As the year comes to an end and I am reflecting on what worked and what didn’t in 2015, what I’ll do differently next year and what will remain. I kept coming back to working from home, as something that is a real privilege and has so many benefits. So I thought I’d put together a list of the pros and cons of working from home. If you are considering working from home, this list might help you decide.
It’s mostly pros, but I don’t want to get all Pollyanna on you.
1. No commute. Often when running the kids up to school, I’ll hear the traffic alerts and the train delays, I am so grateful that I am in my car and I’m five minutes from home and I don’t have to deal with that stress.
2. Being available for my family. It’s a tough gig, trying to manage kids and a career, the ‘mother-guilt’ is inevitable for most of us. But working from home helps alleviate this (to some degree) because, while my (nearly) three year old is in day care, my two older children go to school and then I pick them up at the end of their day. So it’s one less thing to feel guilty about. My oldest used to go to after school care, we didn’t have a choice, and that is the reality for most families. But she hated it. And every week she used to ask ‘do I have to go today?’. It used to kill me. So now, it’s one less thing to worry about.
3. My kitchen. My kitchen is just the other side of the wall. So I can make soup for lunch if that’s what I feel like. Or cook an egg, or make a salad. Sandwiches have always been my go-to packed lunch, but my body doesn’t like a lot of bread and so now I have the freedom to prepare what I feel like eating, right when I’m ready to eat. Same goes for my coffee, and tea. Being charged $4.50 for a coffee annoys me. And I get to have my coffee exactly the way I like it.
4. Savings! I mentioned the commute, so there is a saving attached to that, but also I’m no longer forking out for a corporate wardrobe. Some days, especially when it’s cold, I’ll work in track suit pants and slippers (which you would never see me in, in a public place). So I save money on my commute, money on those pricey coffees, and money on business attire – which I don’t particularly like anyway.
5. Flexibility. I love that I can go to my 10.30 yoga class on a Tuesday, if I want to. One thing I’ve struggled with while having small children is making time for physical exercise. When I’ve got kidlets round my ankles 24/7 I don’t much feel like going to the gym at 7.30 when the kids are going to bed. In fact, I’m usually ready for bed then too! But being able to nip out for an hour to do a class is one of THE best benefits.
As I said, I wasn’t going to get all Pollyanna and ‘my life is so wonderful’ on you, so here are some of the downsides.
1. No commute. This comes in as one of the big benefits, but there is also a lot to be said for 45 minutes on your own with no interruptions. Time to meditate, read, reflect, look out the window and watch the world go by. So, while I love that I don’t have to travel to work, it was the one time where I could sit and read without thinking that I should be doing something else.
2. You still have to do everything you do when you don’t work. So I still need to take the kids to school, and pick them up. Put a load of washing on, peg it out, organise dinner, cook dinner and do a day’s work in between. Of the three days that I work, one of those is for someone else (the other two are my freelance days), on that day where I work for someone else, those things don’t get done, because it’s only the commute that I don’t have. Some days I can be nearly demented with all the things that I need to organise, and still meet my deadline.
3. You never really leave work. So I can close my laptop and walk away, but it still blinks at me, and often after the kids are in bed and my husband and I have an opportunity for some normal adult conversation, I’ll pull out my lap top just to finish an email, or a paragraph that I was writing, and then I’ve lost my evening to work. So you need to be very disciplined about when you work, and why you work at those times.
As with everything, there are good and bad, but if you’re considering trying to negotiate a work day from home, do your best to swing it, because it can make an enormous positive difference to your life. First and foremost it will help you feel like you have some control over your life (some aspects, at least). Especially if you have kids, it’s a great way to be able to have a career and still be around.