Paul has worked from home for over six years. Although he enjoys managing his own work affairs, he is also well aware of the downsides.
I have worked from home for over ten years and, although I enjoy it and find there are many advantages, I am also very much aware of all the disadvantages.
For sure, it's great to manage your own timetable and workload, as well as being able combine your work and private life in a way that suits you—but there are also some downsides that may not be obvious at first.
For example, you need self-motivation, self-discipline, and organizational skills in abundance, not to mention the confidence to manage your own affairs without support or company.
9 Downsides of Working From Home
Here are nine negatives:
- Lack of Structure.
- Irregular Income.
- Taxes and Accounting.
- No Benefits Package.
- Lack of Input and Ideas From Others.
- Psychological Effects.
I explain each of the disadvantages in more detail below.
1. Lack of Structure
Once you have got over the novelty of not having a boss, it dawns on you that you have to be your own motivator and organizer, as well as make lots of difficult decisions yourself. Self-discipline is essential. You will now have to do many things that you don't feel inclined to do without any backup or instruction.
Organizing your work schedule and sticking to it is a constant challenge. If you are not careful, you can end up either getting distracted and underachieving because you are not working enough; or the opposite happens and you work way too much, because either you don't know when to stop, or you end up saying yes to every single work offer that comes along. Working regular work hours becomes a real challenge.
2. Irregular Income
A regular job usually means a regular wage, but working from home can often mean a less predictable income. Earnings and spending become much more challenging to plan and predict. Loans and credit are often harder to obtain if your income is variable.
This can become stressful over time, especially if you have kids. You will need excellent money skills if you are going to thrive. You will need to save in the boom times so that you can survive in the lean.
Working from home can mean spending many hours by yourself. The lack of social interaction and support from others can definitely be a downside. There may be no one around to ask advice from, or request support from, or just to vent to. It means that you have to make a definite effort to socialize with others during down periods; otherwise, it's easy to become isolated or depressed.
4. Taxes and Accounting
You will have to spend a lot more time and possible money recording, tracking, and reporting your finances. It's not just your income, either; much of your outgoing expenses will need to be recorded, too, so that you can write them off for tax purposes.
Working from home basically means much more detailed and intensive bookkeeping and financial organization for most people, as well as more time and resources spent filling out the tax forms at the end of the year.
5. No Benefits Package
For many people, working from home can mean that you won't be on any pension plan or get any medical insurance. You will either have to sort out that stuff yourself, or go without. Of course, it's good to be independent and make your own decisions, but it's no fun when you have less security.
6. Lack of Input and Ideas From Others
As well as general support, co-workers can come up with good ideas that you may not have thought of. They can also teach you new skills, either informally or via formal training sessions, as well as offer advice and second opinions. Having input from others can be useful, as well as stimulating, and it shouldn’t be underestimated.
You should investigate advertised work-at-home schemes carefully. Be wary of any job that wants you to pay out upfront. Many jobs advertised are exploitative or even outright scams.
8. Psychological Effects
There are benefits to be found in working at a place that is elsewhere from your home. It gives you a clear psychological divide. You go to work, you work, you go home. Working from home can blur the boundaries between your work and home life.
You may begin working from home with the intention of improving your work/life balance but end up overworking because you can't switch off from work mode. You can also end up housebound for long periods.
There are generally more distractions in the home than in the workplace. All sorts of things can intrude with your work, whether it is young children, household tasks that need to be done, or more leisurely pursuits like watching the television.
“The answer to finding better work/life balance is to find the right blend between all our life activities—regardless of where and when they occur.”
— Michael Thomas Sunnarborg
5 Health Risks of Working From Home
Working from home can be damaging to your health, if you're not careful, here are five potential risks:
1. Snacking and overeating
In the comfort of your home with the fridge and larder not far away, it can be very easy to overindulge. This can happen without you even realizing it. Eating sugary or fattening foods can be a particular problem and will lead to negative health consequences in the long run.
2. Unsuitable workspace setups
While traditional workspaces are purposefully designed for healthy working, home spaces can be makeshift or non-existent with the worker often just making do. Working at a kitchen table or sat on a bed can lead to physical problems such as neck and back pain. Home work spaces that aren't private can lead to repeated interruptions and unnecessary mental stress.
3. Too much time indoors
Getting some fresh air and exercise can be crucial for maintaining long term physical and mental health, but it can be easy to not go out when you work from home. Sitting at home all day can also blur the boundaries between work and non-work periods, leading to time management issues, mental health troubles and problems with sleeping.
4. Different sources of stress
Working from home can be just as stressful as working in a traditional workplace, and sometimes more so, even if the causes are different. Distractions at home are often more numerous, for one thing, whether they're negative ones like needing to do urgent chores, or tempting ones like of watching a T.V. show or playing games on a laptop. Work tasks like meeting deadlines and dealing with difficult people can also be magnified when you're dealing with them on your own.
5. Boredom and lack of stimulation
Maintaining motivation and interest in one's work isn't always easy at home, especially if you're working alone. Your days can become very monotonous if you're not careful. You may have to force yourself to learn new skills, take meaningful and fun breaks, and find new ways to approach challenges to keep yourself stimulated, happy and healthy.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2017 Paul Goodman
Salty Sam 54 on May 09, 2017:
Some interesting points here Paul. A couple of quick replies.
1) Structure. My partner writes herself To Do lists each evening for the following day. Diaries can be useful as well. I got her a great one for Xmas. When you open it up it has duplicate pages on the left and the right sides. Business on one and personal on the other. Great for organising your time. My daughter, who also runs her own business, loved it so much I bought her one as well.
2) Loneliness. Work in a coffee shop with WiFi (also covers 8 but 9 can be a problem). Here in the UK some coffee shops have a separate part of the cafe for business users.
3) Bookkeeping. QuickBooks or others. Not familiar with US but here in the UK a sole trader, the simplest form of being self employed, can keep simple books.
4) I'm in the UK so healthcare is sorted but I can understand what it would be like elsewhere without it.
5) Scams. Do research. I was looking at using a supplier for my business. All the items looked really good but did a quick search and realise they were ripping people off.
6) New ideas. Forums, and ToughNickel would be a good choice.
7) Training. Surely you can find that online.
Yes there are downsides to being self employed. The thing with being a One-Man-Band is without you there is no music. And I know it is not for everyone. But when surveyed most of the self employed in the UK say the best part is being your own boss.