The Potential Pitfalls of Working from Home

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The following is a contribution from my good friend Adam Buller at Money Bulldog. If you’re interested in contributing to Frugal Rules, please consult our guidelines and contact us.

With the technological advances in recent decades, more and more people have started working from home. For those who have never worked from home before, the situation sounds ideal. Get up early, have a coffee and blast through your work for the day with no hassle from the boss or interruption from workmates. Ideal, right?

Well although working from home can bring increased control and flexibility over when you work, not to mention the benefit of being able to work from anywhere you want, it isn’t always the walk in the park that many people expect it to be. Working from home requires huge amounts of self-discipline and commitment; even those who do manage to make a success of it will tell you that it’s not easy. Although working from home can give you increased flexibility and control in some areas of life, it’s also quite possible to start losing control in others. Here are some common problems that people face when they first start to work from home.

Overwork

Depending on the sort of business you’re in, many people often find themselves working more hours from home than they did working in a normal office. Why? Because you’re always at work! This is certainly something that I’ve found difficult to balance since I started working from home. When you run any sort of business there always seems to be a million and one things that need to be done, many of them yesterday. When you work from home the option to work is always available. The fact that your work is only 10 seconds away can also make it difficult to switch off mentally. It’s far too tempting to flick on the iPad or laptop and start checking your emails, website activity or other things that could realistically wait. Before you know it an hour or two has gone by and your relaxing evening has also disappeared.

Work Life Separation

Work life balance is not the only potential pitfall of working from home. Closely related to this is the problem of work life separation. When many people first decide to work from home they often have nice ideas of easy days spent working at the dining room table, watching the kids play in the garden while chatting to their partner. In reality though, things can be very different. If you’re going to work from home then I can’t emphasize enough the value of creating some sort of separate office space to work from. It doesn’t have to be anything flashy, just a small room with a door that closes for the times when you need complete silence. Remember that old saying, out of site out of mind? Well this is very relevant when you work from home and have family around.

Although working from home can help you to cut down your time spent commuting – time that in turn can be spent with the family – trying to concentrate on your work with family around can be often be quite challenging. Personally I’ve found that if I don’t at least try to lock myself away during working hours, every task seems to take twice as long to complete. My wife wants to chat, the kids want to play and that’s all quite understandable. Under normal circumstances these interactions are the ingredients for a happy family life. When it comes to working though, they can be a huge distraction and can even leave you feeling guilty when you have to keep saying no to playtime with your kids or you have to constantly break off conversation with your wife.

Half of the time I don’t think Mrs.B even believes that I’m working. I’m sure she thinks I’m just messing around on Twitter, technically she’d be right but I’m actually working, no really I am! (Editor’s comment: Adam is not the only one who deals with this. ;) )

Social Isolation

While we’re on the subject of social networking, now is probably a good time to mention our final potential pitfall of working from home, social isolation.

When many people first start to work from home the peaceful and controlled environment they find themselves in can be somewhat refreshing. Not having to deal with your boss and workmates can make the new experience of working from home seem like a relief. After a while though, once the novelty has worn off, this lack of contact with the outside world can actually prove quite difficult to deal with. Spending all day working at home and then spending your evenings relaxing at home (I know that sounds boring but that’s life with two young children) can all start to become a little monotonous.

There are benefits to Working from Home

Although this post has focused on the potential pitfalls of working from home, please don’t let that put you off. If you’re able to balance things and you have the right kind of personality, then working from home also has many benefits to offer. I just think that because work plays such an important part in the life and happiness of a person, it’s important to tell both sides of the story.

 

Do you work from home? Do any of these issues affect you, if so how do you deal with them?

 

Editor’s note: I could not agree more with Adam’s thoughts here. I remember when I was looking to work from home after Taking the Plunge I thought it would always be great. That is simply not the case. While there are many benefits to this type of situation, there are also many downsides that need to be looked at as well.

 

Photo courtesy of: Adam Harvey

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About the author:

I'm the founder of Frugal Rules, a Dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry. I'm passionate about helping people learn from my mistakes so that they can enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. You can connect via Twitter / Facebook.

36 comments on “The Potential Pitfalls of Working from Home

  1. I do not work from home, but I can see how these issues can arise. I do not have children, but I have heard from coworkers who have young children that they will constantly bug you. I would absolutely love to give work from home a try and I think I’d get more done in less hours, as well as have that extra time from not commuting.
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted..5 Ways to Relieve Stress on a BudgetMy Profile

    • Hey DC, It can be difficult when the kids are around. For me it’s more a case of feeling guilty when I have to turn them away all the time, so I find it’s important to have a separate area to work in where you can just knuckle down and get on with things. Hope things go well for you if you do give it a try!
      Adam @ Money Bulldog recently posted..Binary Options StrategiesMy Profile

  2. I’ve been working from home for some years now. There are pitfalls – in my case it is prevarication and tendency to do things that are ‘interesting’ rather than ‘necessary’,

    You don’t mention the need for records and administration, having to maintain in some way your computer equipment and at the same time trying to keep the big picture up there.

    But working in a corporate environment can be so boring, you need to fill in timesheets or something trivial like that. So there are pluses and minuses.

    On the social isolation front, I don’t think natural loners should work for themselves unless they are very well grounded – it is easy for some highly introverted people to get depressed. If you are naturally extrovert then it is much easier to make friends from a new community – even your neighbours.
    John@MoneyPrinciple recently posted..Four principles for choosing home insuranceMy Profile

    • Some great extra points here John. I really like your take on natural loners struggling with home work. I’m naturally quite an outgoing person but I even struggle at times with the lack of social interaction. It’s great shooting emails back and forth with other bloggers but sometimes you just want to chat with another human being :-)
      Adam @ Money Bulldog recently posted..Binary Options StrategiesMy Profile

  3. I know how you feel Laurie! The thing with blogging is that there always seems to be something to do. Whether it’s tinkering with your site, commenting and sharing, writing etc. there’s always something. As much as I love it, there comes a point when you have to just shut the laptop and say enough is enough.
    Adam @ Money Bulldog recently posted..Binary Options StrategiesMy Profile

  4. I work from home from time to time and it’s only gotten more difficult as my son has gotten older. We don’t have a great place for my to shut myself in, and he’s up and around and wants to play. He’s simply not old enough to understand that I’m busy without thinking that I’m just ignoring him and being hurt. So I’ve actually cut down on my days working from home, despite some of the conveniences, for that single reason.
    Matt Becker recently posted..Liebster Award!My Profile

    • It’s nice to know that it’s not just me that has struggled with this Matt. I’d much rather play but we wouldn’t have a roof over our head if I did. My eldest Son is off to school in a few months though so hopefully that will keep him occupied during working hours.
      Adam @ Money Bulldog recently posted..Binary Options StrategiesMy Profile

  5. I see the social isolation as being the biggest pitfall. I have two young children and we mostly stay home every evening. Sometimes I feel like the only adult interaction I get is at work. Although I would ultimately like to work for myself I think there would have to be some boundaries and I would have to schedule myself some social time.
    Alexa recently posted..5 Ways Single Moms Can Find Time for ThemselvesMy Profile

    • It does play with your head at times Alexa. I love spending time with my kids but spending most of your time inside the same four walls can be tough. Personally I like the freedom self-employment brings though so as you say, if you can be sure to maintain some sort of social life, it makes it more bearable.

  6. I like working from home every once and a while, but I can definitely see how these would become a problem. I really enjoy hanging out with my coworkers, so I would miss that. Also, I think it would be tough for me to focus sometimes if I was working from home. That being said, I think that there are times and places for both working from home and going into the office.

  7. When I had my home based eCommerce business, I realized that I was having a lot of trouble separating my work and my life. That was one of the main reasons why I shut it down. I didn’t want to blend the two anymore and it was taking over my life. I like working from home on occasion, but I like being in the office with my co-workers as well.
    Grayson @ Debt Roundup recently posted..Attention Debt RoundUp RSS ReadersMy Profile

  8. My husband has worked from home for many years and I know he would agree that these are things he has dealt with too. He is on the phone quite a bit for work, so I don’t he think he suffers from a lack of social interaction as much as others may. He has his own office and when the girls were young, we had someone take care of them so he could focus work. It’s worked out incredibly well for us but you definitely have to set up boundaries! :)
    Shannon @ The Heavy Purse recently posted..How to Teach Your Kids to Think about DebtMy Profile

  9. I have a hard time separating work time on the laptop and fun time on the laptop and fun time with no laptop! So now I try to go offline for 24 hours every 24 hours, I am on Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning for example, then nothing until Wednesday afternoon. It helps getting away from it all, although I know many lines of work don’t have that luxury.
    Pauline @ Make Money Your Way recently posted..Welcome!My Profile

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