I suspect that many of you who are reading this are working at home, as I do.
The internet has made that possible for many in ways that we would not have dreamed of twenty or so years ago. I once spent a weekend at a holiday cottage in the ‘wilds’ of Wales, north of Llandovery, amidst stunning scenery, where sightings of Red Kites were relatively common. And I was startled to discover that the nearest villages – more hamlets than villages really – were mostly inhabited by people who worked at home, whilst instantly connected to the rest of the world for the purposes of their work, thanks to the internet. How about that for idyllic!
But I started working at home long before the internet had taken root, more out of necessity than from choice. I had discovered that my chronic back problems made it very difficult for me to work to someone else’s timetable but that I could nevertheless still complete a fair amount of work, as long as I went at my own pace and in my own way. My last spell of ‘going to work’ really brought this home to me when I was supply teaching. After a full day in the classroom, I would come home in so much pain that I could barely do anything else for the rest of the day – and yet, on days that I didn’t teach, by pacing myself, I could achieve just as much as I’d done in school.
The final straw came when some African guests came to get the children involved in African culture. We were all gathered in the School Hall when I suddenly found myself ‘volunteered’ to model some of the African garments and headgear. I was decked out in brightly coloured robes and turban that were so slippery that I had to stand stock still to prevent them falling off – and very soon I had such a strong need to move around that I was seriously afraid that my back was ‘seizing up’ and that I would be unable to drive myself home. So that was it – decision made. I would find a way to work from home as a self-employed person. And I did.
I can’t imagine working any other way now but it does have a few ‘downsides’!
Such as -
· You probably won’t have the sense of financial security that a monthly pay cheque brings!
· You will need to be more self-disciplined – it’s very easy to put off getting down to work, particularly if the work is of the daunting kind. There is always a houseplant that will die if you don’t water it instantly, a little bit of tidying up that can stretch into a morning’s job....
· It can often be difficult to convince friends that just because you work from home, it doesn’t mean that you are always available for phonecalls or visits – although it may be that you can sometimes be more flexible than if you were out at work.
· You will need to be a self-starter – there is nobody to tell you what to do from day to day, from hour to hour.
· On the other hand, there is nobody to tell you to stop! And this can lead to ‘working all hours’ and possibly to ‘burn-out’!
· It can be lonely and you may miss the camaraderie of the workplace and having someone to bounce ideas off, especially if you live alone as well as working alone. However, this is unlikely to be a problem for an introvert and if it is, the internet and social media can help you to stay ‘in touch’ with the rest of the world.
· If you are self-employed and working alone, in the final analysis, all the responsibility, every single bit of it, rests on your shoulders – there’s nobody to ‘pass the buck’ to!
But, on balance, I think there are more ‘upsides’ – and there are ways to work around the difficulties in Norman Young’s very useful blog post - Ways to Stay Motivated When You Work at Home
And now for the upsides! These are just some of the joys of being self-employed and working at home -
· No boss, no line manager, no hierarchy, no ‘career path’, no ‘appraisals’ – these can all reduce any feelings of pressure.
· No commuting – this saves time and probably reduces stress as well!
· No dress code – you can often work in your PJs if you want to!
· You can decide own working hours – as long as you actually do put in some working hours!
· You can to some extent decide what to work on – there are huge benefits to being able to work on different aspects of your job, according to how you happen to feel on the day!
· You can’t be given the sack – especially beneficial in times like these when cuts to the workforce are imminent!
Do you find that the ‘upsides’ outweigh the 'downsides' of working at home?
Both pastel paintings are from photos I took during a weekend break
in a cottage at Cae'r Belli, North of Llandovery