A lot of people assume all I do is hike, surf and eat.
Because that’s what I post on my Instagram.
If I posted what I really do all day, well, I’d have substantially fewer followers.
Like one-third of Americans, I work from home. This can be a difficult thing to explain to my retired neighbors, fellow dog-walkers and the FedEx delivery guy, who all seem to think I’m unemployed. (Read about how I started working from home here.)
Turns out, more and more Americans — about 3 million at last count — don’t set foot in a conventional office at all anymore — and more than half say they’re happier that way.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey, the typical telecommuter is a 49-year-old college graduate — male or female — who earns about $58,000 a year. But there are others who are self-employed entrepreneurs running small businesses or freelancer and consultants who work with various companies, not just one.
There are definite perks to working from home.
You don’t have to adhere to a set schedule. (I did that for years as a journalism instructor.) You don’t have to commute. You never have to wear dress pants or heels unless you want to (or if you’re meeting a client). You aren’t distracted by co-workers or ringing phones or irate customers.
But working from home isn’t for everyone.
For every perk, there’s a downside.
Like the lack of human interaction. (Talking to three dogs all day just doesn’t cut it.) Or the plethora of distractions, from dirty laundry to stacks of unread magazines to marathons of “The Real Housewives of New York City”.
You’re always tempted by impromptu lunch dates and perfect surf and a warm bed on a chilly morning.
And while a lack of schedule sounds great, it often means you work around the clock, never taking breaks, working after dinner and on weekends. You’re constantly checking your email and text messages. And you realize that saying no to a job means saying no to a paycheck, and you’re more likely to take on more work than you would normally do at a regular 9-to-5 job.
You also stop doing productive things that don’t garner paychecks. For example, if I were working at a salaried desk job, I could probably browse though a magazine that was relevant to my work. I would be getting paid. But now, working for myself, I can’t seem to carve out that kind of time. I just can’t justify it.
And unless you’re telecommuting for a company, you’re responsible for everything. The Internet goes down? There’s no tech support to help. If you need copier paper — or just a copier! — or staples or printer ink, you have to drive down to Office Depot and buy it all yourself. There’s no cabinet magically restocked with office supplies or an entire department devoted to helping you with your IT needs. It’s just you.
And then there’s the complete degradation of my fashion and social skills. I literally wear four outfits in rotation — and they’re not exactly appropriate for even grocery shopping (though, I confess, I’ve been in public dressed like this).
So what’s the verdict?
If you’re focused and organized, working from home is awesome. I love that I can make dentist appointments and get pedicures during the day, if I can swing it. And I don’t have to put in vacation requests and worry if I’m going to get my first choice of dates. I can wash a load of laundry while waiting for a phone call and eat leftovers for lunch.
I just need to hide the remote control every once in a while.