Sitting at your office desk, you’re probably thinking that working from home is the ultimate dream with the best work/life balance. You don’t have to commute, you can work in your PJs, start and finish when you choose, with the freedom to work from your local coffee shop all day if you choose.
These benefits were all I thought about sitting in my cubicle before making the leap to freelancing and working from home(I worked from home for over a year). Yes, these are all great, but they are not the full picture. And if I’ve learnt anything, knowing the full picture is crucial before making a decision, why? Because an informed decision greatly improves your chances of success.
Even now there are hundreds of articles on the benefits of being (or how to be) an entrepreneur, showing people working from home spouting all the benefits listed above and more. But this information is one-sided, glamorising entrepreneurs (or freelancers) working from home. We’re all guilty of thinking the grass is greener on the other side, but in reality, the grass is greener wherever you water it, so an effort needs to be put it (which is hard).
I know a lot of people who made the leap to working from home and who were left feeling stuck when it wasn’t like the Instagram photos, with happy smiling faces working from their beautiful kitchen or a beachside cafe.
Working from home takes discipline and routine, and as social creatures, it can be hard to stay motivated when you’re isolated with no one to talk to. But with a bit of knowledge and preparation and the right mindset, you can set yourself up for success. You will be glad you dug a bit deeper to unearth the full picture.
So let’s get the full picture, there is a dark side to working from home (or working remotely) and for those hopefuls who want to work from home, remember working for home is not for everybody and that’s ok, we’re all different and thrive in different situations. There’s even a whole section on Quora on problems with working remotely.
What to watch out for working from home
So anyone thinking about making the leap too here’s some information about the challenges I experienced working from home, I’ve broken it out into key pillars:
- Building contacts
- Missing stability
- Feeling Burnt out
- Know yourself
This is the big one, you feel socially isolated, you don’t realise how many people you speak to during the course of your day in the office…until you don’t any more e.g. your local barista for your morning coffee, colleagues in the office, friends at lunch, and clients in meetings. So while you avoid office politics its nice to feel connected with the people you work with and as social beings, we need human interaction.
Working from home means you can find yourself not leaving the house for days or sometimes weeks at a time, which is unhealthy. So make an effort to socialise to keep your sanity. That means getting out of the house, going to the gym, attending a meet-up, a networking event in your industry or just going to dinner with friends.
2. Discipline vs. Motivation
There are two types of motivation intrinsic and instrumental, intrinsic is when you are internally motivated to do something e.g. studying a topic to discover new facts; instrumental is when your motivation is external, e.g. you’re only studying that topic to secure a better job when you graduate.
You have a higher chance of success with internal motivation versus instrumental, but either way, motivation is a limited resource and when decision fatigue set in and willpower runs low. You need to know how to cope when you have a mountain of work still to get through.
This is where discipline comes in and according to retired Top Gun pilot David Burke, who spent 23 years as an elite fighter pilot “Motivation is meaningless its discipline that drives you to do the required work” and that “Discipline conquers fear. Discipline keeps you going when your curiosity, motivation, and excitement evaporate”.
Discipline is key to your success because you are less likely to get lazy with no one around to monitor your progress. So set a routine, give yourself work hours e.g. 7am to 3pm or 10.30am – 6.30pm(whatever fits your schedule) but stick to it. Dress as if you’re going to the office – sorry no PJs here (getting dressed changes your state of mind by getting your brain into the working right frame of mind). – get up, shower, eat breakfast, and go to your home office/study/nook. You can support this with to-do lists, restricting access to Netflix, limiting chores and make sure you take a lunch break.
TIP: I organised a laundry pick-up and delivery service every week, its one less chore to worry about, and those 2 hours I saved I use to earn more.
3. Building contacts
This one takes time, but here seven ways start getting your name out there:
- Friends and family
- Old colleagues
- Join Facebook Groups
- Promote yourself on social media Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn
- Be sociable e.g. a random encounter at a cafe can turn into a new client(you’d be surprised)
- Subscribe to niche jobs board websites e.g. Rachels List for media and digital in Sydney or ProBlogger for global opportunities
- Cold email but do it right research the company (maybe with SEMRush)and highlight something they could be doing better and offer your services to help solve it for them use hunter.io to reach the right person
A full-time office job provides you with a ready-made routine that you don’t even have to think about you go into autopilot e.g. start at 8am finish at 5pm, home for 6pm, dinner at 7pm and bed at 10pm. In the world of freelancing and/or working from home you might think waking up at different times during the week is owning your day, but unfortunately, this will not help your productivity and willpower, a stable routine becomes the habit and makes us feel secure.
There’s also the stability of a regular paycheck when to move from a regular paycheck to contract work. To help with this set yourself work targets what you want to earn for that day/week and you’ll feel accomplished and secure in your work knowing you’re hitting the targets you set for yourself.
5. Feeling burnt out
Your work-life balance can suffer because there no clear line between work and home, your home is your office and vice versa. When you leave your house every morning to go to the office it’s clear you’ll be at work all and when you’re at home you can relax(even though technology is encroaching on this as well). Research has shown that people who have more control over their work hours, tend to work more, but this can be draining long-term and can result in burnout.
But why do people work longer hours once they have control of their day, it can be explained by the gift exchange theory. When people are entrusted to work independently they seek to repay that trust by working harder, therefore, proving that they were right to be trusted in the first place. But is George Orwell right in his book 1984 he says this “Freedom is slavery”. That’s why setting work hours are important, with breaks e.g.s your lunch, smoko and weekends.
6. Know yourself
Learn as much about yourself and how you work best as you can, it’s worth it for the flexibility and independence to successfully own your day. You also learn how to depend on yourself, value your money(and every $1 earned) and becoming (even) more responsible.
One way to learn your strengths and weaknesses and how best to manage them is to do personality tests, they make you do them for the interview process so why not do it yourself, some I’ve done include, 16Personalities(The Protagonist), Sally Hogshead(Trendsetter). Or a really fantastic book is Strengths Finder 2.0 by Gallup and Tom Rath It will change how you think about yourself (this book has spent more than five years on bestseller lists).
Working from home: In summary
Working from home is fantastic and when done right, can be life-changing, giving you the power to run your own life. Now you know there are challenges that go with the benefits and you’ve set up your own routine, you can reap the benefits such as going to that mid-week seminar, long lunch or yoga class without having to worry about work piling you’ve got it covered.