Having been self-employed for an entire decade now (!), I’ve noticed there are quite a few misconceptions about what it’s like to work from home. I hear the same comments and observations from people over and over again, and most of them aren’t even close to the truth – or not for me, anyway. Here are 5 things people say about working from home – and why I think they’re wrong…

5 myths about working from home

You’re ‘stuck at home’ all day

Something I’ve always found interesting is the fact that so many of the things people see as negatives about working from home, are the same things I hated about traditional employment. One of the biggest myths about working for home, for instance, is that you’re “stuck at home all day”. “Oh, I couldn’t stand it!” people tell me, their eyes wide with horror. “I’d go crazy stuck at home all day!” I’m not sure where this misconception comes from, but working from home doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to ever leave your home – far from it, in fact.

I actually have far more personal freedom as a home-based worker than I ever did in an office, because when I was in traditional employment, I actually WAS stuck in the office all day – and I really wasn’t allowed to leave it, other than at designated times. In this post, I talked about how “trapped” I felt by that, and that’s not too strong a word – I felt claustrophobic and utterly miserable arriving at work every morning and knowing that I wouldn’t be allowed to leave until a ‘superior’ gave me permission, and that all I’d see of the outside world for the next 8 hours would be the view from the window: if I had one.

In one job in particular, every movement was monitored: I wasn’t just “stuck” in the office, I was stuck to my desk, not allowed to get up and leave it without first of all tapping a code into the computer to tell my supervisors why I was leaving my workstation, and what for. Even toilet breaks had to be logged in this manner, and if I spent too long in the restroom, I’d be asked to explain why. To me, that’s what being “stuck” is like: and working from home is nothing like that, because the fact is, I can leave my desk, my office, my home any time I want – and I frequently do. I run errands, go for walks, keep appointments, have days out – all things I couldn’t do in traditional employment because I was stuck in an office all day.

things people think about working from home - and why they're wrong

It’s lonely

This one, I think, really depends on the person. For some people, yes, working from home would certainly be lonely, because you’re on your own all day, and if you’re someone who needs a lot of social interaction, it would probably make you feel very isolated and unhappy.

In my case, however… well, I’m an introvert: I don’t mind my own company, and actually find it quite stressful having to be around other people for hours at a time. In my previous jobs, while I always got on perfectly well with my colleagues, and even became friends with some of them, I didn’t really feel like I NEEDED their company in order to be happy or do my job. Like many introverted personality types, I prefer to spend time with people on my own terms: at work I had to be around people ALL the time, even when I didn’t feel like being social, and that’s not something I thrive on.

In short, I think working from home is only “lonely” if you’re someone who finds ANY company at all preferable to NO company. I only enjoy the company of people I’ve actively chosen to spend time with, and I don’t mind being on my own – as I’ve said before, I only ever feel lonely in a crowd. I also, as I’ve mentioned above, have plenty of opportunities to socialise during the day if I want them: just as working from home doesn’t mean not being allowed to leave your home, it also doesn’t mean you can’t pick up the phone and call someone, or invite them over for coffee.

There are too many distractions to get much work done

The fridge, the TV, the internet… people who don’t work from home imagine that all of these things would deter them from getting any work done, and that they’d end up sitting on the couch, watching daytime TV, while the work piled up around them.

The reality, of course, is quite different: yes, there are distractions, and yes, sometimes I’ll fall down a Bloglovin’ hole and not emerge until an hour later, but ultimately I know I HAVE to get the work done, too. When people ask me how I motive myself to work from home, I always tell them that I don’t: the bank manager does it for me. The blunt fact is that if I don’t work, I don’t earn money, and if I don’t earn money, I can’t pay my bills every month. If that doesn’t motivate you, nothing will..

Also: have you SEEN daytime TV? It’s really not much of a distraction! (Netflix, on the other hand…)

myths about working from home

You’re always available, and can arrange your schedule any way you like

One of the most difficult things about working from home is that a lot of people don’t take it seriously, and assume you’re “not really working”, so are basically at their disposal. I can’t count the number of times someone has assumed I’d be available for whatever they want me to to do, because I can “just work in the evening instead!” Sometimes I can “just work in the evening instead”, true: but what if I don’t want to? What if I had something planned for the evening – which I now have to cancel, so I can spend the night catching up with the work I missed in the afternoon? What if I had a deadline to meet, or some other reason why I needed to work at a particular time?

People assume that home-based workers – and especially bloggers – don’t have deadlines to meet, but that’s not necessarily true. When I was a freelancer, for instance, I wrote for newspapers, who had strict print deadlines: if I’d missed one on the basis that “someone turned up for a coffee”, I’d never write for that publication again – and possibly not for any other ones, either. Terry, meanwhile, does work for clients and if he tells someone he’ll have their website live at X time, they’ll find it really unprofessional if he misses that deadline and says, “Oh, I decided just to launch it at 3am instead, because I can work whenever I like!”

Even as a blogger, it’s not always possible for me to “just work at night”. My photos, for instance, have to be taken in daylight, and daylight hours are very limited in Scotland during the winter, as is dry weather. If I’d planned to take photos at a certain time, and someone “just pops in”, I might not get the opportunity to take them again for a few days. If the photos were for a sponsored post, the advertiser might not be very happy about that, and, again, it makes me look very unprofessional.

the truth about working from home

You never change out of your pyjamas, and work from your bed

I’m sure this is true for some people, and it’s also true that there are days when I’m still wearing my workout clothes at lunchtime – and I haven’t actually worked out yet – but for me, I have to get dressed to feel productive. I’m not saying I put on a suit, or even get particularly “dressed up”, but I do have to be wearing clothes I wouldn’t be embarrassed to walk to the post office in, say, at the very least. I also don’t work in bed (other than on a Saturday morning, when I’ll set up my laptop there for a few hours): it’s actually not particularly comfortable, so I have a home office, with a desk, and that’s where the vast majority of my work is done.

With all of that said…

While these are all “myths” in my case, I know working from home isn’t for everyone, and there will most definitely be home-based workers out there who totally agree with some or all of the points above. Any other home-based workers out there?

37 Comments
  1. I’m with you on all of those, except the pyjamas, which I am currently wearing now *cough* it feels like a waste to mess up real clothes, I don’t actually sleep in pyjamas though, so can they just be house clothes?

    I actually used to find having to be “on” and sociable at work all day incredibly stressful, I’m much calmer working home alone!

    1. Well, I’m currently wearing running clothes, and sometimes wish I could just sleep in them too, so that sounds fair enough to me!

      I found it really stressful, too: my brain can only take so much social interaction, then it needs to shut down! It didn’t help that my last job was one where there was a huge emphasis on “team building” too, so they’d arrange nights out and stuff every other week (or that’s what it felt like to me, anyway). I liked my colleagues, but I couldn’t understand why I was expected to be with them 9 hours a day Mon-Fri, and then spend MORE time with them on evenings and weekends – arrgh! It basically left no time at all for the people I actually WANTED to spend time with, which seemed totally the wrong way round to me!

  2. Lovely post. I am currently working from home, raising my twin babies and I enjoy it most days. I am also an introvert, so I enjoy my own company. I can relate with the logging on and off at work, even for comfort breaks. I had that at my last job and I hated not being able to go to the toilet in peace.

    1. I hated that, too – it just seemed so intrusive and controlling. Then again, sometimes I would go to the bathroom just so I could be on my own for a few minutes, so I guess that’s the kind of thing they were trying to stop!

  3. Amber, I really enjoyed reading this. This sound like me, I’m the kind of girl who also feel lonely in a crowd of people and I know working for myself will make me happy and it something I’m still trying to work toward. I’m currently work in retail (during the weekend) and at an office during the week and the commute and the politic does my head in, sometime I feel more comfortable with my own company and I know I can get more work done that way. I also do some freelance seo blog writing and anything I can get my hand on to help me on my goal, however it doesn’t always pay enough for me to live off. I get comment from my mum ‘oh you don’t want to be at home all day long – how boring” but if anything I think it would do me a world of good.
    //Sorry I seem to hijack your post for a mini rant.

    1. I get the “it must be so boring” thing as well, and it’s another one that I think applies just as much to traditional employment – I was always bored rigid in the office jobs I had: I didn’t find the work interesting, and a lot of the office conversation could be boring too… I don’t get bored now, though – I enjoy what I do too much, and there’s never really time to get bored!

      1. That exactly it Amber – omg in employment it’s the same conversations, the same idle politic and I also get bored rigid. At the moment I’m trying to find a mini 9-5 job so I can get out of this boring situation and spend more time on my blog and on what I want to do. I’m just not a people person.

  4. Love this – all so true! I am one of those people who needs interaction with others, but I now have a great network of freelancer friends who I can always do a google hangout over coffee, or sometimes I just go and work from a coffee shop for a couple of hours to have other people around me!

  5. Yes to all of this! I am a field based rep who is based from home. On my admin days when I’m in most of the day I have so much to get done to meet my deadlines and commitments I often don’t leave my desk all day so get really annoyed if the doorbell rings

    1. Ha, yes, that one amazes me – I always wonder how people think I pay for things, when I apparently “don’t work”! Do they think we’re just squatting in our house or something?!

  6. All of this rings true for me! The freedom of not going into an office everyday is lovely, and it’s great not to have to worry about needing time off for appointments and errands. But yes, people assume I sit at home in my pyjamas watching Jeremy Kyle all day which actually never happens

  7. If someone insisted I explained why my toilet breaks took longer than average on a regular basis I think I’d have a breakdown (especially as I have to take so many at the moment to clean my teeth because of my braces!). No wonder you felt trapped!! I feel fortunate I’ve never had that nightmarish experience… I also don’t think I’d be lonely, being a fellow introvert. If I have a good team I like being around them, but I’d equally happy work from home all the time – just because you work in a room on your own doesn’t mean you’re not constantly having to communicate with others by email and phone to get things done! Personally, I think you’re living the dream… and I don’t for a minute think that’s because you’re watching This Morning every day (in fact, that would be some kind of hell, surely).

  8. I, too, am an introvert, and although I work a full-time corporate job (bleh), working from home a few days a week is a key component in maintaining my sanity. On the days I go into the office, notwithstanding the one-hour-per-way commute, I have to be around people even when I don’t want to, and there’s no escape – the company I work for has embraced the “low walls foster a sense of community and collaboration” thing, and it leaves introverts with no respite from the noise and the bustle of a bunch of extroverts…extroverting at each other. Working a corporate job from home doesn’t exactly come with the same freedoms as being a professional blogger, since I am more or less chained to the desk for my working day, but I do appreciate not having to make the drive or see people every day.

    I don’t love what I do for work, and although I do have a blog I don’t think blogging full-time is something I’d want to do. My passion is in making things up and writing them down, and I’m working hard to find an agent for my first novel. I’m hopeful that I can get the author thing really rolling in the next couple of years, and that even if I can’t stop working entirely, I can maybe go part-time in some other alternative (non-corporate) method of employment (I’ve been in the corporate machine for long enough that I keep forgetting that’s even an option) and have more time and freedom to write books.

    Speaking of which, I’m excited to read your book when it’s done! 🙂

  9. I must admit that the distraction point would be my case for not working at home. However the rest I share your views with. And make fun of people who think that because you’re at home, you have nothing better to do than socialise

  10. I think working from home would be lovely IF the job allows you all these perks. My husband used to work from home for Apple and it was just as bad as anywhere… logging everything and whatnot. But in a case like yours, I think I would rather enjoy that. Especially if I could take my laptop to a coffee shop, or the library or whatever and work wherever I wanted. On a serious note though, people really ought not assume the lonely bit! Whereas, I WOULD be lonely if I couldn’t work at other locations (i.e. coffee shops), not everyone is the same! Some people work best in solitude, some need large crowds and high pressure. It’s what makes the world go round!

  11. Wow, Amber, thank you so much for this post! I may become a home worker myself in the near future and the one thing I struggle the most was, “should I stay home all day?”. And probably it won’t happen and I will able to do a lot more things so thanks you so much for the advice, I will take more homeworking opportunities from now on!

    xx

  12. I would love to be self-employed and work from home, it’s something I’m working on, and I know that for me the internet would be a huge distraction, so I’m working on being more strict with myself. However, I’ve never HAD to do work from home to pay the bills, so I guess that if I was in that situation I probably wouldn’t find it that distracting.

    It’s interesting that people say they’ll be trapped in the house. I’m stuck in an office all day, I know which one I’d rather be ‘stuck in’ and it’s not the office.

    Being an introvert is one of the main reasons I want to work from home. I find background noise from other people (phonecalls, conversations, people popping in etc) distracting. I also hate having to get up to stop what I’m doing to make other people drinks when I don’t even want one…I might be a scrooge not an introvert.

  13. I am lucky enough to work for a small business from home (the back office is too teeny tiny). When I first started the question I always got was “well, how does your boss know you are working? Couldn’t you just clock in and take a nap?”

    Well, yes, technically I probably could, but A) she would notice the work wasn’t getting done and B) you really think I am a person who would do that?

    The perks of working from home are GREAT (Pajamas {okay, those days happen} and going for midday walks) but seriously it can be difficult to be so self-motivated and disciplined enough to define your projects, goals and measures without someone checking in on you on the daily with cookie-cutter outlines and expectations. Somewhat different than just fighting distractions, it’s just being organized and figuring out how to be most productive. When I first started working from home that was the biggest challenge.

    Also my mom totally had the ‘she’s not really working’ mindset and wanted me to call and visit all the time until I made it clear that I wasn’t just on Facebook all day.

  14. I like the *idea* of an office. I like the environment of an office, when it’s quiet and productive and I enjoy the work. I had an office job once, in a small office, that I absolutely loved, so I would love to find something like that again. I had one coworker that shared my space with me, and the other people in the office pretty much left me alone to do my work. It was great. But unless I could find a job like that again, I would much rather find some sort of office job that let me work from home. Ha. I’m sure that would go over well in an interview – “Could you pay me to stay at home? I swear I’ll get the work done!”

    My last year of university, I was able to do it all online. I got pretty much all of these questions. “Don’t you get bored? Lonely? Easily distracted? I bet you do nothing all day and are up until 3 am doing your homework because you were out shopping huh?” (If I was, it was because I actually do my best work under pressure, those papers written at 3 am always got an A.) I loved getting to go to school online, I ended up talking to just as many people through the discussion boards as I did when I was in class “in person”, and I could do it on my terms. And if I needed to use the restroom, no one needed to know. It was ridiculous to always have to raise my hand in person to ask to use the restroom, like I was still in grade school, when I was in my 20’s.

  15. Beeing suck att home all day is what you do when you don’t have a jobb. Or have the kind of jobb where you can get called in at pretty much anytime of the day.

    I think your right about getting dressed to get things done. Having nothing to do and nowhere to be makes it har to find a reason to wear anything but the most comfortable I can find. And thinking about accessorizing feels almost like a joke.
    But the days I do get dressed doing things feels a little bit easier.

  16. I’m a tech writer and have been working from home for about 12 years after many years at software firms. I’m in contact all day with lots of people in various countries, the biz is doing very well, and I’ve never been happier. I get all the reactions you list here, especially the schedule thing (“Could you pop round to have a look at my computer? No time? Why, you work from home, don’t you?”). I do always put makeup on to feel a bit more “professional”, even if I’m not going out. I think anyone can work from home as long as they’re reasonably self-motivated (aside from the no work=no money factor, I do think you need to enjoy what you do).

  17. So true! I have been working from home for a company, and then self-employed. I do not understand why people think you can’t be efficient. I get so much more work done at home, when I am not interrupted by the endless rounds of tea-making/ people random chats / meetings and meetings and more meetings. I have been so often in an office when people are there just for the sake of showing their face but not actually getting anything done. You can’t do that at home.
    The time saved on commuting is luxury. It is sad, but I am also happy to be able to put the laundry on during the day, be home for deliveries… I have so much more free time, whilst working more hours than I would in the office.
    Then, more free time = more time for socialising, and spending time with friends as opposed to co-workers. They might be really nice people, but I’d rather be with my friends!
    It might not be for everybody, but I love it, and hope we can both stay home and never set foot in an office ever again.

    1. You’re dead right about the commuting and meeting aspects – I’d forgotten those! I get up at 9 and start work at 9.20 – no way I could have done that before with a commute across Paris (esp. driving – nightmare).

  18. I totally understand your reasons for preferring home working rather than traditional employment. It’d be a dream come true for me to one day work from home – my only concern would be the distraction of the internet….daytime TV, not so much…The other day I happened to catch a few minutes of This Morning, when they were doing a feature on ‘vagina facials’. (No, I wasn’t aware that I had a face down there either!) Delightful! 🙂

  19. When I first started working for myself I found it so difficult not to get distracted by TV and the internet as like you I had spent time working in an office where I had to log every moment of my time into my computer.

    After a while you just get bored of refreshing your newsfeed, candy crush saga and netflix/plex/tv. Plus bills need to be paid, deadlines need to be met and I need to get the work done.

    I find that still trying to stick to 9-5 hours schedule stops me from over working and give family / friends less of a chance to assume that I can give my time whenever. It’s nice though to be able to take a few hours out and go to the gym or do a daytime yoga class when it’s not full of the 9-5ers and work in the evening for a bit 🙂

  20. I am an extrovert. I’m not sure that “lonely” is the right word for how I’d feel. If I don’t interact with people I just get incredibly lethargic. I wouldn’t have the energy to do the work I needed to do. I might be able to pull it off if my husband was home, too.

    I’m a teacher so I can’t go to the bathroom whenever I’d like but at least it’s for a good reason, not just because my boss is a control freak.

  21. My ultimate goal is to be able to work from home… I get really frustrated by the limitations of being in a corporate office (it literally drains my soul). Being at home and a little less rigid always gets the creativity flowing. So nice to read how well it has worked out for you!!

    http://www.ohheyblog.com

  22. Hi Amber, I recently discovered your blog and was instantly hooked! I love everything about it, layout, photographs and especially your writing skills! I definitely will have to do some catching up on your blog! I recently started my own beauty-related blog and your posts about blogging has helped me to push through, I’d love for you to come check it out! x, Josune, Your Beauty Script

    http://yourbeautyscript.com/

  23. Thank you for this post, Amber. I am in month two of working from home and I love it! Only my closest family members and my best friend know, because I knew that there would be people who would assume that I could now be at their beck and call since, in their minds, you have to go to an office to have a “real” job. Except in the case of a migraine one day, I don’t work in pajamas. I actually get dressed and ready for the day just like I did when I was commuting to an office. The only differences are that I don’t bother with makeup if I’ve no plans to leave the house, and most days I wear my glasses instead of my contacts. I am also an introvert and absolutely love the peace and quiet of working from home. It seems I actually have much more energy to get other things done now too—I cook a lot more for myself and my husband instead of going out to eat, I’ve made it to the gym more, and my house is a lot cleaner than it was when I worked outside the home. I think some of this is that loss of energy that happens when introverts have to interact with others so much, and also the time saved by not having to commute.

  24. Loving this Amber, and I agree with all of it. I struggle enormously with feeling that my work isn’t valued as such by my nearest and dearest – I cant just take three hours out without notice for a shopping trip or long lunch. Neither can I work around looking after two demanding 2 year olds. It is so frustrating!

  25. All of your points are so true and speak from the bottom of my soul. I love working from home and I can’t really understand people who love working in an office. Especially open offices are my number one hate with a passion. People are watching you, eavesdrop and just wait for you to make a mistake. There’s loud music in offices all day which I find more distracting then anything else and I can also waive at the superficial small talks from colleagues.

    When I worked for a PR company, I was stuck at my desk all day. I wasn’t even allowed to leave for lunch. This was so frustrating and made me depressed because I wanted to go out to network with potential new clients or have a chat with journalists to get our clients featured. Every time I made suggestions where to pitch for new clients (my agency was struggling for clients and I suggested to attend fairs) it was turned down immediately. So annoying. I left this company after 9 months and it is now bankrupt.

    Anyway, like you I love the freedom of home. I can entirely focus on my work without any distraction and I feel at the end of the day I’ve been productive and mentally challenged and not just made coffee for my colleagues.

    Caz | Lunch Break Adventures

  26. I love this. I get so many preconceptions about working from home. I have even been asked to housesit and go on holiday because I can ‘work anywhere’. Years ago I lived in a houseshare where the other occupants always expected me to sign for their many parcels. There is a definite lack of respect. People think you are just at home and not working hard. The irony being that you work harder than them.

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