Panasonic Youth

Five Common Myths about Working From Home

I’ve been working (programming) from home since April with Seeking Alpha, and its been a lot of fun. I’ve discovered the true value of being free of distractions, as a phone call or annoying pet can break flow and burn ten minutes. I’ve also learned just how much more productive I can be when I’m not in an office, and when I really love what I’m doing. Amazing how that works.

I’ve also come upon some misconceptions a lot of folks, nerd and non-nerd alike, have when discussing my work environment. Here they are, in no particular order:

  • Oh, you must watch your kids/pets/tv/chia pet all day, then, right? People don't think you are actually working, or at least don't think logically about what "working from home" actually entails. I've heard the "Oh, you work from home? You must be keeping your son at home with you?" question far too many times, now.
  • You have less distractions. The entire summer there was road construction right outside my house, with the constant beeping of dump trucks in reverse a solid three hours in the morning. Then there were the days were they were jackhammering and moving concrete - it literally shook my whole office, and I'm in the second floor. Family and friends think because you work from home that you can chat whenever and as long as they want, so there are awkward conversations where I've had to explain that I can't be on the phone all afternoon. The type of distraction might be different, but there are still plenty of things to steal your attention.
  • You can work whenever you want. Maybe if you are a solo freelancer or working with just a few other people, this is true. If you have any sort of company structure, you probably have to be online and answering IM's at least for a few dependable hours a day. Factor in keeping a schedule for family or social life, and you will probably want to maintain a rough 9 to 5 schedule even if you don't have to. Yes, the schedule is much more flexible and I've done plenty of late night hacking, but you still need to consider your company or family needs.
  • You can save a ton on tax deductions! You can only deduct things like utilities or mortgage for your office space if its used exclusively for your work. Same goes for equipment - use that printer for home stuff as well as work? You can't deduct it. And if working from home is just a perk your company provides in addition to a company cube, you're out of luck. The home office must be for the convenience of your employer - so since my company doesn't have any offices anywhere, I'm fine.
  • OMG!! Working from home must be like heaven on earth!1!1! Well, true, I wouldn't choose to go back to my previous office environment. But there are plenty of downsides. A big one is the loneliness. I was never big on office gossip, but I do miss the time spent reciting Aqua Teen quotes or pairing up with someone for a quick design session. Not having to attend company functions (read: company "fun" day!) just might make up for that. There are also little perks you miss, like free coffee, free faxes and a real laser printer that can print the ebooks in less then an hour minutes and without burning through a $30 ink-jet cartridge. Did you know most office supply stores charge a buck a page for faxes? Thats insanity.

All in all, for most knowledge workers it just makes more sense to work from home. I think in ten years we may see a good third or even half of all programming work done by workers from home as more companies figure it out and realize that “eight hours in an office” doesn’t equal “eights hour of productivity”.