Have you ever found yourself at a job you really don’t like, staring at the clock, and imagining what it would be like to call your own shots? This inevitably morphs into a desire to work from home and reap all of the advantages and benefits of the shortest commute possible.
A short list of benefits for this fantasy workday usually includes no traffic, no boss, set your own schedule, work at your own pace, no dressing up, and always being with your pet. Pretty great right?
I see countless motivational articles, how-tos, and tutorials touting how easy and rewarding it can be. It’s as though the default is that you must love this desire and do everything in your power to achieve this lifestyle.
My short story
I found myself living this fantasy for the better part of a year. I was (am still) working as a Lecturer for a local university and shored up my income with freelance work. I climbed my way up the ladder from free contributor to paid contracted writer to editor to assistant editor. I felt like I was making a name for myself and initially loved the fact that my commute was from my bedroom to my laptop.
I quickly relished the idea that I was somehow tricking the system and actually living the fantasy that others only dreamt of. I was fully aware of this new and exciting life and only looked forward to where it would take me. Working from home only made me go all in on this new style workday I so humbly adopted. I saw no turning back. This was to be my life moving forward.
Like with most things in life all good things come to an end. Over time, my freelance work started to thin out. Writing for the fitness industry is fickle to begin with as it started to shift away from writing and more into video work. With that, less pay was the trend along with laying off writers. I wasn’t spared. I soon found myself one of the many out of work.
Over a short period of time I actually shrugged it off. You see I was grinding, but not in a good way. I found myself with so much work, tight deadlines, and always shifting formats, ideas, and direction. I was firing on all cylinders days, nights, and weekends. I was churning out article after article which eventually lead to burnout.
I started to see myself repeating old ideas, reformatting old programs, and plagiarizing (is that even possible?) my very own work. I was burning out at a rapid rate, but felt the pressure to produce. So being cut due to budgetary cuts was a bit of a release.
The obvious relief quickly set in. I was no longer under the gun to produce a massive amount of work. I could rest my brain for a moment and gain back a sense of creativity. You see, I was writing in a silo of sorts: deep dives into a single subject felt a bit robotic after a while. My brain was spinning and needed a rest.
I welcomed the break. Even though I needed to look for more work for monetary reasons, I secretly embraced the break for two big reasons.
One, I could get off the rollercoaster for a while and gain back my footing, so to speak. I could wake up without an always impending deadline and take back my weekends. I could actually have some real free time without the monkey on my back 24-7.
Two, my work-from-home life could finally succumb to some sort of shift. The truth is, I was also very burned out on my work set up for many unknown reasons at the time.
I grew to dislike the whole work from home idea. In theory it’s a virtual utopia, but in reality it’s quite different from my perspective. Let me list the ways.
I was lonely. I missed people, coworkers, interactions, social situations. I wasn’t benefiting from human contact. Communication was nil and I found out a lot about myself. I’m a social animal and do my best work around others.
I feel that coworkers and social spaces are needed to challenge us. When we are around others we tend to take on more challenges, others’ ideas, and bounce different thoughts off one another. Virtual connection just isn’t the same.
There’s always a lack of real feedback. Without interaction you never experience the real time outcome of your work. Impact is somehow stifled and you find yourself in this gaping void of uncertainty.
Initially these are never serious issues due to the fact that you’re intoxicated with the fact that you’re living this fantasy lifestyle. That you’ve somehow hacked the system and consider yourself lucky. But over time things start to wear on you. You experience this type of decay. It’s slow and undetectable at first, but you feel it. You eventually begin to feel torn between questioning and pushing forward. Your gut tells you something’s wrong, but your brain tells you to push on because you’ve been granted this “gift.”
Now I know what you may be thinking. How in the heck can I be so thankless and take that situation for granted?
Well, first of all my workload was slowly diminishing so I had no choice. Second, my quality of life, work, and mental well-being were suffering. This takes an enormous toll. Additionally, if you stay in this flux for too long you start to miss other opportunities for growth in other areas of your life as well as employment opportunities.
Others will argue that I’m being too harsh. That I wasn’t organized enough or that I should have approached at-home freelance work differently.
To that I say this: We are all built differently. Some of us love to sit behind a laptop in a room alone or coffee shop and type away. We love to stay in that virtual world where it feels as though we don’t have to take any risk to go out into the outside world. Others, like me, need a more open life.
This all isn’t to say that I’m abandoning writing, freelance work, or anything else that comes my way requiring me to sit down, shut up, and get to work at home. I’m writing this from my home office. What it does mean is that I take the at-home work thing a little different these days. I’m not putting so many eggs in that basket as to avoid burn out, avoid stifling my creativity, and avoid degrading my well being.
I’m an in-real-life social animal. How about you? Do you have adventures in home-bound work?
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