Amybeth Hale – Research Goddess

The Joys of Working from Home
March 26, 2008, 7:00 am
Filed under: Recruiting, Research, Thoughts

just kidding!I’ve been a telecommuter for coming up on two years now. I absolutely love working from home – I can control my work environment and the nature of what I do requires me to have a quiet workspace, one that was difficult to have in a recruiting office where the recruiters constantly needed to be on the phone. But working from home isn’t for everyone, even though lots of people think that they would love it! There can be a lot of distractions and it is often difficult to separate work life and home life if you’re not careful. 

Fortunately, there aren’t a lot of things to distract me at my home. I’m not married and I don’t have any kids, although I do have a chatty neighbor who, if he catches me outside, will stop me for a 20 minute conversation every time. Sometimes, however, friends or family members call during the day, knowing that I work from home and thinking that I’m fine to stop working for a chat, and then get upset when I can’t talk because I’m actually working. 

I recently asked some other professionals who also work from home to share their thoughts on the topic. Almost everyone agreed that it’s not for everyone, and that it takes discipline to work from home, from dedicating a workspace and ‘office hours’ to being firm with friends and family that working from home is not an invitation for constant interruption.  

Brian Flippinger, a senior staffing consultant for Microsoft, established a rule in his home: “When my office door is closed, I am at work. If it does not have anything to do with fire, major injury, or some other natural disaster, you need to treat it as if I was in another building… My kids (even now that the youngest is 20) still know that if they want to talk to me and my door is closed, they need to call me on my office number, just like in the ‘good old days’ of going to the office.”  

Alan Crawford was a telecommuter for 2 ½ years. He said that while working from home, “I made a point of having clear, fixed office hours that were well known. If something required me to flex, I got permission first. Basically I treated it as though I was working in an office.” 

This is true discipline – however, I do believe there is room for flexibility in this, as does Michelle Stair of Desert Recruiting, LLC. She says, “I don’t have problems with friends, family or neighbors bothering me during the work day. What I have found working from home is that I work even more than I ever did working in an office. However this is to my clients’ advantage because they know they can reach me on a Sunday night just as easily as 7:00 p.m. on a weeknight…” I agree with this as well, as I have let my own coworkers at Waggener Edstrom know that I can be reached via email, IM, or phone pretty much 24/7. Understandably, not everyone wants this kind of access allowed to them, but for some this is an advantage of working from home. 

Another challenge that some people experience in telecommuting is the assumption of friends, family, and neighbors that they can ‘pop in’ unannounced all the time, request you to run errands for them, or have you ‘watch the kids’ since you’re home anyhow. I remember having a conversation with my cousin’s neighbor in Portland, who does medical transcription from home. She has a young daughter who is part of a school carpool, and she was upset because the other parents in the carpool would often try to push their carpool responsibilities on her, citing that she works from home anyhow and couldn’t she be flexible because they have to go to an office.  

Michael Beaty’s mother-in-law, who lived with them for a period of time, had a hard time grasping his work from home policy. He said, “Despite constant reminders that I’m at home to work just as if I was in the office for 8 hours, she continued to interrupt me, come downstairs or stop me while on the way back from the kitchen to chat. I started to wear a headset so I could mime that I was on the phone and avoid the distraction.”  

I thought Sheilah Etheridge’s challenge was amusing, but made a good point: “When I first moved to Anchorage I had a neighbor who thought she and the 11 day care kids she watched would come have coffee. I tried being nice and explaining I work from home and that does not mean I entertain others who are bored. She walked away and said ok I’ll try you tomorrow. I said NO you won’t. The next day she shows up again and that time I was not nice.” She says that as long as you are firm with people about your policy, they will eventually get it.  

Kasthuri Rangan, a talent acquisition director for EFS Services and telecommuter who works in India, says that the perception of what he does is very different there. He says, “Lot of people tend to think that you’re jobless and do nothing but sit in front of the computer and phone all the time. Lot of my friends who work out the office would call me out during my works and I would reject it and they think that I just being fussy. Even my family would say ‘Hey why don’t you join for dinner since your not going for a job.’ Its funny sometimes and its annoying sometimes when people think you are slacking from home.” 

Animals sometimes can cause distraction as well. I have two cats that will sometimes meow when I’m on the phone. Alex Fogel, a field and operations strategy manager for Samsung Electronics, shared a funny incident from his experience working from home: “One of my home offices was in a rural area where neighbors had all manner of animals, including horses, cows, pigs, and worst of all roosters. There was this one wandering rooster that would inevitably decide that my front porch made the perfect roost and he would start crowing at the most inopportune times… such as in the middle of a conference call. The professional environment took a hit a couple of times due to that blasted fowl.”  

I personally don’t have as strict policies as some folks do. If someone calls me I’ll answer the phone, but I let them know that I can’t talk long and I’ll call them back later. I do however think it’s important to have dedicated workspace. I used to live in a place that only had one bedroom, so my office desk was out in the living room. My computer was constantly in my face so when I was home, I felt like I had to be working. Now that I have a room dedicated to work, with a door that can be closed, I can get work out of my face and separate work time from personal time when I need to. I have a friend who used to have his desk in a nook just off his kitchen. He told me that he was constantly distracted by the easy access to everything around him, so he converted one of his extra rooms into an office and says it made a huge difference in his productivity. 

With all the plusses and minuses, I wouldn’t trade working from home for anything. I’m still trying to balance work life and home life. As I love what I do, I often find myself working late in the evening which cuts into my social life. I think if I was a parent it would be easier to do this, however at this point in time it doesn’t bother me as much. Telecommuting is definitely not for everyone – if you’re considering it for yourself, just make sure that you can manage your distractions and get your work done just as you would in the office. I’d highly recommend a dedicated work area, and try as best you can to establish set working hours for yourself (though this is sometimes easier said than done!). If it works for you, you’ll love it!


5 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Hi AB,

I agree working from home is great, but not for everyone. I feel sorry for those who can’t do it. I’ve been at it for 8+ years and I don’t ever want to go back to an office again. The flexibility and autonomy are priceless, esp with kids that need help in the am and getting to/from school.

Great post.

Comment by swilliamson328

I didn’t knbow there was a camera at my home office!!

Comment by Moises

Working from home is great as long as it fetches you money as you expect, else it is really frustrating.

Comment by Devangan

If you can mentally do it, working from home is the way go to. You save countless hours in prepping yourself in less-than-comfortable work clothes (granted, I live in the laid back Pacific Northwest by choice after years of living in big cities),have no miserable commute time, save on gas or public transport fare, get sick A LOT LESS, and get to be productive at all times of the day, if you want.

I love it and cannot imagine ever again working in an office, especially since I deal with Research.

Comment by Suzy T

[…] them for a period of time, had a hard time grasping his work from home policy…. source: The Joys of Working from Home, Amybeth Hale – Research […]

Pingback by The Joys of Working from Home — Mortage Tips and Loans

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