If there is one thing we know to be true in this crushing and soulless world of work we live in, I think we can all agree that the chance to work from home is a millennial’s dream: a chance to be fully functioning adults but in a way we are comfortable with (emphasis on the comfortable part). With the benefit of working from home, we can be gainfully employed as all our parents hoped we would be, but we don’t have to deal with the excruciatingly mundane parts of life that generations before us slogged through – terrible commutes, annoying coworkers, dress pants. Working from home represents the best of both worlds – we get to make money and we don’t have the leave the house. Win. Win.
As a thirty-something millennial, working from home was a career dream of mine – on the same level as earning six figures and accruing enough vacation time to take an actual vacation. When I left my corporate job to start my own business, I was finally able to achieve one of these three goals: working from home.
Now I am a year and a few months into my work-from-home life and I have to say, it’s not exactly what I imagined. That’s not to say I don’t love it – I do. It’s still way better than working in an office. But there are some things I wish I had known, or I had taken more seriously, before I jumped in with both feet. So, I am here to share with you what no one told me about working from home, or they did and I ignored them because the prospect of working from home was too sweet to be tainted by their negativity. Hopefully these unspoken realities will help you better prioritize your career dreams and/or better prepare you for making your work-from-home dream a reality.
Your office job may actually be BETTER for your health than working from home.
Two things I failed to realize about working from home that should have been pretty obvious – the snacks are bottomless and you don’t have to walk very far to get to them. Soon after I started working from home, I started gaining weight for what I thought was a totally unknown reason (it couldn’t possibly be all the tacos I eat – the tacos wouldn’t betray me like that). I had always considered my office job to be pretty sedentary but working from home is MORE sedentary. While working in an office, I averaged about 5,000 steps a day. Now that I am at home, I am down to 2,000 steps on a good day. I guess those extra 3,000 steps were critical to keeping me comfortable in my jeans…
Keep an eye on your spending.
When living/working 24/7 in the same place, you start realizing all of the ways that place could be better. After a month at home, I realized we really needed new throw pillows. And we also really needed a table for the patio so I could work outside when the weather was nice. And we needed a new toaster because how am I supposed to start my day with unevenly toasted toast? All of these things were only “obvious” to me because I was spending all day in my house and I eventually noticed that my spending on non-essentials was higher than in the previous months when I worked outside the house. Fortunately, after a few months of abnormally high credit card bills and a somewhat unhappy husband, I realized what I was doing and became more self-aware of my online shopping during the day.
If you’re a natural introvert, working from home will make socializing that much harder.
I am a hermit at heart and if I don’t have to interact with people, I usually choose not to. But I didn’t realize how my natural reclusive tendencies could be detrimental to my overall mental health until I started working alone in my home five days a week. When I used to get my daily dose of social interaction with people other than my dog, socializing was just a little easier. Now, I actually have to make a point of scheduling social time with friends and colleagues, and I have to push myself out of my comfort zone to meet new people – they don’t just come to me anymore (except for those annoying door-to-door salesmen, which are apparently still a thing in 2019). This has been a real challenge for me but I’m working on it. I joined a few professional organizations, I started to volunteer, and I set aside two days a week for social lunches. My dog misses me but she has to live her life too.
Office life is better for collaboration.
One thing that I truly miss about office life, and it may be the only thing, is the opportunity to collaborate. I’ve been able to adapt and adjust to the other unexpected realities of working from home, but the collaborative nature of office work is something I haven’t been able to replace. People have suggested that I leverage coworking spaces as a way to build that collaboration back into my life. But I don’t know that coworking spaces can really replace the beauty of spontaneous brainstorming with my coworkers that took place in doorways, in the car on the way to lunch, or in my office on Monday mornings. I really miss that. I guess you never know what you have until it’s gone.
After more than a year of doing it, working from home is as awesome as I once dreamed it would be, even if it poses some interesting and unexpected challenges. I think that working from home is not only a great perk but I truly believe that it allows me to be more productive, more efficient, and more balanced, which is worth the extra effort I have to make to socialize and the extra self-discipline I have to harness when it comes to online shopping.
For those of you who work from home, what unexpected challenges or perks have you noticed? For those of you who are dreaming of a work-from-home life, what questions do you have?
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