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The pitfalls of working from home

It’s a rare employee who hasn’t dreamed of the relative luxury of working from home. And although there are many benefits, from ditching the killer commute to having more control over your work schedule, there are also a number of pitfalls that most who work from home — whether they are telecommuting or self-employed — can fall victim to.

“As co-owner of a home-based business, I have discovered the relative utopia that often comes with being an entrepreneur: job satisfaction, the reward of earning a living doing something that I enjoy and extreme flexibility when it comes to my time.” said Geof Kaufman, who owns the marketing firm, Neighborly Greetings, with his wife, Heidi. “Contrarily, I am also in a trap that I set for myself by working out of my own house — I never get to leave work.”

Separating work from home

This is probably the top pitfall for business owners and others who work from home: striking a balance between work, home, and family.

“I am constantly fighting the lack of separation between my work and home life,” said Geoff Woodburn, owner of Woodburn Designs. Currently everything is lumped together. If I am home I feel like I should be working, if I am working I feel like I should be with my family.”

“Often there is a lack of balance in life when you work from home,” said Valerie Brenneman, co-owner of EZ Fruit and Veg, which represents Juice Plus nutritional supplements. “It is not as easy to compartmentalize which activity is most important at which time. They all seem to be nagging at you to do them… and the list just keeps growing.”

“An at-home office can mean that family and personal matters can become distractions to business or that business can intrude upon family,” said Sandy Scott, independent Pre-Paid Legal representative. “It is a challenge to discern daily, hourly and even minute by minute what should take priority at that time.”

“It is important to forget about business from time to time, but almost impossible when it is lying beside me at any given hour of the day,” said Kaufman. “Between the calendar and white board hanging on the wall, and the various documents, books, binders and other business items in plain sight, I find myself thinking about business in some form or another almost non-stop. My wife and I must literally leave our home to leave work.”

And it’s not just the challenges of leaving work behind at the end of the day. It can be all too tempting to tackle home-related projects during the day when work-at-home professionals should be, well, working.

“Housework and errands are my biggest pitfalls,” said Chantel Zettel of Woxland Insurance. “When I’m doing them, I feel like I should be at work. And when I’m at work, all I can think of are the million little things that I could be doing around the house or what to make for dinner.”

“Most errands need to be run during the day when other businesses are open,” said Brenneman, “so when to actually set aside time for my home business?”

Lack of “official” work space

Adding to the difficulty of separating work from home for many work-from-home professionals is the lack of a separate space that is only workspace.

“I work in an upstairs loft that doesn’t have full length walls so all day I hear Sesame Street, Barney, etc,” said Woodburn. “Due to this I constantly have to run into a separate room to answer business calls so that my clients don’t hear cartoons in the background.”

Even professionals who are lucky enough to have a room with a door that serves as an office must combine this “business” space with personal use, from using the room as a guest room to having to schedule time for the kids to use the computer for their homework.

“I have a home office and a separate room that serves as a supply and staging area for our community welcome service, I also use these spaces for non-work related purposes,” said Kaufman. “I check my e-mail and work on a book on the computer in my office, as well as care for our pets whose enclosures reside in the room.”

Home office challenges also include a lack of appropriate space with which to meet clients, and the restrictions a home office puts on expansion.

“It would be very tough to fit more than just myself in my home office,” said Woodburn.

Not being taken seriously

Business owners who own a home-based business are all too familiar with their business endeavors being treated as less than professional — and not just by potential clients and colleagues. Family members can be some of the worst offenders in this regard.

“Not being taken seriously by family and friends,” is a huge pitfall, said Woodburn.

“Home based businesses rarely are taken seriously,” agreed Brenneman.

 Isolation

Although we all go to work to perform our jobs and earn a living, there is an undeniable social aspect to an office environment. The work-from-home professional rarely has co-workers to socialize with on a regular basis, which can create a stinging sense of isolation.

“A feeling of isolation often sets in when my wife and daughter are out of the house for long periods of time,” said Woodburn.

Combating some of these work-from-home pitfalls, such as balancing work and home life and making sure to schedule adult, in-person interactions to prevent feeling isolated, is not complicated, but simply requires discipline. Some pitfalls, such as a lack of dedicated office space, are harder to overcome. But it’s a rare professional who has chosen to work from home who sees these pitfalls as insurmountable barriers. For them, the benefits of running a home-based business far outweigh the burdens.

“I’m afraid I really did not have too many pitfalls,” said Scott. “I could give you quite a handful [of benefits]: no commute, no hurry to get dressed up, work from outside on sunny days, availability for family, flexible schedule, and on and on.”.

 
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