What Not To Say To Someone Who Works From Home
I feel very lucky to be able to work from home. I have no commute, I never have to dress up, I get to have my dog in my office, I’m steps from my kitchen, and did I mention I have no commute? (That one can’t be emphasized enough). But despite its many perks, working from home — like any other job situation — comes with its share of difficulties: It can be lonely, you're less likely to get promoted, and it’s harder to separate one’s work life from one’s home life. Another relatively minor, though still irritating, issue is that some people who work in more traditional venues just don’t seem to get what working at home means, and they therefore say things that are sometimes clueless, passive aggressive, or outright rude.
The problem, I think, is that some people have a hard time seeing work that takes place at home as, you know, work, rather than a very time consuming hobby. Some people who work at home work remotely for companies (so they have bosses, a schedule, and coworkers, even if they don’t see them often), while others are freelancers or otherwise self-employed. This latter category faces an especially grating brand of passive aggressive snark from others, who assume that not having a traditional full-time job means that these people don’t work. The truth is, freelancers and other self-employed people do work; in fact, they tend to work A LOT — because making a living without job security or benefits? It ain’t easy.
If you work from home, you may recognize some of these sentiments as ones you're tired of hearing from friends, family, and complete strangers. If you work in an office, just remind yourself that your working-from-home brethren aren’t so different from you: Regardless of where they are, they’re still working.
1. “I’m so jealous of all the free time you must have.”
Why would you assume that someone who works from home isn’t doing anything? Did you not notice that “working” is the very first word in the phrase “working from home"?
2. “It must be nice to get to work in your pajamas!”
Not everyone who works at home is wearing sweat pants all the time. OK, sure, I’m wearing sweat pants right now, but, geez, you don’t have to keep commenting on it all the time.
3. “You must get so much housework done during the day!”
People who work at home aren’t secretly vacuuming all day. They’re working.
4. “So, since you’re at home, can you watch my kids/take care of my dog/do other stuff for me?”
You wouldn’t ask a friend who works in an office to babysit your kid while he or she is at work, would you? At-home workers are “at work,” too; the fact that they have a couch and a bedroom and a kitchen in their office doesn’t mean that they suddenly have tons of free time.
5. “I’m jealous that you get work whenever you want!”
Having a flexible schedule is really great in a lot of ways, but it can also be difficult because, if you don’t have set hours of when you start and stop work, then you can find yourself in a position in which you never stop working. When you work without set deadlines and schedule, you’ll find yourself feeling like you should be working all the time — including at night and on the weekends. (This is why it's so important to make a schedule for yourself if you work at home.)
(Also, I should note that not everyone who works at home has a flexible schedule. Plenty of people who work remotely have set working hours).
6. “I wish that I could watch TV all day.”
Er, so do I. Too bad I’m too busy working.
7. “I could never handle being alone all day. I’d go crazy!”
It’s true that working from home can be isolating, and it’s a way of working that certainly isn’t right for everyone. But for some people, working at home enables them to concentrate more and get more done than they would in an office surrounded by coworkers.
8. “It must be so stressful not having a steady paycheck!”
You shouldn’t assume to know what another person’s financial situation is like. People who freelance or who are self-employed may not have the same pay structure as those in traditional full time jobs, but, chances are, they have multiple streams of income happening at once. And, besides, it’s generally not polite to comment on other people’s finances, regardless of the type of work they do.
9. “So have you thought about getting a real job?”
Nope. Just don’t ask this question ever. People who work at home aren’t doing “imaginary” jobs. If they were, I would be currently be working as a unicorn wrangler.