According to the most recent survey conducted by Global Workplace Analytics, 3.7 million employees – or roughly 2.5 percent of the American workforce – work from home at least half of the time. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says 23 percent of U.S. workers now spend at least some of their time working from home. That’s up from 19 percent in 2003.
Despite the tremendous uptick in those working from home, far too many misconceptions still exist about this structure and format. For those who’ve always worked a traditional 9-5-cubicle job, it just doesn’t make sense. As someone who’s worked entirely from home for the past two years, I’d like to share my thoughts on some of the most common myths and misconceptions I hear perpetuated by those who are unfamiliar with how it works and what it looks like on a daily basis.
“Oh, so you don’t really work.”
People don’t usually verbalize this thought, but you can read it in their eyes when you tell them you work from home. It’s as if any work that’s performed outside of an office can’t possibly be worthwhile. I would actually argue the exact opposite. The majority of people who work from home are self-starters with lots of drive and ambition. This causes many to work longer and harder hours than some 9-5 counterparts who are used to clocking in and out.
“You can’t get anything done in such a relaxed setting.”
The root cause of this belief lies in the fact that corporate America judges productivity by the amount of time you spend sitting in an office chair pecking away at a keyboard. In other words, if you’re in your desk when the boss arrives in the morning and still working when he leaves in the evening, then you’re seen as a hard worker.
In reality, productivity looks much different. It’s based on how effective you are at accomplishing goals and producing results. The truth is that accomplishing goals and producing results can happen anywhere. I spent a month this past summer working from a flat in Paris. I’m currently working in my home office in South Carolina. Honestly, the variance in my output between these two environments has been negligible. In my experience it’s about personal discipline, not your surroundings.
“You have time to do _________.”
The key to being successful and productive while working from home is treating your day no differently than you would if you were in a traditional office. This is where most people get caught up. They assume they can take an hour off and watch TV, run an errand, or take a nap. As soon as you start acting on these desires, you’ll become unproductive.
Lana Winter-Hebert, a freelance writer and designer who works from home, finds it frustrating when other people assume she has a bunch of free time when she works from home.
“Working from home does not mean that one’s schedule is malleable,” she says. “There are often online meetings to attend, deadlines to meet, etc., and it’s no more viable to skip off for an afternoon of frivolity as it would be if mired in an office environment. Sure, sometimes work can be rearranged so that excursions can happen, but those have to be planned well in advance, not just on a whim.”
“Working from home is really lonely.”
While extreme extroverts may not find working from home energizing, it’s a myth that it’s totally lonely and depressing. First off, if you’re spending your time actually working, you won’t have time to notice that you’re alone. Second, modern technology means you’re almost always connected with business partners and clients via Skype, phone, or email.
“Work-life balance must be a breeze.”
It would seem like working from home bridges the gap between your personal life and professional career, thereby improving work-life balance and creating stronger relationships with your family. Be very careful about this, though. You may be surprised to learn that it can have the opposite effect.
With a traditional job, you check out at 5pm and know you’re done until 9am the next morning. When you work from home, there’s always the temptation to slip into the office and get something done. Or, if you’re hanging out in the living room watching TV on the weekend, it’s hard not to feel as if you should be working.
This isn’t to say there are no work-life balance benefits to working from, but don’t assume it’ll completely fix all issues you’re having.
‘Work’ is a Verb
I’m under the impression that work is a verb, not a noun. In other words, work is defined by what you do, not where you do it. While some people won’t be able to thrive in such an unstructured environment, others may be surprised to discover that working from home is the solution to their productivity woes and motivational hindrances.
Next time you’re confronted with an opportunity to work from home – or hear someone else talking about their work-from-home career – don’t be so quick to make assumptions. In this case, reality may be much different than perception.