After Hours

The 10 worst things about working from home

There are plenty of good things about working from home -- but for every upside, there may be an equal and opposite downside.

Three years after being released from my daily commute, I find myself reflecting on some of the less appealing aspects of working from home. So I decided to stop working for a minute (see #4) and jot down a few of the negative aspects I've begun to notice.

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10: You get lazy

If you don't believe me, get a pedometer and measure the number of steps you take from the time you wake up to when you go to bed. A consultant friend of mine did that for two weeks and to her horror discovered that she averaged 156 steps a day — nothing more than bathroom and fridge trips. In the office, you generally have farther to go to get food, coffee, and water and go to the bathroom. Plus you walk to meetings, go out for a smoke break, go visit a friend.

9: You become unwittingly uncouth

After you've spent some time working alone, you start to lose your normal social inhibitions. You no longer remember to suppress certain crude (and sometimes noisy) behaviors, and you may sometimes pick or scratch various areas not normally picked or scratched in polite company. And then on that one day a year when you're expected to attend the annual staff meeting, you let one fly during a pause between speakers.

8: Your cats wreak havoc

Cats invariably want to sit wherever your attention is directed, which for most of us means on the keyboard or in front of the monitor. Sooner or later, you'll get up to fetch a cup of coffee or do a set of squats (yeah right) and the cat will stretch... and you'll be left explaining exactly how you managed to delete that table from the database or why you sent that particular picture to the CEO.

7: Your neighbors don't get it

Neighbors: Oh, you work at home, how nice for you. In their mind that means you spend the entire day goofing off because (a) you set your own hours; (b) no one is watching you; and (c) that is exactly what they would do. This translates into frequent pop-ins. How you doing? Working. Oh that's nice, did you see what's happening in the park? No, I'm working. Right. I don't think they should do that, those trees have been there since I moved here in 1953. Um, excuse me, but would you mind leaving? I need to work. Oh "work," ha, ha, that's right. Mind if I put the TV on?

6: Your boss becomes a stranger

It's so long since you last saw your boss, you forget what he looks like. There you are, summoned back to the office for the big upgrade. You pull into the parking space nearest the front door because you're way too early, as you live in a different time zone. A car pulls in beside you and a man gets out and glowers at you. You're in my parking space. Is he serious? There are no reserved signs. You break a sweat in the already uncomfortable suit you're not used to wearing. Then he smiles. Whoa — Steve? Hey Steve, I didn't recognize you. Wow you got fat! Which takes us to:

5: You forget the unwritten rules of polite interaction

Having had no one to talk to except the cats, dog, and occasional neighbor (who doesn't employ you so he doesn't count), you haven't talked to anyone since your last visit to the office and find you've unlearned all the normal rules. Out come the curse words, the borderline jokes, and inappropriate comments. You know — all the stuff you're used to sharing with Rover.

4: You give in to work avoidance

On those odd days we all have, when you don't feel like working, there is no one to make you do it. So instead of taking a vacation day, or even pretending to be sick, you waste the entire day staring at the computer, getting distracted by what the cat just hacked up in the corner, staring at the computer some more, staring into space, and then spending the entire evening feeling guilty for a wasted day.

3: Sick days are a thing of a past

Because you can lie down in bed sucking down Dayquil all day and still manage to administer the network, you don't call in sick. To feel justified in calling in sick, you have to be unconscious or in hospital. And even in hospital there is generally free wireless.

2: There are no departmental lunches

Oh wait, that's a good thing.

1: You're imprisoned in your workplace

And the number one worst thing about working from home is that you never, ever leave the office. That report you were meant to write wakes you up at 2:34 AM. Normal people make a mental note to take care of it as soon as they get to the office, after a cup of coffee of course, and go back to sleep. Not you. You sigh, set a reminder on your IPhone, and try to sleep. But your computer is right there, just across the room. You didn't even bother to turn it off. Oh well, might as well write the report now. Can't sleep anyway. Next thing you know, your stomach is making odd gurgling noises and you have the beginning of a caffeine withdrawal headache. It's 1:35 in the afternoon and you have yet to leave your seat.

What else?

Have you run into any of these issues when working from home? What else would you add to the list?

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