I had an appointment with my optometrist this morning. His secretary began asking me the normal questions associated with a yearly visit. Same address? Insurance? Same employer? At this last question of course I explained that I now owned my own business. Being a polite woman, she asked what I was doing. Her initial reaction when I said I had opened a virtual assistant business was, of course, to ask what it was. I watched her eyes light up as I explained. I could tell that she, like many of us, was one of those people that dream of working from their home. People like my optometrists’ secretary, working 9 to 5 in a traditional office, see those of us who work from home as having the ultimate dream job. But is it? As with everything there are positives and negatives to working out of your home.
The positives are probably easy for everyone to see. No commute means being able to sleep in every morning. If you have children it allows you to spend more time with them and be available for their various activities. It gives you the flexibility to do things like going to the optometrist office whenever they have an opening. Many people would list wearing pajamas to work, but I get up every day and get dressed for work, although most days it is jeans and a nice shirt. I also regularly start dinner while I’m still working, so my family tends to have more ‘real’ meals now that I work from home. When I get overwhelmed or tired I can put work aside for a little bit and take a walk, sit in the sun or, I suppose if I really wanted to, take a nap.
The negatives aren’t as easy to spot right away. In fact, unless you’ve experienced working from a home office you probably wouldn’t consider any of them. The first one is the tendency to work too much, too often and too long. With everything related to work right there in your home, if you’re like me, the temptation to work well past quitting time, weekends and holidays is strong. When my office was in my bedroom I occasionally got up in the middle of the night to get a drink of water and ended up working on a file for an hour and a half. Then there is the other end of the spectrum, being too relaxed about the work that needs to be done. If you’re the type that is easily distracted, being at home can make it hard to focus. The hubbub of everyday life can cause unforeseen issues as well. Take for instance the day I was on the phone with a very important client and my son got home from school and yelled “HEY MOM” at the top of his 17 year old lungs. I don’t work in my pajamas or sweats because I need to draw a line between being a home business owner/entrepreneur and being …well…me. The line between the ‘business you’ and ‘personal you’ that is normally defined by being at the office or at home is gone when your home is your office. If you’re the social butterfly of the office, working from home may not be your cup of tea either. It’s a solitary existence and if it drives you crazy to be alone; pass on the home office thing.
Working from home isn’t for everyone, even though just about everyone dreams of it. You have to have self discipline, self motivation and the ability to work independently. But if you have those things, and you take the business end of thing seriously while still recognizing the need to let your non-professional side have a life too, then yes….being a home office entrepreneur is the dream job.