while, people you’re working with might get pissed that you keep such odd hours & require meetings during non-vampire hours.

    For me a flexible schedule is one of the #1 perks of working from home.

  • http://www.shaunc.com/ Shaun

    Well-said. I spent several years working from home, and while I can’t really complain, I came away from the entire situation having learned something very important: when you work from home, you’re always at work.

  • http://www.liquidisers.info/ Adam

    Great points. What really hacks me off is when people think that your time is completely flexible and you can just drop everything and attend to their demands whenever suits them.

  • http://valleywag.com Nick Douglas

    Hey, that’s a photo of me! And I agree with all you said here — I work at home too!

    Granted, I have a bottle of vodka to see me through, but other than that we’re like twins!

  • Josh

    Myth 1: No boss? First, debunk the myth that work from home people are self employed. I work for a gigantic megacorporation and I have the option to work from home three days a week. At least 2/3 of my department of 20 people work from home 100%. Many, if not most, of the people I work with on a regular basis (project managers, design architects, middleware support people) also work 100% remote.

    Myth 2: Whenever? Maybe the self employed types. My hours are roughly Eastern time even though I live Mountain, because the accounts I support are based on the East coast. So I work fairly “normal” times. Longer hours when I work from home perhaps. And I do work evenings/weekends, but thats more a part of my job function than anything else.

    Myth 3: Mobility. I used to use anywhere I could sit down at home as my workspace. Now, I anchor my laptop to the desk and stay there when I’m working. It keeps the distractions down. I mainly have a laptop because of my job function requiring off hour support, without requiring me to drive in every time there’s an issue. Now it’s a boon that I can work from home more often :).

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  • http://lenski.com Tammy

    This is spot-on, Glen, and anyone considering an escape from the traditional corporate world should have to read it first. And Shaun’s additional point is really on the money too: When you work from home, you’re always at work. As a workaholic, I’m very able to work independently but really struggle with knowing when to stop. But I wouldn’t trade it after 10 years.

  • http://innovationzen.com Innovation Zen

    I think it depends on the way you see work in the first place. For people who think work is something they are “forced” to do by society, then working from home is something “strange”. For people who instead see work as a continum of your life, sometimg you do because you like to, then working from home is perfectly logic.

  • http://fullfigureplus.com Glen

    I have been working at home for two years and it still amazes me that people think becasue I am at home that I don’t do anything and that I am available to come to there beck and all on a moments notice. Great tips thanks for sharing.

  • http://questallia.com Simonne Matthew

    Hi,

    I fully agree with your points there. I’m working from home since 3 months ago and I can tell you that my work time doubled. I’m just starting to think that I really have to stop myself working on weekends too. This is the big danger I see in having a home office: your family never gets enough of you, because you stare in the computer screen about 4 hours every evening and maybe half of the weekend. Then if anybody dares to start a conversation while you’ve just figured out how to change a code in order to do what you want, this looks like the end of the world. Consequently, your tone gets harsh, your boyfriend gets upset, and you can say bye-bye to sweet home harmony. Besides, in the beginning you don’t earn quite enough to make a decent living, especially when you used to work for an international dinosaur company which paid you much above average. I have days when I think of getting a job again… but then comes the extraordinary feeling of doing exactly what you think it’s right, of not having to report and explain every step you make, of not having to attend boooring status meetings… I think it is worth being on your own.

  • http://ocaoimh.ie/ Donncha O Caoimh

    I work from home, as do the rest of Automattic. I’m separated from most of them by an 8 hour time difference so it’s not unlikely that I might be thinking about work when I go to bed.
    I do find that bringing the laptop downstairs is worthwhile however as it’s nice to tap away and work in a different environment once in a while. That said, I find it impossible to be disconnected from work now. If I want to blog something or just browsing my feeds I’m watching IRC or email in case something comes up.

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  • http://domestikgoddess.blogspot.com Jen

    As Adam and Glen have commented, the biggest difficulty – one that I continue to have, even after 20 years of freelancing! – is trying to convince other people that, NO , I can’t just blow off work whenever I feel like it.

    YES, I really do have to work for a living, even thugh I’m at home – and my clients have a reasonable expectation that the work for which I’m being paid will be done on time and done well, not cobbled together in between late nights and lunch dates!

    I mean, who do these people think that maybe I’ve got a Sugar Daddy who’s paying the mortgage and grocery bill for me??? *snort* I wish!!

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  • http://www.ageekapart.com David Poindexter

    Very insightful post. I do have to say, when you are self-employed, you are simply trading one boss for many bosses. A self-employed person has not only themselves as a constant source of criticism, but now you have many, many more people to please on a daily basis. Clients, customers, advertisers, government agencies, the IRS, etc. So, if you are thinking of getting out of traditional employment, keep in mind you will have an entirely new kind of work dynamic when it comes to you, and who’s keeping tabs on you.

  • http://tima13.blogspot.com Met

    nice blog. good photo.

  • http://www.workathomeaussies.com Anni

    Working from home can be an ideal solution for some people, but not for others. I have found that I, like many of my work at home buddies, actually work more hours than I did when i was in a conventional job. You still have to be able to create a balance with work and play.

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