As is true about most of the ills of post-2000 society, I mostly blame Craigslist for the negativity associated with the words “work at home”. I’ve been working from home for over 5 years and I still immediately think, “Scam! Run!” when I see those words online anywhere. But in the non-Craiglist world, working at home can be simultaneously one of the most liberating, fulfilling, and productive ways to be employed, and also one of the most challenging. It also remains woefully misunderstood.
I’m lucky to know a handful of other “home-ployed” who get it, but for everyone else, I find myself constantly battling the same barrage of misconceptions. So here we go … let’s clear up, once and for all, what working at home is and what it is not:
1. We spend a lot of time not working
I’m not saying there was never a time when I would structure my home workday in a haphazard, undisciplined way. Over the years, I realized that the structure of a workday that lends itself best to keeping my energy up and getting a lot done really resembles any away-from-home worker’s day: I get up early (I work best in the morning), shower, dress, pound coffee, put my headphones on, and proceed to dominate. I’m usually in the zone no later than 8:30am, and typically much earlier. What I’m not doing during the day: cleaning (I work all day, friends. I clean all day on Saturday. I like it a lot), napping (even on hangover days), going to super long lunches, watching TV (well, unless Breaking Bad was on the night before, in which case DVR and I have a very important breakfast meeting.) Basically, I work, all day, until I’m done, just like everyone else.
2. We’re gross, pajama-wearing slobs
Okay, I’m not going to pretend this never happens. It does. One of the perks of working at home is that if you’re a little under the weather, or just feeling a bit off, you can elect to take it lazy; you can stay in your pjs, or even work from bed with your laptop cozily on your lap. However, this isn’t the ideal way for maximum productivity, and we have goals and deadlines just like anyone else, so the truth is, we very seldom actually spend a day like that. Much more often, we get showered and dressed in the morning just like anyone else. Even if we don’t have meetings during the day (which many of us do), experience has taught us that the process of putting yourself together in the morning does an incredible amount to wake the brain up. So we do it. Plus, we’re not gross (most of us, anyway.)
3. We can take a day off whenever we want
This is silly. Working at home generally involves having clients, customers, editors, co-workers, or anyone else from a whole range of people who likely depend on us completing tasks and projects by certain times, and generally being available during the same business hours as the rest of the world. Just because our home is our office, and with that comes a certain degree of freedom, that doesn’t mean we don’t have to abide by any of the rules of the working world. And aside from that, people who work at home tend to be exceptionally motivated and hard-working; not exactly the kind of person who takes a day off in the middle of the week.
4. We can’t get a “real job”
This notion would be adorable if it wasn’t so condescending and offensive. A surprising number of people think that those of us who work at home only do so because we are unable to find a “real job”. Oh, honey. Here’s the truth: working at home is amazing. Pretty much everyone who does it is doing it by choice, and you would be hard pressed to get them back into an away-from-home job. As much as we usually operate by a pretty structured schedule, we are still the ones who determine what that looks like, rather than having to try and shape our work habits to fit someone else’s idea of what hours and environment are best for working. We work the hours that are naturally most productive for us. We don’t catch colds from our co-workers. Sure, we don’t always sit around in our pajamas, but we always could! It’s a wonderful life, and honestly, being able to make working at home a viable career that actually supports you and your family is no easy task. It’s not easy, and unskilled, uneducated, lazy people could never make it work. And for those who do it, working at home is almost never a fallback plan. For most, it’s a dream come true.
5. No need for childcare!
So, my kid is only 15-months-old, so I’m still actively navigating the reality of working at home while also having a child at home, but here’s what I know so far: if you are trying to watch your kid(s) and work, you’re not going to be working. Being a stay-at-home parent is a super involved, highly demanding job, which is why it’s a full-time job, and not something that otherwise employed people do in a few minutes between “real job” tasks. Simply put, working is a job, and parenting is a job. You can’t do both jobs at once. Anyone who thinks that work-at-home parents and stay-at-home parents are the same thing has clearly never worked, never parented, or never done either.