3 Things You May Have Not Considered About Working From Home

My favorite futurist, Faith Popcorn, predicts that most workers in the future will have multiple income streams. They may contract with one or more companies as well as have one or more home-based businesses. This system not only protects people from losing it all if they lose a job, it also allows you to pursue several areas that interest you as opposed to choosing only one. In this scenario almost everyone will be involved in some form of a home-based business. To many this sounds like a fantastic set-up but as a current home-based entrepreneur I predict that this scenario will be rosier for some than others.

For the past sixteen years I have been working from home in some capacity. My latest gigs are teaching work from homeonline classes for the past eight years and now self publishing too and I admit that most days I love working from home. However, I know others who have moved their offices home then changed their minds once the reality set in. Setting up a desk in a corner of the dining room or the extra bedroom is only the first step to making it work.

I always like to get the negative out of the way first so let me start with–isolation. This is the big one that is often under estimated and can be so bad that people choose to go back to drive-time traffic and cubicles. It’s extremely easy to become a home-based hermit. It starts with not changing out of your PJ’s, all day. Which leads to not going to the gym or out to meet someone for lunch because, why change for one hour? Weeks can go by with the only human contact you have being the FedEx driver and your immediate family–if you let it happen. This is why so many flock to coffee shops and other places with relative quiet, tables and free wifi. While this helps a little, it doesn’t solve the problem of actually needing to interact with others who understand your business. It is crucial that you make plans to get dressed and leave the house to meet with people with whom you can share ideas and frustrations (introverts especially take note of this one).

Time flexibility can be both a blessing and a curse. On days that I need to be there for my kids it’s a fantastic bonus but on days when I’m having trouble getting organized and focused it’s definitely not. An office provides structure: a start time, lunch break, meetings, etc. Some home jobs have a built in structure, but many can be worked on anytime of the day (or night). To make this aspect work for you, you need to let go of classic ideas about work versus home time. Figuring out your personal best schedule is key. Are you the most focused early in the morning? Are there jobs that are route and dull and can be done while on a speaker phone? Is there a class you want to take that is offered during the day? (that will be a great reason to change out of your PJ’s?) Personally, I never go shopping on the weekends unless I absolutely have to. Costco on a Tuesday morning is a breeze compared to Saturday afternoon. It isn’t efficient to focus on work during the day and family or personal tasks on nights and weekends.

Time flexibility also allows you to create your own schedule; deciding exactly what you want to accomplish, when and how–your goals are now your own too. This freedom sounds great and can be once you do a little soul searching. You might have specific goals set by your company, but even then you now get to (have to) incorporate those in with your other non-work goals in a new way. Unplanned time will disappear into the same place half your socks go  and it’s easy to lose balance. If you are running your own business it’s tempting to keep working and not stop for things like food, water, friends. Setting my own goals has been the most challenging part of working from home. They change as I change and my family and business change. Without a boss to establish them for me and with more time (no commute, shorter lunches, etc.) than most, figuring out exactly what I need or want to be doing and when has been an ongoing challenge. The key to success is setting time aside to establish goals, make action plans and also note your accomplishments. If you don’t, no one else will do it for you.

If Faith Popcorn is right (and she often is) working from home is in your future. Maybe you are part of the growing number who are already there, living the dream of owning their time, but working with the challenges too.

I’d love to hear from other home entrepreneurs. What surprised you most about working from home? How do you make it work for you? Comment and share below.

Vacations in Tomorrowland

Although I only became an authorpreneur a little over a year ago, I’ve been working from home by contract for the past eight years. It’s a sweet set-up if you know how to work it, but it took some trial and error to find a good balance of work, family and play in my life.

Take vacations for example, my family just returned from a week in Florida for spring break. These trips mean the world to me because we only have a few more with our teenage sons. It’s prime family time but for me it’s also work time.

When you’re your own boss your work goes with you everywhere.

That rankles some. It goes against the traditional idea of vacation where work is left behind to give you uninterrupted time to focus on your family and create fun memories. But after working this way for over eight years I argue that although the traditional idea of a vacation may no longer be an option for me, the replacement is just as good and possibly better.

The key to enjoying your working entrepreneur vacation is to let go of traditional notions of work days, weekends, home time and vacations. Because so much of society still functions on those concepts it can be hard at first. Moms working from home can feel the same guilt as those who work at an office. It’s the classic contradictory pull of family when you are engaged with work and work when you are engaged with your family. Reading The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey gave me my first spark of the idea of breaking my day into smaller chunks and integrating my work and home life. It took some trial and error. There were so many factors I could now incorporate into creating my ideal schedule–my kids’ schedules, the fact that I’m a morning person, the best days and times to grocery shop to avoid crowds, the best times for me to exercise, and my own style of working. What started as chaos has now become a relatively smooth running schedule that allows me to focus on those things that are important to me. I get to be the mom who never misses a school event. The concept of rush hour traffic is completely foreign to me now and my family never has to skip a trip somewhere because I don’t have enough vacation time saved up at work.

But yes, I am that woman, the one with her laptop at Disney, cranking out email replies over Mickey-shaped waffles at breakfast. From the outside it might look like I’m the work-obsessed entrepreneur unable to set my work aside and spend time with my family. But my family and I see a very different picture. They see my chunks of work time as downtime to play a video game or catch up with friends or do a guy thing that I have no interest in. We’ve all adjusted our idea of vacation to include chunks of play time interspersed with my work time.

Ironically while I was in work mode checking social media on this trip I ran across a fantastic article that confirmed my theory that the way I work is the wave of future.  Brilliant futurist, Faith Popcorn posted an article with her predictions for the shape of work in 2025, The Future of Work. She paints a somewhat scary but mostly exciting picture of successful people who use technology to manage multiple income streams and build a life that works for them. It not only confirmed the validity of my current work status, but sparked some great conversations in our family about what work and family and play might look like for our kids someday.

Running your own business while juggling home life isn’t easy. I have more things on my idea list than I could possibly complete, all of which need to be balanced with the work already in progress and dentist appointments, family reunions and the occasional wine and Nexflix marathon. But I’m making it work and focusing on the upsides because I’m building my business and at the same time I’m still making vacation memories with my family.