Working from home: experiences?

I currently work for a telefundraising company based in Melbourne, and I attend work four days per week at 9.00am until 7.00pm (approximately). I’ve been there for years and, whilst I mostly enjoy the workplace environment, there are times that the daily commute (3 hours) and some of the work politics/boredom give me the shits to be perfectly honest!

The other three days I live in a more rural clime with my partner on a farm. He is ‘employed’ as a caretaker/farmhand in return for a self-contained cottage on the property. It’s a beautiful part of the world, especially at this time of the year, and come Monday morning when I am due to return back to the city and work…well, the reluctance is quite marked I must say!

Logging into one of the employment websites last night, I found an ‘employment opportunity’ with a home-based telefundraising organisation. They offer a reasonable base rate of pay, and only require a committment of at least 15 hours per week (I’d be prepared to take on a minimum of 30 hours) plus superannuation and all the other stuff that being a casual employee entitles one to. I could be based in the bush and continue to earn a decent living!

Questions for you folks: does anybody work from home entirely under their own jurisdiction…and how do you handle the self-discipline needed to fulfill the hours and requirements of the employer? Are there any major problems to be overcome, and what are the benefits that you’ve found. Do you get bored without the interaction of other staff, or does the liberation from having to ‘deal’ with all the petty shit that goes on in the office make it all worthwhile?

Opinions, please.

I am a FileMaker developer. I love my work and I love not having to be in an office, especially since the company is the type of company that is into company picnics, company tee shirts, the our-company way of telling time (I kid you not… they probably have a company song), … I just deal with the end users remotely and confer occasionally with supervisory folk to let them know what I’ve done and hear from them their priorities.

The biggest challenges are keeping home and work sufficiently walled off from each other and not being “on call” for work-related stuff 24 x 7. I actually have my own studio, whereas in everyday life I have moved in with my girlfriend, so I actually commute to my studio to do my job, thus keeping a workspace separate from a homespace. That helps a LOT.

I would not like your job, but that’s just me; I’d rather clean public toilets with my tongue than do telephone solicitations, even for a good cause. Do you like what you do? Because if you don’t, then some of your concerns about blowing off work and not being disciplined & responsible are probably well-founded.

I am working from home now and have done so in the past. I like it and have no problems putting my time in, but I do have an advantage of being able to do my job at any time of the day. So if I get bored or tired, I can take a nap and come back and no one will care.

I have found that I now work out more, because I spend less time on the road going to work.

I live alone though and find that I must get out a few times a week just for human interaction. I like the flexibility, but I do need to see people.

I have worked in a typical office all my life, but in six months I will be moving to a rural location 1,500 miles away. This wil be the first time I have worked from a home office, and while I mainly work with outside vendors, there will be lots of main office conference calls I will be attending. My company is forward thinking and believes in telecommuting and will provide me with whatever technology I need to do my job, so that’s not the issue.

The issue is that when I am “working from home”, which I do every now and again, I have to deal with distractions that I don’t have in the office. There’s the obvious refrigerator and TV, and of course there’s the wife who will call on me to do stuff that she would normally handle herself. And since we are building a house in the woods there will also be constant temptation to go out and play.

The bottom line is that I will have a separate office space in the house, and it isn’t particularly close to where the distractions are, and hopefully I will be able to focus on my work for most of the day. If I need a break I can walk outside for some fresh air, but since I am still too young to retire I need to stay focused on my work. I feel very fortunate that my company is willing to let me relocate to someplace I want to live that is so far away from the office.

As someone self-employed, my working from home experience is probably very different from those who work for someone else from home, but I do have some experience in the self-discipline needed.

I have set hours and/or set goals for each workday. Sometimes these are not the same thing. I may be working on a specific project that only takes me half a day, so I let myself off early if I get it done. Or I may have no deadlines on the horizon, in which case I plan to work for X hours (this is often prep stuff, admin stuff, or mindless production work, rather than design time).

Advantages are that I can set my own hours (something that may not be entirely workable for you - I can choose to work from 9PM until 2AM, or put my hours in one at a time between three-hour breaks if that happens to fit my day); I can work in my jammies; I have more move-around freedom and can putz around in the kitchen or online. It’s a much less scheduled day, and I don’t have too many distractions/interruptions, because everyone else who lives here is at work or school during my work hours. I’m available for my in-laws (who are elderly and in somewhat fragile health) if they need me. I detest the non-work, non-productive, administrative nonsense that comes with co-workers - meetings, committees, votes, birthday luncheons, message taking, etc. so for me, working solo is a HUGE advantage.

Disadvantages are that some days, I just don’t WANNA - and since no one’s standing over me, I don’t HAFTA. It’s easy to rationalize a million excuses not to work, so you need a plan to boss yourself back to work. As I said, I don’t miss the social interaction stuff - my social stuff is purely SOCIAL now, with no business strings - but I do occasionally miss brainstorming on some projects. A fresh pair of eyeballs on a problem would be very helpful every now and then. And, because I am pretty flexible in my scheduling, sometimes people don’t get that I am WORKING here, so they have no compunction about trying to infringe (“Well, you’re not doing anything during the day…”)

I’ve been doing transcription from home for several years. It’s something most anyone can do with some training – I can’t stress enough that it’s not something you can just start doing out of the blue, it’s more complicated than that – anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is trying to sell you something/fooling you. But it can be done and there’s a lot of people working from home like this. Mostly the transcription business is full of mommies with children needing at home work.

Working from home means that you are your own taskmaster. As has been pointed out earlier, this is not always so easy when there are so many temptations – distractions such as TV, pets, books, etc. You must really have a lot of self-discipline, especially when the weather is nice and you’d rather be doing anything rather than working inside.

There’s also an unfortunate tendency for other people to overlook the fact that you are working from home. They will ask you to run errands or do things for them during your working time. If you share a house with people they may tend to leave more of the housekeeping duties to you. All this is because “since you’re home” people assume you have time and inclination to do more of these things. You must be sure that people know your time is work time and that they must respect your need to that time to make your living.

If you’re not careful you will isolate yourself from the rest of humanity. This is especially true if you work second or third shift and/or weekends; you are busy when the rest of the world is socializing with others and you are sleeping when they’re awake and etc. While all too often hell is other people you need to be sure you’re not totally removed from interaction.

There are positive parts to telecommuting/working from home. You can save a fortune on commuting costs. You don’t need work clothes and can be in your jammies if you wish. You can often work your hours to the benefit of your personal scheduling and your internal time clock. You don’t necessarily HAVE to punch a time clock, even. It’s very cool to be able to structure your life to suit yourself. Want time to play in a band, write that novel you’ve always had in you, learn something new? It’s easier when work is more flexible.

Good luck!

I have tried and can’t really do it, I have too many hobbies that distract me.
Also, be careful of the company that wants to hire you to work at home. Those sorts of businesses seem to very often be fradulent.

I used to do freelance graphic design from home.

Pros: Flexibility, freedom, work naked, make your own hours, etc. Best of all, no meetings!

Cons: Have to self motivate, much easier to get distracted, if you work for yourself the taxes are more complicated and you have to worry about billing, and it takes longer to get paid. A lot of these obviously don’t have benefits.

Also, if you are doing some random ‘work from home’ opportunity it’s really important to do a background check. A lot of these are scams. Definitely don’t go for any that require you to buy materials or spend your own money for anything. Best of course is to find one through someone you know, or that is very well known.

Not clicking on the Straight Dope when I should be working is one of the most difficult aspects of working at home.

Kids make it hard to work at home - my son gets home from school at 2 in the afternoon, and doesn’t really understand that I am not available for him if I’m in the house working. I have to remind him to leave me alone a lot, which makes me feel bad.

Friends who are not employed also don’t quite get that I’m not free for lengthy mid-day phone calls.

Despite those challenges, I LOVE working at home. No need to dress up, I can get dinner started while I’m working, and I have much more space here than I would at the office.

Also, I do have to go to the office from time to time - I make a point of spending about 2 mornings a week there just to do some face time. If I had no office or co-workers at all, I’d probably miss that somewhat.

I telecommute because of health issues.

I have a workspace set up though when I am having a particular bad day I work from my bed with my laptop set up on a hospital table. My workspace is in the bedroom.

I work the same hours as when I was still in the office - though I will tend to log in up to an hour early and frequently work up to an hour after [the time i would normally have been driving my commute back when i went in to the office.] I tend to put on one of the music playing channels [classical, jazz, swing, rock or electronica, whatever i am in the mood for.] My roomie knows that I am at work and other than bringing me the mail when it arrives leaves me alone. My cat likes to curl up on the bed and purr at me but otherwise leave me alone.

They prefer that I work the same hours my department is open because I am sort of a specialist and work several projects at a time, and need to be available for quick emergency help. mrAru and I have been considering trying to convince them I dont actually need to come in once a month, and that we could move to Nevada which would place me in the same time zone as my main vendor contact …because one of my supervisors now commutes from Tucson…

Thanks for all your input/suggestions folks. The job (which I have now applied for) isn’t really the sort where you can ‘waste’ time doing other stuff I gather: being basically an outbound caller, the minutes and hours will be pre-ordained and monitored quite closely.

I guess I was more worried that a lack of physical human interaction might become tiresome after a while…but after this week at work, I’ve decided that the less I have to do with the rest of my species, the better. :smiley:

So, I’ve applied online and am awaiting a human phone-call/interview now for the next stage. I have no worries that I will get the job, being more than amply qualified to be a professional beggar afterall, heh.

I worked from home quite a lot in one of my previous roles. The only drawback I found was that I could only claim 7 hours per day and often did far more. It is just so easy to get up and dive straight in to work, my breaks tended to be shorter and I would work later. It just seems so easy to get caught up in the flow of productivity and forget yourself.

Yeah, actually I do, and as the years go on I am getting more and more pissed-off about such questions.

I know that telemarketers are about five rungs down from politicians and used-car salesmen, and I know that people on messageboards whinge and moan about calls from people like me, but, y’know, most people I speak to on the phone are really nice folk, and they give me the time of day and the chance to spin my schpiel. And once in every four calls, those anonymous callers, who don’t really know me from a slab of shit, offer to donate to the cause I am touting. And if they are one of the other three, they apologise for not being able to, for whatever reason.

I like what I do, raising money for charities and stuff. Is there some inherent ethical problem that you have?

Here in the USA since telephone company deregulation made long-distance phone calls cheap, many people have decided to try and making a living selling to people through unsolicited phone calls. So much so that the US government made a “Do Not Call” registry that telemarketers are required to honor. Many of these telemarketers are scam artists. I don’t get too many fundraising calls, but if I did I’d be suspicious.

I didn’t mean to imply that the work is necessarily reprehensible. Just that I, personally, would detest doing it. There are people who would rather clean horse stables than spend all day in front of a computer dealing with data structures, yet I love db design.

In 2004, I did volunteer get-out-the-vote calling for the elections. It was a good cause. The people were mostly nice. I absolutely hated it.

My question was relevant in this thread not because of what you do, as such, but that if you really like what you do, doing it from home will probably not create opportunities to slack off / not require spectacular degrees of responsible shoulders-to-wheel to actually get your work done. Whereas if you don’t, it could be a different story.

My aside (“I myself would hate your job, would rather lick toilets”) was admittedly not relevant, I suppose.

I work from home two days a week. No worries on discipline. I like my job and I make sure I bring enough home to keep me busy. Not that my boss is that picky. She frequently has to tell me to go home. Or ‘go home’.

Benefits are that it’s 100+ miles to the office. Working from home means I save money in gas. (Not to mention the environmental aspects, and less exposure to idiot drivers – I had a thread a few weeks ago where I was rear-ended in a chain collision twice on the two days I drove that week.) I also get to sleep an extra hour and a quarter. And have good coffee.

Another benefit is that I don’t have to waste time listening to my coworker. It’s taken me about ten minutes to type this so far because she’s talking to me. She’s nice, but I want to work first thing in the morning. (As I should be doing now, but I just have to write a little bit of code.)

The downside is that I don’t get outdoors. When I’m at the office I take a 20-minute break in the afternoon and walk about a mile. When I’m at home I get absorbed in my work and don’t get out. And yes, I do like to work in the office. Although I don’t like long intervals of chit-chat, it’s nice to exchange a few sentences. Besides, my office is in Belltown, which is a funky-cool area of Seattle. Finally, I have to work over a VPN connection. It’s very slow. My home connection is very fast, but the work one isn’t. Add in the VPN communications and it gets a bit pokey.

I’d like to have one more telecommuting day. I still want to come into the office, but telecommuting Monday, Wednesday and Friday would be nice.

I have been working from home for just over a year now, so I can give you a relative newcomers perspective:

Overall it is great, and it is difficult to consider going back to “corporate life” (or “Dilbert life” as it were). The biggest advantages are:

  • no commute
  • great flexibility (at least in what I do - software engineering). I do need to visit customer sites when needed, and need to be on conference calls. But as far as pounding out code, I can do that whenever I feel like it. This may not be the case for all who telecommute, though.

It was a bit difficult to try to adhere to an “8 to 5” kind of schedule, so over time I modified the schedule for what works best for me. I typically work solid in the mornings. But then after lunch I take time to do other things. I pick up again in the late afternoon, and for a couple more hours after dinner. Aside from breaking up the day, for what I do, I have found that “stepping away” gives me new perspectives on problems (whereas staring at the screen all day can lead to frustration). So overall it is helpful. Plus I get to run errands and do things when other people aren’t - things like going to the post office are no longer dreaded, since I can hit it at a slow time of day.

The only downsides that I have come across:

  • lack of interaction with others. I live alone (except my parrot), and I can go days sometimes when I don’t really talk to another person. So I tend to e-mail a lot, and post on message boards :wink: I also try to go to “alternative offices”: the library, the coffee place with wireless just to see other people. I also have another friend who works from home. So we sometimes arrange “study group” where we get together and work. It’s kind of like sharing a cube with someone on another project. It is also useful to bounce ideas off each other, and of course, just having some company.
  • cabin fever. Kind of along the same lines as not seeing people, I notice that I can go days without ever leaving the house. So you get a little tired of no change in scenery. I end up either going to the “alternate offices”, or making excuses to run errands just to get out of the house for a bit. Going to the gym is a great excuse, and I am more fit as well !
  • less physical activity. Again tied in with living/working in the same place, I found that I was getting a bit too sedentary - like for days at a stretch. Although it may not be much, when you work in a building there’s going to other’s offices, going to meetings, going to the bathroom to at least get you moving a bit. Working at home makes you feel like an invalid at times - you simply don’t need to move about all that much. So on days I don’t go to the gym, I make sure I get an hour’s walk in at some point.

For me, the pro’s far outweigh the cons. But I don’t think it is for everybody. And it does require some discipline.

Hope this helps.

I have become lazy, and am not working full days - but that isn’t too bad because the truth is, I’m not being paid by anyone right now. All my work is for me or is being done as a favor for a friend (e.g. software to print contracts for a friend who is a DJ. That work is free, unless I need DJ work and then it will be a swap.)

I am expecting to get some “real” work sometime soon and will be interested to see if my discipline will return. (Well, it better.) Soon is relative though. it could be as early as Oct, or as late as Nov.

I must apologise for being so snarky last night AHunter3. It was unnecessary of me to bite back like I did. Had a shit day at the office. :smiley:

I’m now damned sure that my decision to work from home is the right one.

I’ve been working from home for about 8 years now. The first two or three years, I worked from my business partner’s home with the two of us in the same room. Then I worked from my parents’ home for a few years when I lived there.

Once my dad retired, I pretty much could not stand working from home because he watched TV all day (mostly news - urgh!) and my office was right off the family room. Plus, my mom got home from work around 3 or 4 and there was a lot of conversation around me and with me (all that “I don’t want to bother you but…”)

So I bought my own house and set up my own office, and spend most days working in complete silence and I LOVE IT!

I’ve never had a problem with discipline. I probably work harder/steadier than most people in a cube farm because there’s no one there to distract me. I don’t “hear the couch calling” or find myself about to burst at the seams because I need to go outside. I work very regularly from 9-5. Once it’s a routine, it’s easy as pie.

The absolute hardest thing to do when you work at home isn’t to train YOURSELF it’s to train OTHERS that when you are at home from 9-5 you are working. I don’t care if I am surfing the Dope while waiting for an email, or playing a game of solitaire, this is my WORK TIME and I do not want to be bothered. People stop by and call all the time and it drives me nuts.

I mean, I can obviously take time out of my day to do whatever but I don’t usually want to. My business revolves around me and my 2 partners. If I am not “here” then 1/3 of the company is gone. So I just do not want to chit-chat during the day or take days off or anything. It’s taken a loooong time to get that through people’s heads…and it still seems like they have problems with it.

Anyway, you won’t have problems working from home. It’s getting everyone to leave you the fuck alone that is the problem.

Then again, that turns into a little stir-craziness, yes. But oh well, you work in your jammies! :smiley: