For family reasons, personal satisfaction and economy, working from home is an attractive option. On various practical grounds, home working is not suitable for everyone. For example, a suitable workspace is important, but can often be created if existing arrangements prove lacking. However, if you lack the right temperament, motivation or attitude to working from home there may be little you can do about it.
It’s one thing to escape the petty politics, regulations and irritations of the office, but some people find home working an unbearably isolating experience. They miss office camaraderie and gossip, as well as those little lunches at the local restaurant and slipping to the shops. Depending on the nature of your business and home working arrangements, you are likely to find yourself, quite literally, on your own.
In most enterprises, home working means that you will have to take responsibility for problems that elsewhere fall on the shoulders of others. You will probably be your own timekeeper, IT expert and all-round problem solver. The accountability for making decisions will be yours and yours alone. Often there will be no-one to discuss strategies and options with and you will require a developed sense of self-sufficiency.
Not only do you need to be able to take on these work responsibilities alone, but you will need to manage your time with unflinching self-discipline. Though home working offers the flexible hours that allow participation in social activities during traditional working hours, the isolated worker may be tempted into social contact at the expense of work. Either you will need to resolutely resist the temptation to socialise in work time or you must be unswervingly dedicated to making up that time.
Time management problems may be less likely if you have externally imposed deadlines. Where self-regulated working hours can become fatal for home workers is when these external pressures are absent. Occasionally succumbing to procrastination can be compensated for, but when you only have yourself to rely on, it can become a pattern that results in habitual inefficiency, under-productivity and business disaster.
Another common hazard of working from home is that some people, including family, friends and neighbours, will refuse to respect the fact that you are actually working. Because you’re at home, you must be available. You need the strength of mind to bar the door when required and the forthrightness to explain that unscheduled social visits are not (or not always) welcome. Children will have to learn that you are unavailable except in emergencies – and the other sibling hogging the Playstation doesn’t qualify. This can be difficult for smaller children and if you can’t cultivate the necessary hard-heartedness your flexible hours will become a free-for-all.
Knowing yourself is essential to successfully making the transition to home working. It may be possible to find middle ground. Some employers will allow people to work from home on a part-time basis (but many won’t). Collaboration and networking with other home workers in your business field or residential area may offer support. If you have the determination, with luck and effort most people can make it work.