In the four years (Is it really that long?!) I’ve been working from home, I’ve worked much longer hours than I ever did in an office. There are lots of different reasons for this:
1. Motivation is higher
Not having a guarenteed wage coming into the bank at the end of each month, and depending on your own efforts to keep yourself and your family afloat is a powerful motivator, I find.
2. Job satisfaction is higher
I hated working for other people; I love working for myself. It’s as simple as that. I’m being paid to do something I genuinely enjoy, so of course I’ll want to spend more time doing it.
3. Earning opportunities are greater
In my last few jobs, it didn’t matter how many hours I worked per day, week or month – my salary would remain the same regardless. Similarly, I was paid for sick days, bank holidays and vacations. In other words, unless I was promoted (and there were no opportunities for promotion unless someone else left the company), there just wasn’t a whole lot I could do to improve my take-home pay. By working for myself, I know that my earning potential is limited only by how hard I’m prepared to work, and this motivated me to work harder and longer.
4. Distractions are fewer
I know this isn’t true for everyone who works from home, but without colleagues constantly interrupting me, phones ringing and other distractions, I find that I concentrate harder and am less likely to break off what I’m doing for trivial reasons.
5. Work is always there
Even if you close the door on the home office at 5pm every night and make a deal with yourself not to go back in until morning, it can be very hard to resist the lure of checking email or just finishing off that last project. It’s even more difficult if you use the computer to relax, because the Internet, along with all of its work-related purposes, is always right there in front of you.
6. When people know you work from home, they take advantage of it
I’m not sure if this is the case for everyone, but my experience has been that once clients know you work from home, they tend to make an assumption that you’re always available, no matter what time of the day or night. When I worked in an office, people wouldn’t have dreamed of calling me in the evening or at the weekend with non-urgent queries, but they think nothing of doing it now, because they assume that I’m always “at work”. I now switch the answer phone on every evening and all weekend, and try to only answer non-urgent emails during business hours, but it’s amazing the number of people who contact me outwith those hours – and expect me to be available.
Yes, good old-fashioned guilt. When you work for yourself, you can’t avoid it, and every time you try to put your feet up and switch on the TV, a little nagging voice will pipe up saying, “You know, you really should be working,” or “You could use this time to do some paperwork/marketing/start a new project/whatever.” That little voice can be very hard to ignore… and sometimes I just don’t bother.
Now, I don’t necessarily think it’s either good or healthy to work long hours as a freelancer: in fact, I know it’s not. You just end up getting burnt out and exhausted, and not producing your best work as a result. All the same, I was still fairly surprised, when I looked at the results of our last poll, to see that the majority of those who answered the question “How many hours per day do you spend working?” with “Eight hours of less.” I reckon those who gave this answer – or who spent even less hours per day working from home – have got things figured out better than I have in terms of work/life balance, and working smarter, rather than harder.
So tell me: what’s your secret?