When working from home works for -- or against -- you

Work from home

Before you propose the idea to your boss or search for a job you can perform from home, read on to hear what actual home-based workers had to say about the perks, the risks and whether it's right for you.

If you don't know anyone who works from home, you may picture the role as pretty cushy: sleeping in, enjoying your coffee with leisure, being home to meet the cable service technician and settling in for TV marathons. In reality, it can take a toll on your productivity, is sometimes lonely and may inadvertently cause you to miss important company updates, all while demanding that you continue to act professionally.

Still think you're interested in working from home? Before you propose the idea to your boss or search for a job you can perform from home, read on to hear what actual home-based workers had to say about the perks, the risks and whether it's right for you.

The reality of working at home
Some of your suspicions may have been right: Working from home has its perks, such as a very short commute or a more casual work environment. "Working from home offers great flexibility," says Monica Miller Rodgers, owner/consultant of Aubia Communications. "I can get up and workout in the morning and then jump right on my laptop, not worrying about proper business attire or a commute to the office. For lunch, I can cook my own healthy meals and save on eating out."

However, along with those freedoms come some strict responsibilities. Rodgers elaborates, saying, "The temptation to do home stuff while trying to get work done is always a concern. When you can see there are dishes in the sink or laundry in the hamper, you're tempted to procrastinate on your work to do the chores. It's really a matter of prioritizing and treating your work as important as if you're in an office away from home."

To do that, consider the advice from David Reischer, co-founder and operations officer forLegalAdvice.com, who worked from home for the first two years while the company was being created. He says, "I think that a person needs to have a schedule that sets 'working hours' between established times. This is important not only to motivate a person to start work but also to know when to call it quits and stop working. There comes a point that an entrepreneur needs to recharge, and answering the phone at 8 p.m. or on weekends is not a good practice, because boundaries will quickly disappear between work and leisure time."

Supporting your success at home
Working from home certainly comes with luxuries and freedoms, but if that's the main appeal of this role, it may not be right for you. That's because working from home requires plenty of discipline and focus, as well as good time management. To support your success at home, utilize these four tips from Susan Baroncini-Moe, CEO of digital marketing agency Business in Blue Jeans. She's worked from home for 15 years and shares the following advice:

  • "Create a separate workspace with an environment that's conducive to productivity. Know how you work best and set yourself up for success.
  • "Let friends and family know your working hours and help them to understand that you are working -- just because you're at home doesn't mean you can hang out or talk on the phone.
  • "Make sure to get out of the house regularly.
  • "Even if you're working from home, you must still convey a professional demeanor on the phone and in meetings. For some, it helps to dress the same as if you were going to an office."

Recognizing if this role is for you
Before you trade your loafers for slippers, honestly assess your strengths and weaknesses and ask if this is the right situation for you. "If you're an extrovert, you should probably not work exclusively from home," Baroncini-Moe says. "Instead, set up an office/home flexible arrangement or work from a coffee shop where you can experience other people."

So how can you do a test run? "I would suggest someone still in the office environment work out a deal with their bosses to work from home for just a couple of days a week at first," Rodgers says. "Try this on for a few months and see how it feels. In the beginning, it will be great because you can watch the kids and be home for the cable guy while still getting work in, but after some time it may begin to fade for you. After a few months, if you're handling the solo part of working from home and not letting other distractions get in your way, then it may be for you."

Working from home may seem dramatically different from working in an office, but both environments place an emphasis on getting work done and having access to the best tools to get that work done. It's just about finding the right environment for you.