Thursday, May 30, 2013

5 Pitfalls of Working From Home (and How to Avoid Them)

Before I had kids, I had planned on going back into the workforce at least part-time after having my first son.  Yet after holding him in my arms, and with my maternity leave ending, I started praying for a way to stay home with him.  God opened the door through my brother offering me a job, and I have now worked from home for 7 years as a wedding photo editor.

From the outside looking in, working from home seems like a dream come true.   It is a dream come true in many ways, yet it is not easy and requires constant juggling and balancing to make things work. Sometimes it seems like it would be easier to just get a job outside the home and be able to leave the work there at the end of the day.  I have tried that, too, however, and it is not easy at all.  Juggling work from home has been easier for me than juggling childcare outside the home.

The past 7 years have brought me through all the high's and low's of working from home, and I wanted to share with you 5 pitfalls of working from home (things I have experienced), so that it might help you to avoid them.


Pitfall #1 - Ineffective Income Management

If you work from home, chances are you are self-employed, and with that comes very irregular pay periods.  In the wedding business, we have "wedding season" and "off season," and I did not always plan well for those months with almost no income coming in.  It is important that you don't take on new bills (that your income alone is responsible for) which could default during the months you have no income.  It is also just as important to set money aside for the months that work is slower.  Receiving a big paycheck during the busy seasons can be exhilarating, and you can be easily tempted to go make a big purchase or spend it all; but be careful, because those choices may come back later (in the slow season) to haunt you.  Be wise with your money and save during the busy seasons.

Pitfall #2 - Lack of a Set Work Schedule

When you work at all hours of the day and night, constantly being interrupted by emails, phone calls, text messages and more, it can wreak havoc on your family and your personal well-being.  Set a work schedule, in some way or form.  I realize there are some jobs where you are "on call" and this would be hard.  But for the most part, many of us do have a choice in when we work.  I made this mistake for years as a work-from-home mom.  All day and night I was working, checking emails, responding to people - who could have waited until the next business day.  The world will not stop running if you take a break.  Make it very clear the days you work and the days you are off, as well as the times you work and the times you don't work. It is helpful to post it on your office door, or somewhere where your family can see it.  Don't just set a schedule, though - keep to it; otherwise your life will be run by your job, and you will become very stressed out and overwhelmed.

Pitfall #3- Blogger's Butt

It is called "Blogger's Butt" for a reason - it is a joke in the blogging community that sitting for prolonged periods of time writing at your computer can cause your butt to widen and the weight to pile on.  I have it myself, so take it from me.  The past few years of working from home have resulted in me gaining 20 extra pounds.  If you are working from home, especially at a computer, you need to exercise more than probably the average person.  Be sure to take a break in your day (I know it's hard!) to get up and walk, go to the gym, or do an exercise DVD.

It is also easier to snack all day when you work from home, because the kitchen is only steps away.  When you work outside the home, it is easier to be active and only eat on your lunch break.  Be sure to take extra care of your health when working from home, because it is so easy to overlook it.

Pitfall #4 - Little Personal Connection

Working from home also has a little-known side-effect: a lack of personal connection with the outside world.  I'm not talking about connecting with others through social media, because we do that all day long.  I'm talking about getting together with friends in person.  "But I'm too busy!" you say, "I have no time for that!"  I understand- trust me, I do. But you need to get out of your home office and interact with people outside of your home, in person, on a regular basis.  If that means taking your laptop to Starbucks or a public place, do it. But what is even better is to meet up with friends at a park for a playdate (if you have small children at home), go out with a friend during your "off time" (see pitfall #2), have a regular date night with your spouse - anything you can do that gets you out of the house.  Before I realized this pitfall, there were sometimes entire weeks where I would go with no contact with anyone other than my husband, my son, and saying hello quickly to people on Sunday mornings at church.  Be intentional about staying in real-life relationships with people and not just resorting to contact through social media.

Pitfall #5 - Your Family Feeling Left Out

Before my children were in school all day, I had to work many times during the day while they were home with me. I did not have the resources to pay for childcare while I was working, so many times I would get work done while they were playing.  This isn't bad per-say, but because I had set no boundaries with my work, they never knew when I was working and when I wasn't. They were confused, and there were many frustrating days where I couldn't get anything done because they were pulling my arms off the keyboard.  Instead of having a few set hours where I was working uninterrupted (even if it was while they were sleeping), I was trying to work all day long but getting constantly interrupted.  My kids were upset with me, I was upset with them, and we were all frustrated because there was no quality time being had.

Looking back I realize now that if I had just given them my undivided attention for periods throughout the day, things would have gone so much smoother. Instead, I was trying to mother and work while constantly getting pulled away from both.  How much nicer things could have been if I would have strived for doing one thing well at a time (even if it didn't always happen).

Now that my boys are in school, I try very hard to get all of my work done by the time they get home from school.  Yet it is still hard to turn off the computer and shut the office door during the rest of the day when they are home.  When you work from home, you feel like your work is never done and if you could just get ahead a little bit more, tomorrow would be so much easier.  But remember that your work is never more important than your family, and your children need you more.

The pitfall I struggle with the most right now is #2 - I'm still trying hard to set a work schedule for myself that allows me to get everything done while they are gone, yet still keep the house clean and run all of my weekly errands.

Working from home is rarely done perfectly, but I hope the things I shared can help you avoid some of the pifalls that I have fallen into.

If you work from home, what pitfall do you struggle with the most?  Are there any other pitfalls that you would add?


  1. It is so hard, isn't it? I'm still not in a regular routine of working from home. This summer is going to really be the first one where I absolutely have to set a schedule for myself. With the kids home all day they are going to have to understand that I have "work" time and "family" time. I love the idea of posting my WORK HOURS on my office door for everyone (including me) to see.

    1. Yes! I agree it is so hard especially during the summer. I think with older kids we have the luxury of setting aside an hour at a time to work while they keep busy, then taking a break for an hour to be with them, then working again, etc... With younger kids it's definitely harder.