Not my experience - I love working from home. Going to work is just a matter of crossing the yard to get to my office. Almost no meetings, no office politics - bliss.
My only real complaint is that no-one ever reads past the first paragraph of any email. Sometimes emails have to be longer than that, so every now and again, I have to hop on a plane and go and explain to someone what all those second paragraphs said.
Much as it's probably true, I absolutely hate that. Somebody once showed me a diagram demonstrating the increased efficiency gained by using a wiki instead of email - but the entire gain would have been nullified if they assumed that rather than entering stuff directly into the wiki, people would upload word documents to the wiki (which the pointy-hairs invariably do).
Just need to write something that automatically converts word docs into new wiki pages. Then the pointy-hairs can upload all they want and everyone else gets some sanity.
Don't even try to make the conversion full featured, just rip it plain text. When the boss asks why his charts and headers don't convert over, show him how easy it is to fix that in the wiki. By getting his feet wet this way, eventually he might not even bother uploading word docs at all.
Or maybe I have too much faith in pointy-haired bosses.
It may be difficult to believe this while in US, but in other countries industries are dominated by engineers...I know of one bank in Chile where all the business guys were being replaced with civil engineers (in Chile, that means a guy with an extensive math + science background).
As an MBA (and hacker), I can say that I would absolutely prefer a PDF to a word document. If you really want to make comments, just made a comment in the PDF. Adobe Reader, though I prefer not to use it, lets you easily make comments, and this is the program most people will be using.
I think the m-team types understand "Track Changes" better than they understand comments in PDFs, but if your team prefers PDF, more power to them. I'd obviously rather generate a PDF than a Word Doc, and I'd rather generate a wiki page than a PDF, and an email than a wiki page. But life's pretty short.
I guess it's ok if you have some allocated office space so you're not literally working from your home.
I've worked from home before and I can pretty much relate to what the article says. It's nice to do once in a while, but I much prefer to actually go to the office.
The key to working from home is to have a clear separation between your office and the rest of your life. It's ok if it crosses over (after all, that's the advantage of not having to work at an office), but they shouldn't be intertwined.
Ironically, it seems you've not read past the headline of the article.
I continue to work from home because I think that, for me, it's a net win. This article is intended to point out its downsides, not to suggest it's a bad idea overall for everyone. I'm looking forward to writing about the positive aspects of working from home in a few days.
I've found that "business" email is usually best expressed in a few sentences: Issue, suggestion, next step. Usually the next step is a formal discussion and decision.
In business you can't expect most people to read a multi-paragraph email, realize what their role in the decision is, and act on it.
Also, some of us have much higher mental bandwidth for email communications than average. So it's a good idea to start the "handshake" with a very simple communication and take it from there, regardless of how intelligent the recipient may be in other areas.
Same here - although I have paved path and some stairs as well as the yard. Its nice - don't miss any commute. And I go in to an office in the city about once a week - I find it hard to actually work in an office though - I am naturally to chatty and social.
I hate articles like this. All the statements in the last couple paragraphs that start with "You start to fell..." or "You don't get..." should have the "You" replaced with an "I". I totally understand that someone why someone who works from home gets lonely, but that doesn't mean everybody who does gets lonely. It takes the right kind of person. This is my qualm with articles like this. People present their opinion as a sweeping generalization and fact. If you want to tell me why you think working at home sucks, please do. It sounds silly when you try to speak for everybody.
agreed. I wonder why some people write that way. It's very difficult to write in second person successfully, because as soon as one presents information that is inconsistent with how the actual reader feels, the rest of the argument is nullified. Yes, it sounded silly when the writer tried to speak for me, in particular, when he knows nothing about me.
I think in spoken English this is the case. However, using the more formal "one" in writing, even on a blog, is a good way to clear up any misunderstanding a reader might have. Though the use of "you" is more and more accepted in everyday situations, clearly the use of "you" instead of "one" caused some readers of this post some problems. In writing, one should try to be as clear as possible to get one's point across to the widest variety of readers, unless one is trying to obfuscate one's point on purpose.
kragen's point is that most people don't know how or when to do so. I think most of us would agree that it would be best for everyone to suddenly get much better at written English, but it's unlikely to occur.
I end up writing in second person a lot. In fact, some of my comments in this very thread ended up in second person by the end. I really need to watch for this! I'm not the original blog author, but thanks for pointing this out - it's something I'm going to be watching for in my own writing from now on. (I'm kind of surprised I never noticed how bad it can sound.)
I think I fall into this trap when I want to generalize about my experience with others. For instance, if I observe some common behavior in virtually everyone I know, I might start saying "when you're such-and-such-ing...." because it seems easier than constantly reminding the reader that I'm simply generalizing based on my experience. However, I can see your point - that this really could be messing with the people who read it who maybe aren't directly my target audience. This might change my writing style significantly. :)
I had this problem too. On the advice of a fiend I started shutting down the work computer before dinner. That puts up a barrier to "just checking in" when you should instead be devoting some time to yourself, your family or friends.
If you don't have a separate computer for work then maybe a separate login would help in a similar fashion. Since the physical (distance) separation isn't there you have to find a way to create something similar.
I've had this issue in the past, but with my current employer, I have less of an issue.
I'm on the east coast. Most of my direct co-workers are on the west coast. I typically work from 06:00 to 09:00, then perhaps do other stuff for a few hours, then work again for a few hours in the afternoon. Then, depending on work load, I may get back at it for a few hours once my kids are asleep, which still allows me to interact with people on the west coast.
I feel the same way, but I had started to notice this even before I started working from home, thanks to the blackberry. How many times have you been eating dinner with others (at home, or a restaurant) and felt compelled to check it, and then guilty about what you are doing?
I would LOVE to work from home, I could do so much more with my day If I was working from home (more productive stuff) and leave my work knowing I was actually able to get something finished for a change even lunch with my dog is a better prospect that lunch with some of the people I work with at the moment.
Not to mention that my home office is better equipped, quieter and I cant tell you how much better I would feel without someone watching over my shoulder all the time or my boss practising his micro management techniques on me.
I would even take a slight cut in pay for the privilege of working at home.
If you're married, working from home suddenly means you apparently have time to do the dishes, laundry, take care of the kid(s), let the dog out, run "quick" errands, etc. One of the tougher things about working from home is dealing with all the other people who don't. :)
At first I had that problem, people stopping by in the middle of the day because they thought 'working from home'/'self employed' was a pseudonym for early retirement. I have since created solid work hours (9:30-6:30ish) that I treat just like working for an employer. My family knows that within those hours I am as available/unavailable as I was when I worked for a corporation. I find that this puts me back on the same page as the rest of the world so during the evenings I am no longer running off to check up on something and whoever I am with has my full attention.
I'm married (plus four young kids), and I work from home and I love it. My current contract allows me to work only four days a week (30 hours), and the remainder of the week goes to the family. No travel time, no meetings, plus I'm here if needed and the hours are flexible.
I agree. I've asked several times over the years to be allowed to work from home one day a week. Always denied.
People who list complaints about working from home don't know how good they have it - they have freedom to work the way they want. Working from home takes discipline and should be seen as a privilege, not as an entitlement.
A big drawback I can see of working from home is that, regardless of where you are, you have to call in for a daily 9:30 (Eastern) scrum call. On the West coast, that means 6:30 call-in.
"People who list complaints about working from home don't know how good they have it"
I work from home, but I put in my years in soulless cube farms - as did everyone I know (besides farmers) that work from home now and I know how nice it can be by comparison. That said, working from home is not a holy grail. It has it's downsides - like everything else. It's unfair to say that those of us who work from home somehow don't have valid complaints about it.
Not yet - but I'm thinking about it. :) We don't do many voice calls, though, so I haven't felt a strong enough need. Mostly we use IM/Email since that is less disruptive while working and more conducive to our mobile lifestyles. (Not all of us work from home, there's a small core group of friends who started the company that work together in an office in person, but they do so by choice and it sounds pretty fun. Sorta wish I could drop in now and then without having to board a plane to do it.)
"More than 3 days a week at home and you start to lose the benefits."
As someone who has been exclusively working remotely for several years, I'm not so sure about that. I guess it depends what you consider the benefits to be and from which side of the employee/employer fence you're on. Are the benefits that you have a more relaxed and free adult life - in both work and play? Or are you looking for a hack to try to forcibly increase worker productivity beyond that which is attainable with a full time in-office approach?
When working just a couple days a week or month remotely, it can feel like a nice break from the distraction-filled office life and so it's natural to treat it as such - maybe you work harder/longer to get the most out of it so as to not squander the special time and privilege. When you're home all day every day, you have to pace yourself or else you'll burn out in a matter of weeks - same as if you worked sun up to sun down in the office everyday. That self-pacing could feel/look like suddenly it becomes less useful to work remote all the time, but I think the reality is that people can only work so hard for so long no matter where they physically locate themselves. (And each person has a different threshold.) If the "work from home 3 days a week" thing is really nothing more than a piece of "aren't we an awesome place to work" cheese dangling in front of the employees noses, I think eventually that backfires and people burn out more completely (and cynically) - so they begin to slack off on those days at home and think of them as a good time to take a "much deserved" break by "sneaking" out to have fun during the day. Inevitably the company responds by requiring phone checkins during regular office hours, demanding you be online/IM/email/webcam at certain hours, snidely pointing out how long it takes you to reply to a message, etc. At which point, you might as well go into the office everyday because, frankly, you are getting none of the true benefits of working from home anyway.
The idea of "co-working" is gaining steam in many cities. You could certainly start up a group in your area if there isn't one. Basically you just get together with other people who work remotely, but perhaps in somewhat the same vein (web apps, a certain language, whatever), and you can form a team that you can bounce ideas off of and get support from. It could even just be occasional or for lunch every day or something like that, but it helps.
"Co-working" has kept me sane over the years. :) There's not too many locally who do this, but the ones I know drop by the same coffee shops on occasion and we run into each other. It's a welcome break from the loneliness of being alone all day. (Although I have a newborn at home now and have essentially become a stay-at-home dad in addition to working from home. You want stress, give that a try. :))
I even live in a lost city as far as technology is concerned and have found at least a couple of others who also work from home doing software development. We try to get together and work from a coffee shop every now and then.
Look around for local Linux user groups or programming language interest groups - you'll probably find some other kindred spirits.
Same happened to me. Whenever I felt lonely I would go to a small coffee shop near my house. I found out that I like seeing people coming and going, I met some interesting people and made some friends.
I've worked from home in the past. The last stint was for about 8 months. I really enjoyed the freedom. But towards the end even with a live in girlfriend I still got a little depressed.
The problem is mostly assuredly the lack of human contact. Not physically seeing people every day got to be a little rough. I'd force myself to go out on weekends and be social but it still felt fake.
The other big problem was that since I lived in the PNW and winter was setting in. It would be dark when I got up, and dark when I shut down for the day. This mean I never really saw the sunshine. I wouldn't really leave my house for days at a time. This got to be an issue. I felt trapped, even worse than that corp job I took while in college.
Now I live in San Francisco. The startup I work for has an office. I see sun almost every day. Hell I walk 2 miles to and then 2 miles from work every day. Its great! I think the human contact combined with the daily walk has increased both my energy level and my moral.
As a caveat to this. I still prefer to work from home at least one day a week. As the break from the daily in office distractions (meetings, troubleshooting, lunch, etc..) is nice.
So I think proper life balance is in order when working from home. If almost a daily regiment that forces one to go stop working and go have meaningful human interaction.
"check company IRC, say good morning, make sure nothing’s on fire yet" etc etc
The thing I get from this whole post is that the author lacks passion for his work. His tone makes his work sound like some terrible chore that he's forced to do. Don't get me wrong: a "good job" every now and then is always nice, but not receiving it shouldn't be the primary reason you shouldn't work from home.
If you're the type of person that gets bored easily or needs lots of external feedback in order to motivate yourself, working from home/starting your own business is going to be very difficult.
"If you're the type of person that gets bored easily or needs lots of external feedback in order to motivate yourself, working from home/starting your own business is going to be very difficult."
If you are the kind of person who is NOT motivated by external feedback, how are you going to be successful in business when so much of succeeding in business is responding to the external feedback you receive from customers? Not all of this comes from face to face interaction, true, but it would probably help to have such interaction with customers on occasion. Probably much of how your customers perceive and interact with your product, and how they perceive your company, will only be apparent from body language cues.
This is not to argue against working from home, but to argue that external feedback is almost always important.
That article essentially says it sucks to work from home because you don't get out and get social interaction. Um, does it assume people work from 8am to midnight or something.
I work from home. I get lunch with friends. I get dinner with colleagues. I go outside. I'd trade a 6 figure salary for just barely scraping by/starting-up and working from home any day <% unless @married = 1 -%>.
Correct. The blogger essentially works the entire day because he seems to be goofing off for most of it. The result is that he feels tired from being minimally working all day and getting nothing done.
I'm currently working from home more and more with a small company, too, but I am being proactive to prevent these problems (which I clearly see are coming down the line if I don't do something).
Cultivating that rich feedback that he seems to be missing is hard. I think that IRC is a good start. Video chat is better. It may not work for this guy's company because they still have their "professional" personas active while chatting. You have to let your hair down and be comfortable with a flamewar once in a while. If the personalities of those involved aren't compatible with this, then maybe they shouldn't be in startup/small companies.
I hate to use so many cliches in one sentance, but you really have to be able to be agile and iterate quickly. The development infrastructure helps to address this. If you have good source control and a good project structure that lets you check out a branch to a new directory and just GO then you have a good thing going. If your product requires lots of setup and back-end things that take time and careful configuration, it's going to suck a lot.
Like everything, working from home needs balance. Not just work/non-work time balance, but physical balance with a private office in your home and regular contact with the outside world. If you don't have a second bedroom for an office and you live alone, working from home is going to blow.
When I started working from home, the first thing I did was go out looking for a co-working studio in my city. I knew that I was going to do my best work from home at night, but I go to the "office" so I can still get coding done during the day. I have a full office setup in my apartment that I use from 6am until 11am almost everyday, I go to my "office" from 11am to 4pm and then come home, working from 9pm until midnight. It's a crazy work schedule and the thing that keeps me sane is splitting my time between my home office and co-working "office", so I'm not wasting so much time during the day with boredom/loneliness/the internet.
I understand that this may not be suitable for everyone, but it works great for me and I've worked out of almost every space you can imagine. To me, it is 100% worth it to get yourself a decent home office and/or a co-working office to be the most effective.
This person doesn't seem motivated, and doesn't seem to have enough work to do.
I've worked from home for one year and have been more productive, thanks in large part to dropping my commute and avoiding non-work-related office chat sessions that can suck up 30 minutes in a typical day. I also work longer, because I don't feel guilty about staying at work late and neglecting my family (being able to have lunch and dinner with them is huge). I typically work right up until dinner starts at 6:30, and often go back for another 30 minutes to an hour afterwards.
On the other hand, having face time with co-workers is very valuable. Many office chat sessions do involve projects or turn into idea-sharing discussions that are very important to the health of an organization and can't be easily duplicated using IM or email. For this reason, I try to visit HQ about once every two months.
I worked from home for a little over 2 years. I have a lot of positive things to say about it. While my experience was generally positive, there were a few drawbacks.
The most bothersome drawback to me was that I felt judged by a different standard than those in the office. If I had an unproductive week, it was assumed that I was goofing off, while the same standard wasn't held for those that worked in the office, presumably because their butts were in chairs.
For the last four months of those two years, my wife was at home raising a newborn. It was nearly impossible for me to concentrate. I won't work from home again until my child is out of the house or until I build a detached office.
I usually work every Sunday on a sideproject with a team that lives in another city. Rest of the team(3people) gather together at same space and I just join them with Skype video.
I found using videochat very useful, since you can discuss about things and overhead other people discussing, get feedback in live, feel that you're working(since somebody might be watching you). You also need to take shower, dress up a little that you look somewhat sharp. It feels almost like going to work, except you don't need to commute.
(I have worked from home quite a lot as a freelancer and also had a job with regular telecommute, but never felt like I was actually "working".)
Personally I love working from home though I will admit there are days when the kids won't stop screaming and the dog is trying to hump anything it can get it's paws on and THOSE days I would give anything to just hide lol... But as frustrating as those days are... I still love working from home esp since it allows both me & my husband to be home with our children...
p.s. I would really appreciate if anyone would be willing to look at my site I just finished designing last night and would love to hear any thoughts, opinions or suggestions...
I did most of my work from home for much of 2008 and there were times when I felt the way this guy did. It took me a while but eventually I realized how much I missed taking a lunch break with my coworkers and getting little comments and suggestions here and there (which occasionally made a big difference or saved me a lot of time). This year I'm making more of an effort to work outside my home even when that's not strictly necessary.
It depends 100% on the person. For some people working from home has significant downsides and/or isn't an effective way for them to work. For others, like me, it's almost all upside and allows me to be much more productive than being in an office.
It's called human interaction - most people need this to survive. When sheltered from the world like a person with Agoraphobia, it becomes hard to relate to people no matter how much email or twittering you do.
p.s. to those of you complaining about the lack of human interaction... why not take your work to the streets? or fleamarkets? or the park? thats what I do when I need human interaction other than 3 boys under the age of 7 and a hubby who acts like a 4th kid lol
You're advocating a $100k+ teleconference room to people who work from home?
The tech is awesome, and I've used HP Halo rooms, but they really aren't meant for home deployment. There's just too much physical setup needed (aligning cameras, tvs, etc) that I doubt it'll ever work for that purpose.
In a few years, $100K systems will be $1K; a few years after that, $100.
And some of the people here could help make it happen. (What if digital picture frames or pocket-size projectors had auto-focus, auto-pan cameras, and however many you positioned in a single room auto-configured themselves for optimal telepresence effect? Etc.)
So it's a valid suggestion from a speculative perspective, even if we know a single home worker isn't likely to buy one of these top-end systems today.
Much higher quality. There is something in our animal selves that demands a certain threshold of realism, which these new systems have. Technically, it's just higher resolution, faster connections, better screens, better cameras, etc., but the total effect is greater than the sum of parts, as in the system replaces plane tickets instead of phone calls.
I work from home and it's awesome. It fucks with your sleep schedule but other than that it's great. I do go into the client office a lot more than I thought I would, though. And when I say working from home I mean working from cafes. Working from home in the literal sense sometimes gets annoying because my neighbors have noisy kids. I've learned how to say "Grandma, look at me!" in Spanish. And about a thousand ways to say "shut up" or "don't do that" in Spanish as well.
The kids make me wish I had a flamethrower, but so do people who talk in the office, and the kids are at least cuter than the office people. Except some of the chicks. I sure hope they don't read that. Anyway, working from home is basically awesome, but yeah, you do need human contact, and context for conversation.
I hate working from home now also, after doing it from near to 8 years. It sucks, it's lonely and it's difficult to get motivated. Also, you are in an insular bubble, you are not exposed to different ideas, and the years tend to repeat themselves.
That's why I'm giving up this life and going to work in a lab.