Monday, February 2, 2009

The pros and cons of working from home

Trent and I have been working exclusively from home for the past three years or so. This is nothing we ever planned: both of us went to college and grad school figuring we'd eventually find ourselves in an office. The contract work we do fell into our laps, though, and now I think we'd suffer a bit of a culture shock if we found ourselves in a more traditional nine-to-five environment.

Working from home has several benefits:

1. You get to be at home...near your warm, comfy bed...and your nicely stocked refrigerator.

2. You can write very important-sounding letters while dressed in your purple rocket ship pajamas.

3. There's a perception of autonomy. We have supervisors, but we rarely see them. They're kind of the real-life versions of Charlie from Charlie's Angels: every now and then one of them will contact us (either as a voice on the phone or as words in an e-mail), issue a directive, and then vanish back into the ether. It's fun to pretend we're independent operators, at any rate, with no set protocol or requirements to follow. 

4. We spend a lot of time together as a family, and we have the flexibility to do family stuff during the day. Oftentimes we take an hour or two off in the mornings and go to the park or playground with our son. Sometimes we drive to a nearby city for lunch (less often now than in the past, of course, given our more frugal lifestyle). We've even gone on road trips to see our families, stopping late in the afternoon so that we have time to check our e-mail before the end of the workday.

5. It's environmentally friendly and frugal in that we don't use our car very much. On some days, we never leave the house. When we do, most of our destinations are here in town and less than two miles away.

But working from home isn't always a bowl of cherries, a vase of roses, or a highway of rainbows. Some of the cons include the following:

1. It's hard to work when your bed is so comfortable that you find yourself lying in it in the middle of the day for extended periods of time.

2. I won't lie. Our clothing is pitiful. Because no-one will ever see most of the things I wear, I don't feel bad about keeping items that are holey, small, or faded (or altogether falling apart).

3. Working from home requires a lot of sometimes-nonexistent self-motivation. Trent and I are both pretty self-motivated on most days, but every now and then, the fact that we don't have people breathing down our necks, telling us what to do and when, leads us to slack off and waste time.

4. We're with each other pretty much 24/7. Three people in a 1400-square foot condo... Sometimes, the place feels claustrophobic, especially when one of us is grumpy (me) or has a particularly stinky set of dirty diapers (that would be our son).

5. It can be difficult to meet people. Most folks go somewhere else to work, somewhere where there are other people and the opportunity for socializing (or at least some good old social drama). I miss seeing other human beings. Occasionally, I even miss the drama. That might explain why I practically wag my tail with excitement when I get an opportunity to talk to someone else in person.

Regardless, I think we're lucky to have this arrangement - not just because it's convenient, independent, and economical, but because it's a land-based version of what we hope our lives will be like in a few years. Ultimately, our goal is to sail on a budget and on a 35- to 40-foot boat, and most of the time, we'll be fending for ourselves. Our current experience will, I hope, help us develop skills that make our future endeavors more successful. 


  1. Hi, I'm Mike, my wife's Katie, and we're on the Cruising forum. We live in Knoxville and just bought a sailboat in Charleston. We'll keep posting!

  2. Thanks, Mike! I can't wait to see how your plans shape up. It's very exciting. Charleston is such a great city, too - so much to do.

  3. Just saw your comment on our blog. Enjoying it? We are LOVING it! Cannot wait to be truly mobile, and we're not there yet. Still have engine problems--replacing the fuel tank and lines very soon--and still need to rewire the whole DC side. I have the panels, breakers, and meters, still need to buy the wire. But in March we must be moving on, heading to Jacksonville first. So we have a rough timetable: ready to travel by February!