There is a lot to love about working from home: The commute from my living room to my desk takes about 2.5 seconds (3 seconds if there’s traffic, aka, my dog is in my way); I can wear whatever I want; I don’t have to deal with office politics; and I can work from anywhere—home, coffee shops, even the beach. (In this fantasy, I live near a beach and not a frozen wasteland.) There is also significant evidence that allowing employees to work from home benefits employers: a 2014 study by Nicholas Bloom and John Roberts of Stanford University that compared the work patterns of at-home workers and office works at a large Chinese travel agency found that employees who worked from home experienced increased productivity and job satisfaction, and the employee turnover rate decreased by half. So it’s a win-win for everybody, right?
One thing that is particularly interesting about the Stanford study is that, once the period of the study was over, half of the at-home workers went back to work at the office, a result indicating that although working from home can be wonderful, it’s definitely not for everyone, and even people who like working remotely will have trouble with it from time to time. If you’ve never worked from home, you might be thinking, “What are you whining about? What could possibly be better than working on your couch, eating cold pizza in your pajamas in the middle of the day??” While these are great facets of the at-home office, working from home can have some serious and unexpected effects on one’s work life, social life, love life, and sartorial life (that’s a thing, right?). Read on to learn about the challenges we at-home workers face every day.
1. You never wear real clothes
This is one of the many aspects of working from home that is both a curse and a blessing. On the one hand, being able to wear sweats to work is amazing; you never have to get up early to put on makeup or style your hair or really do anything except caffeinate. On the other hand, it’s really easy to feel like a complete slob in this routine. One day you’ll be doing laundry and notice that you haven’t washed a pair of jeans (or any other kind of real pants) for two weeks. You’ll realize that it’s because you now only ever wear sweat pants, yoga pants, and pajama pants, and then feel weird about the fact that you apparently only wear clothes with elastic waistbands. (If you’re trying to spice up your working from home wardrobe, check out the excellent advice here and here).
2. There is no separation between work and home
One nice thing about working from home is that you’re not limited to working in a sad little cubicle. But after a while, you’ll find that when your home is also your workplace, it can be all too easy to never really stop working. Working successfully at home requires a clear delineation of “work” and “home” areas in your house or apartment. Otherwise, you risk getting into bed at night and feeling like you’re still at the office.
3. It’s harder to communicate with your coworkers
Working remotely carries with it the danger of miscommunications between you and your coworkers and supervisors. There are lots of little misunderstandings that can occur when you don’t have the benefit of body language, facial expression, and tone of voice to help you figure out other people’s meaning. The key to successful working relationships while working remotely is to take advantage of all of the modes of communication that are available: G-chat, Skype, Google Hangouts, and even old-fashioned phone calls.
4. Your dog doesn’t realize you’re working
You might be thinking, "Who wouldn’t want to have a pet at work if they could?" You’re right that it can be really nice to have your pet on hand when you’re working, but it can also be really difficult to explain to a canine, “Mommy can’t play with you between the hours of 9 and 5, so go be quiet and pretend I’m not here, m’kay?” At least in my case, my pup assumes that if I’m within 20 feet of her, my sole purpose in life is to give her all the attention. RIGHT NOW.
5. You never leave the house. No, seriously. Especially in winter.
When you don’t have to leave your home to go to work, it’s easy to find yourself living like a hermit and never leaving at all. When you do come out of your cave, you feel like you’re emerging into a strange dystopian future, in which everything is louder, brighter, and crazier than before.
6. It’s lonely
This is probably the most difficult aspect of working from home: it can just be really isolating. When you work at home by yourself every day, you may find yourself missing simply being around other people. For a lot of people, the office is a major social outlet. When that outlet is gone, you have to work particularly hard to develop your social life outside of work.
7. When you do talk to people, you are an insane chatterbox
When you’re hanging out by yourself all day, and then you finally get to see a real, live human being, it’s hard not to act like a socially inept, blabbering crazy person. You’ve bottled up all your deep thoughts throughout the day, and now you’re gonna pour them all over whomever happens to cross your path first. This is an especially difficult issue if you live with a roommate or romantic partner who works at an office. He or she comes home from a long day and wants to sit and be quiet, and all you can think is, “Oh my God, I’ve been waiting for you for so long let me tell you ALL THE THINGS.”
8. You’re less likely to be promoted
The Stanford study mentioned above found that although at-home workers are generally happier and more productive than office workers, there is one major downside to working remotely: One’s chance for promotion based on performance decreases dramatically (by as much as 50 percent) when he or she works from home. The Stanford researchers suggest that the reason for this decline “is that home-based employees are ‘out of sight, out of mind’. As a result supervisors did not notice their performance and qualifications as much and were less likely to promote them.”
9. It can be tough on relationships
Working from home can be hard on romantic relationships when both partners work from home and when only one does. If you and your partner live together and you both work from home, that is a lot of together time, even for couples that like being attached at the hip. When you’re constantly in each other’s faces—during work and leisure hours—it’s really easy for the relationship to simply burn out. If only one of you works from home, it can still be tough, because you and your partner may struggle to stay on the same page. At the end of the day, your partner gets home and thinks “Thank God I’m home. I can’t wait to put on my sweat pants and crash on the couch for the rest of the night,” when at the very same moment you’re thinking, “Thank God I’m done working. Let’s go oooouuuttt! I haven’t seen the world in so goddamn long.”
Images: Fabio Bruna/Flickr; Giphy (6).