I was feeling damn good about myself that evening at the restaurant. Mr. H and I escaped our shared home office and embarked on a date night. We left our business behind, put some pants on, and went out to dinner. In the restaurant bathroom, I looked at myself in the mirror and noticed a couple of—shall we say—issues.
A generous speck of chocolate was on the bottom of my chin. I legitimately worried that it was cat poo since I am now an official caretaker of my 17-year-old cat, Panda, and I discover cat “presents” on my clothes on the regular.
No, I did not do the taste test to confirm chocolate vs. cat poo. I was satisfied with the memory of scarfing down a row from a chocolate bar earlier that day, deeply caffeinated while working on content in my drafty office.
My hair was mostly presentable for a change, but my sweater was not. If you must know, it was on inside out.
My sweater felt funny throughout dinner and I couldn’t figure it out. One look in that public mirror was all it took to realize my work-from-home wardrobe malfunction. Thankfully, it wasn’t my pants. Which yes, I’ve worn my pants both inside out and backwards before as well.
Rarely looking in the mirror is just one of many occupational hazards I have experienced while working from home. Green smoothie in my teeth, cat vomit on my sock, oatmeal in my hair…been there, done that.
Since so many of you around the world have been working remotely over the past year, whether you wanted to or not, I know you feel me on the absurdities, realities, and surprises we face by working exclusively in a home environment.
I’ve been working from home by design for a loooooooong time. Part-time from 2014-2017 in my content marketing jobs and full-time since 2018 with my business, Superneat Marketing.
My work-from-home lifestyle stretches back even further in time to 2009 when I started writing my first novel, Beneath the Satin Gloves. And, in 2012, my home productivity skyrocketed when I started this blog.
My creative work all happened in my spare time when I was at home. That time period, before working from home was cool, was when I learned so much about discipline and focus. Nobody is standing over your shoulder making you write 10,000 words for your novel on a Sunday. If you can do that, bravo.
Over the past decade or so, I’ve discovered several pros and cons of working from home that are oddly interchangeable.
Even if you are not working from home “by design” or by choice, I think it’s helpful to take a step back to assess your work-from-home lifestyle so you can figure out where there are imbalances that need to be rebalanced but also to appreciate the good things (and comical moments) you have going for you at home.
Pros of Working From Home
There are many pros when you’re working from home, but I like the idea of bucketizing pros into time, focus, and balance.
Commute time is HUGE. I first came into the workforce at the age of 17 whilst living in Southern California, which meant sitting in an hour of traffic to and from work every single day. Later I lived in Dallas, which was slightly better, but there is still plenty of traffic and everything is super spread out.
Think about two hours a day, five days a week over the course of a year. The commute alone is such a time and energy suck. We all know this, we’ve all been through it, and we’ve all seen how much more time we gained back in our day by ditching long arduous commutes.
Refocusing after just one interruption can take up to 23 minutes. Think about how just one interruption can take you 23 minutes to bounce back to whatever it is you were doing.
There are significantly fewer disturbances at home than in the office. I worked in open-concept offices for many years. As a writer and an introvert, this is a tough environment for me. Writing is obviously one of those high-focused tasks that must be done in solitude. At home, you experience fewer distractions…for the most part. More on that below in the cons section.
More power and flexibility to run your day your way is a big pro when you’re working from home. If you want to work out midmorning instead of squeezing one in before work at 5am, you totally can. Want to take yourself out to lunch on Friday because you had a kickass week? You can do that too.
No need to overexplain this one. You certainly have the option to incorporate more balance in your life when you’re working from home, because you have more autonomy and flexibility.
Cons of Working From Home
For the cons of working from home…no, these category names below are not typos and you’re not seeing double. I am purposely using the same buckets of time, focus, and balance because the pros and the cons are blurred together, just as everything is blurred together when you’re working from home.
If we suddenly have gained time by not commuting to and from the office, why in the hell do we feel busier than ever before? Why do we still feel like there are not enough hours in the day to get things done? (Guilty woman, right here.)
I think it’s because we’re always “on” and more connected by digital communication, which all results in yet another big time and energy suck. It’s damn near impossible to turn anything off now. We’re doing everything at home, where we have surrounded ourselves with digital devices to be able to participate in the outside world.
You may have laughed at your screen earlier when I talked about “fewer disturbances” in the pros section. Believe me…I know…there are plenty of distractions at home. Everything from kids to partners and pets to laundry.
It’s also difficult to feel productive at home, simply because of the nature of the home environment. Our home is supposed to serve as a sanctuary, rather than serving a dual purpose as a workplace and an actual “home.” Working hard in your cozy home requires a pretty epic mindset switch.
Overall, there is a total lack of separation between your work and home life and that makes work-life balance much trickier to pull off. Relationships with your loved ones becomes way more challenging, especially if they are working from home or homeschooling right alongside you.
The icing on the cake here is the feeling of isolation is heightened when you’re not interacting with other humans like you used to at the office. This lack of human interaction affects your productivity as well as your well-being. So even though you have that flexibility, and the autonomy to run your day your way, that can also be a bad thing when the lines are so blurred and you can’t push the “off” button.
I’m not embarrassed to admit that I dreamed of living out Carrie Bradshaw’s NYC work-from-home life. I always pictured myself writing in my city apartment with a cup of coffee, maybe a beer or glass of wine if work led into the evening, wearing warm socks or enjoying bare feet instead of work clothes. The reality looked a little (okay, a lot) different.
I’m sure a lot of you like-minded souls that romanticized the work-from-home lifestyle discovered this reality very quickly. If we put a film genre on it, working from home is more of a comedy than a romance.
Even after all these years, I have to say, I wouldn’t have it any other way. You won’t find my ass sitting in a shared office chair anytime soon.
Recently on my podcast, Love Your Enthusiasm, I nerded out big time on this work-from-home topic in another solo segment. I usually aim for 15-20 minutes on these solo shows, but this episode ended up being a whopping 35 minutes because I get so worked up about wellness.
Since the pandemic, a lot of work-from-home content has been shared. Much of this WFH how-to content encouraged people to replicate the office environment, including trying to mimic some of the strict rules and routines that really don’t translate at home.
In this episode, I took a different approach that is more focused on bringing health and harmony into your work-from-home lifestyle. I do cover the pros and cons covered here in today’s Britt blog, then I get into nine tips for working from home around 11:30 if you want to fast forward.
I know how wonderful and challenging working at home can be. I hope you find these WFH tips helpful!
P.S. Transcripts are now available for all Love Your Enthusiasm episodes if you need/prefer a written format. Here’s the transcript for this WFH tips solo show.