STYLE

Why Working From Home Isn't The Easy Option

09/05/2011 13:00 | Updated 22 May 2015

I've worked from home for the last six years, and I love it.

I'm lucky enough to have the kind of job that means I can work wherever I like and, after ten years battling my way through the London rush hour and working long hours in magazine offices, it still feels like heaven to keep my own hours.

Plus, as mum to a five year old, it's great to have the flexibility to be around after school without having to work out complicated and expensive childcare.

But it never fails to wind me up when people assume that working from home is an easy option or a thinly veiled excuse to spend my days working through the contents of my V+ box while painting my nails.

Hardly a week goes by without someone telling me how much they envy all my free time or asking if I've been making the most of the sunshine.

And then there's the relatives who routinely ask if I've found a "proper job" yet.

Given that there has been a 21% rise in homeworking since 2001, you'd have thought that we might be adjusting to the idea that work is still work, no matter when, where or how you do it.

But my experience suggests otherwise.

Admittedly, flexibility is one of the key advantages of working from home. But it comes at a price. I might not work from nine to five, but I often start work at 6am and work several nights a week from 8pm to midnight – or later. I usually work weekends. And bank holidays don't really mean much to me any more.

So yes, I might spend an hour or two at the park with my daughter on a sunny afternoon, but I have to make up the time later in the day when I'd rather be sprawled out on the sofa with a glass of wine.

Also, because I'm at home all day, I end up stuffing in a couple of loads of washing, tidying up, doing the hoovering and popping to the shops to buy something for dinner. Factor in the school run and my daytime working hours can shrink to a meagre four hours.

It's even harder if you've got young children at home because they're guaranteed to have a meltdown the minute that you need to take an important call.

I often feel a pang of envy when I make a work call and get a message saying that the person I need to speak to is at lunch, on a break or even at a meeting. Talking to colleagues face-to-face seems like the ultimate luxury. Most of my work conversations take place over email and if it wasn't for Facebook and Twitter I'd regularly go through the day without having any contact with the outside world. Apart from postman that is: we're on first first name terms, partly because he knows I'm always in and drops off parcels for all my neighbours who are out at work.

I know plenty of people who've jacked in their job and decided to go freelance, only to go racing back to the office after six months because they can't cope with the uncertainty of self-employment and the erratic pay days – not to mention the limited social life.

Popping out for a quick sandwich with a friend, chatting about last night's TV or sharing some juicy office gossip is more or less impossible when you're home alone.

Yes, it's nice to be able to work in my pajamas, make work calls from my garden and take my laptop to a cafe to get my caffeine fix. But, unlike people who go out to work, I can't physically walk away and close the door on my job at the end of the day. It can be tricky to separate work from home – and vice versa – which makes it difficult to switch off, and sometimes hard to concentrate.

So next time you catch yourself thinking about how nice it would be to work from home, remember that it's seldom as cushy as it sounds.

Although I have to admit, sometimes it is quite nice to work in bed. Especially when it's raining. And last time I checked, you couldn't get away with that in an office.

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