Working from home has so many benefits. It makes me happy that more and more people get the option to work from home.
As with all changes in life, there are also things we miss from “the way it used to be”. My goal today is to be as realistic as possible about the perks and downsides of working from home. I want to figure out what I can change to have the best setup for myself. These may not apply to you, but if they help then that is good too. 🙂
I’ve got 3 wonderful kids. They are curious, fun, and so dear to me. They’re also loud. 😅
I enjoy my setup. Part of my reason for writing this, though, is that working from home is not only about me - it’s about my partner and kids too. My wife’s biggest issue about me working from home is that she never misses me anymore - I’m always around. This is a perfectly valid point that makes me realize that this shift to WFH has extended consequences beyond the “employee” preference. It could be affecting relationships and families.
- Flexible schedule. My focus is more on being valuable instead of only being present. I can take a break whenever I want. I don’t abuse this power, but it’s there when I need it. When I’m having a hard time focusing, I take a bike ride or power nap.
- Flexible locations. I am usually in my office, but sometimes my bed, the family room, or the kitchen.
- No commute. This means saving money on gas. I also don’t go out to eat very often anymore.
- Customizable workspace. When I’ve worked in offices, my employers have never been opposed to my custom keyboard or chairs, but the computer/OS and other tech was chosen for me. Now I get to keep whatever I want, with no fear of it being prohibited or stolen!
- Higher productivity. I have a reasonable level of control over distractions. For example, I can reply to a coworker or manager when I’m available instead of stopping what I’m doing right away. This type of stop-and-go work makes it very hard to get any focus work done.
- Constant distraction. I live in a busy household with kids playing, screaming, and crying. Dogs are barking, friends are coming over, and so on. (1)
- My family never misses me.
- Unclear boundaries. I sometimes begin work right as I wake up. Immediately as my eyes open I check my email and work chat to catch up. I don’t get time to eat breakfast or spend time with my family before I commute to work. I’m not great at staying in the habit of a “virtual commute”.
- Social isolation. I have great relationships with my coworkers all around the world, but I still desire in-person interactions.
- Tech issues. Sometimes my internet connection is not very reliable. I’m responsible for buying new equipment.
1. Distraction goes a step further: because I am home, there’s an inherent expectation that I’m available for watching the kids while my wife goes on errands, or that I go help with doctor appointments and the like. While I enjoy these moments, it prevents me from staying in the zone. I go through an internal battle knowing that my family is SO much more important than my job, but I still have to put in an honest day of work.
- Less distractions (kids yelling, house chores, etc).
- Change of scenery. Fresh air.
- Rituals. There is a real commute to prep myself for work. Same with ending work and letting my mind clear before seeing my family.
- Professionalism: I can put more effort into what I wear.
- No dedicated workspace. I have to pack everything I would need and keep it compact. This means I don’t have my 2 external monitors, split keyboard, comfortable office chair, etc.
- Dependent on the host. A library or shop might be able to do business as normal and won’t care if my work is hindered, especially if I’m not paying. The WiFi could be down or their hours of operation might not match up with mine. For example, my favorite library opens at 10am which is a few hours after I normally start work. Then they close around 4pm.
- Don’t have easy access to food. I have to pack a lunch, go out, or go home to eat.
I’d like to keep my favorite perks of working from home while making some compromises in order to have some perks of working away from home too.
Ideally there is a solution that allows me to have a permanent setup. I would be able to utilize my office equipment in a safe space. I would have the quietness as needed to participate in meetings. One perk I must keep is the flexibility of my time, which means that some days I may start early in order to end early, or miss a couple hours and make it up the next day. This allows me to be more productive and not just work to clock in the hours.
In my backyard I have a large shed big enough to be an office. It would need considerable work to be weather proof (insulation and air conditioning), have ample power and a strong internet connection, and much more. I estimate that it would cost at least $15k to get this remodeled. It’s also currently the home of my very large African Sulcata tortoise, so I’d need to prepare a different spot for him! 🐢
I will try out some different setups and take note of how it goes. Stay tuned for Part 2 where I can break this down. Hopefully I will have found my own best setup.
Please share your thoughts on what I could try! What works for you? Maybe one of you has found a way to still work from home yet counter some of these downsides..