So you think you want to work from home. Maybe you’re about to start freelancing full time. Or maybe your office is closing, but the company is keeping you on.
It sounds great. Work in your underpants, no small talk, play whatever music you want…what’s not to like?
But like most things in life, what sounds great from the florescent lights of your cubicle may not be all it’s cracked up to be once it becomes your life every day.
While I personally enjoy working from home, I can certainly see why it’s not meant for everyone. So I’ve put together a little quiz/blog to help you figure out whether you’ve got what it takes to tackle that work from home life.
1. Do you like being alone?
The number one question, for all the marbles — do you like being alone? Because unless you have a gaggle of work-from-home friends that you can have work dates with, you’re going to be alone a lot.
For some people, that’s no problem. But for the social, outgoing types, nine straight hours of solitude can be incredibly wearing. And if you don’t have a spouse or roommate that comes home at the end of the day, you’re looking at closer to 24 hours of solitude. Every day. Every week. Every month.
So really think about this. Do you seek people out at work for a little office chit-chat? You won’t get that. Do you like to talk about The Bachelor with your cube-neighbor? Gone. Do you enjoy the energy of in-person meetings? Over.
Try to test this out before you commit. If you can, spend a week working from home to test it out. If you’re dying for a little human interaction by Wednesday, this may not be a good move for you.
2. Do you have an established friend group?
You’re not going to make new friends working from home. Although you may grow closer to your dog or cat.
When you’re working at an office, Friday happy hours are a pretty common occurrence, and you can all whine about the boss together. Those won’t happen anymore when you don’t have any officemates.
It can be hard enough to make friends once you’re out of school. Take work out of the mix, and where are you going to meet people?
If you have social hobbies, then this might not be a problem for you. But for many people, cutting off that method of introduction can drastically reduce their potential for meeting new people, making you feel lonely and isolated.
3. Do you get easily distracted?
Are you one of those people that picks up their phone to check an email, and comes back up for air 20 minutes later after an Instagram-fueled binge?
No judgment here. But when you work from home, there is no boss to keep an eye on you. That means no reminder that you should put the phone down and move on to your next task. How well do you think you’ll handle those distractions?
I’ll be 100% honest — I thought I would be better at it than I am. I had to start writing down and color-coding my activity so I could track how much time I spent distracted. It was an eye-opener, I’ll tell you. I still use my color-coding system to try to keep myself accountable.
4. Are you disciplined?
This is more important if you work from home as a freelancer or a self-employed business owner. Are you disciplined enough to spend your days doing the work that you know you should be doing, even though you don’t want to?
Client work is pretty easy to prioritize. No clients = no money. But what will happen on Friday afternoon when you’ve completed all your client work, but you have marketing work that you really need to get done? Will you stay in your chair and do it? Or you could knock off early and go to the movies?
I thought I would have a lot more time for myself when I started freelancing. I was incorrect. I work until dinner, and sometimes after dinner. It’s the only way I can find new clients, work on my website, and learn new things.
If you don’t have the self-discipline to keep going after hours, this might not be for you.
Of course, if you have a salaried job and are just changing locations, this may not be as big of a consideration.
5. Are you very active?
How important is physical activity to you? Do you find yourself walking around the office to stretch your legs?
When you work from home, getting active takes a more concerted effort. There is no one in the office down the hall for you to chat with. You can take the dog for a walk or just do a lap around the house, but your step count is going to plummet unless you make it a point to get moving.
6. Do you have a comfortable spot to work?
Spending an hour working in bed on a rainy morning can be a treat. Spending 9 straight hours working in bed because you don’t have anywhere else to sit is a nightmare.
A home office is best, but even the kitchen table will do, as long as you have a comfortable chair. Dining room chairs are usually not the most ergonomic options, so you may want to consider getting a pad for your lower back.
And if you do work in the kitchen, do you have roommates who will be coming and going, causing a distraction? If you don’t have a quiet and comfortable place to go, working from home can quickly lose its appeal.
7. Do you have any hobbies?
The cycle of work-home-sleep can be mind-numbing. So how do you think you’re going to feel when it’s just home-sleep?
You’ve got to have a hobby that will get you out of the house once or twice a week. I play in a volunteer orchestra on Wednesday nights, which means I actually put on pants and go somewhere mid-week. I also see a fair number of movies with my husband.
You really need something to get you out and about on occasion. You’ll start to look forward to those little excursions. Trust me.
8. Do you drink or smoke regularly?
If so, you may find that your vice gets worse.
When you have a commute, that drive creates a clear barrier between your work life and home life. But when your commute is a 5 step walk from your bedroom, you lose that separation.
I found that when 6:00pm rolled around, I’d pour myself a glass of wine to signify that my “work day” was over. And I’d sip it while I worked on blog posts or my website. The problem is that I would then also have a glass of wine with dinner. And maybe one after dinner too…
This started to become a daily occurrence, affecting my sleep and productivity. As a result, I’ve had to stop drinking during the week entirely. This is something that I don’t think I would have needed to do if I still worked at a traditional job.
How will you handle the temptation to go out for a smoke whenever you want? Or pour yourself a drink at 5:30pm…or 5:00pm…or 4:30pm…
9. Are you organized and tidy?
There’s a lot to be said for some very mild coworker shaming. And all I mean by that is we’re more likely to keep our workspaces tidy and keep ourselves organized if we don’t want to look sloppy in front of other people.
If your workspace is never going to be seen by anyone, can you trust yourself to keep it clean and organized? Having a messy home can lead to anxiety and depression in some people. And with people who work from home already at risk for depression, it can have a compounding effect.
10. Do you have anywhere to go when you get cabin fever?
Working from home every day can start to get stifling. Some days, I’ve got to get out of the house. I’m fortunate enough to live in Austin, where there are coffee shops in abundance and two local library branches within a 10-minute drive of my house. Coworking spaces are also an option, but I’m not made of money.
Are there similar amenities near where you live? They’re not a necessity, but having the option of working somewhere outside of the home once or twice a week will improve your quality of life.
There’s no “right” number of yes or no answers here. I’m not assigning each question a point value like a Cosmopolitan quiz. But these are important questions to consider before you take the plunge into working from home.
There are pros and cons to every work situation, but I strongly believe that working from home is not for everyone. So think about it before you commit!