Working at Home: Dream or Nightmare?

October 31, 2013

working at homeA work-at-home arrangement can seem like an employment dream – especially for the person who has never done it before and sees it as the perfect set up. But I’m here to tell you that it can also be a certified nightmare! Having been a work-at-home dad for many years, I’ve experienced both the dream and the nightmare side of it. In truth however, I wouldn’t trade it for life in an office cubicle ever again.

In your case it could be either a dream or a nightmare – how can you tell which ahead of time? Here are some pros and cons to working at home.

Work-at-Home: The Dream

When work-at-home works, it’s a perfect arrangement. But whether or not it works at all will depend upon your own personality and personal circumstances at home.

You’re More Productive at Home

It really is true, but some people are most productive when they are most comfortable. Working in pajamas, or at least in very casual clothing, and in familiar personal surroundings, they can achieve more than they ever can sitting in a corporate office. If this is you, then work-at-home can be a dream situation – the ability to become a top performer – but to do it from the comfort of your own home.

You Have a Quiet Place – and Quiet Housemates

Much of the success or failure of any work-at-home situation is your actual physical arrangement at home. If the home is a quiet place, at least during the daytime working hours, and you have a private office to work in, you can prosper in the arrangement. A dedicated office is especially important; you need to have a place that is separate from the rest of your home, and is specifically set up for work and no other purpose. When you are in the office – and the door is closed – it is a sign to yourself and to everyone in your household that you are now at work.

You Can Create a Better Work/Life Blend

Work-at-home means the end of the daily commute to and from work. That should give you more time each day, as will the absence of coworkers and the distractions they bring. You may also find you have more time and ability to tend to whatever personal circumstances that you need to deal with. If you are able to manage this blend efficiently, work-at-home can really be a dream situation.

You’re a Rugged Individualist, Who Prefers to be Alone

If you’re a “self-starter,” the kind of worker who knows what you have to do and can get it done quickly and efficiently – without supervision or support – then you can actually thrive with a work-at-home job. And there’s no doubt about it, quiet time is easier to come by when you work at home.

Work-at-Home: The Nightmare

Surprisingly, work-at-home doesn’t work for everyone. There could be factors in both your personality and home life that will sabotage a work-at-home arrangement.

You Have Trouble Getting and Staying Focused

Some people find that they need the structure of an office and close supervision in order to stay focused and to be productive. Not all of us are self-starters, and if you’re not then work-at-home can be a complete disaster. An employer will only allow you a work-at-home arrangement if your production is strong – and they may even prefer that it will exceed what you can do when you’re working in the office. If not, they may pull the plug on the arrangement.

Home is a Zoo

More 50% of your success in a work-at-home arrangement is the tranquility – or the lack of it – in your home. If you have small children at home that you are trying to supervise, they may interfere with your work. If your spouse also works at home, this could prove to be a major distraction as well.

Work-at-home works best when home is a peaceful and undisturbed place. The popular notion of blending work-at-home with child rearing is highly over-rated.

Your Work-at-Home Job is Taking Over Your Life

This is a completely unexpected outcome for most people, and the exact opposite what they hope to accomplish. But it is possible that your work-at-home arrangement can end up taking over your personal life.

When you work in an office, there’s a beginning point and an end point to your day. When you work at home, those parameters can become blurred. You may find yourself beginning work at 7 AM, and even working until midnight.

If you are really driven in your work, you can fall into this pattern quite easily. The prospect of a successful blending of work and home life will become a complete casualty.

You Crave Camaraderie

Some of us just need to be around people when we are working. We often forget that our coworkers are part of our general support structure in life. We may need them to motivate and support us in our work. And we may even need their friendship. If you’re the kind of person who is very social, and likes to be around others, work-at-home may not be the right arrangement for you.

If you’re considering a work-at-home arrangement, give some serious thought to the points above. Sure, “on paper” work at home looks like a dream situation. But if you don’t have the right personality – or the right setup on the home front – work-at-home can prove to be a complete nightmare.

Are you thinking about entering into a work-at-home arrangement? Have you considered any of these potential issues? Leave a comment!


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Kevin Mercadante is professional personal finance blogger, and the owner of his own personal finance blog, He has backgrounds in both accounting and the mortgage industry. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and two teenage kids and can be followed on Twitter at @OutOfYourRut.

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