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The Pros And Cons About Working From Home That No One Will Tell You, So I Will

The Pros And Cons About Working From Home That No One Will Tell You, So I Will
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It’s nice to be able to work from home while wearing comfortable pajamas, but it’s also awfully easy to get lonely. If you’re thinking about becoming a freelancer (or already are one), you might enjoy these stories that illustrate the pros and cons of working from home.

Opening a business is one of the most challenging, fulfilling, and nerve-wracking things I’ve ever done. I worked as a banker (“financial services representative,” was my fancy official job title) in a credit union for almost five years before suddenly finding myself job-less. Since I was a bit put off by the monotony of having an 8 to 5 day job and I had a decent amount of savings stock-piled away (read: enough to support myself for several months despite making some bone-headed business decisions), I decided to pursue self-employment as a blogger and personal trainer.

1. My first paying client (pro: nothing boosts confidence like helping a person change their life).

The scariest thing about working from home is not having a set income; even worse, it is just plain petrifying to actively seek your first paying client. In a typical sales job, you’ll be provided with scripts that help you communicate effectively, financial incentives that motivate you to deliver, and managers to keep you accountable; but if you’re a freelancer working from home, you’re the only one with the power to make the sale.

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I’ll never forget how happy and excited I was when I got a message from a friend that said something like, “Hey! I’ve been loving these fitness and motivation tips you’ve been posting on Facebook, and I know you’re training people now, right? Let me know how to sign-up, because I’m ready to make some changes!” That single client, a busy mom who ended up losing quite a bit of weight and developing a whole lot of strength, became a cheerleader who not only encouraged me to keep going, but also attracted the attention of more people who became clients in the future.

2. The devastating break-up (con: don’t expect everyone to support you, especially if you get obsessed).

When I first started a business, I became so consumed with wanting it to be successful that it was all I could think about. Add in the fact that I have an addictive personality (get obsessed with things very easily), and you can see how this might have spelled trouble for my relationship. My ex-girlfriend quickly became exhausted by how I never talked about anything but business stuff, and we ended up having several nasty fights about it. I was upset, because she seemed to be disinterested in what I was passionate about, and I accused her of not being supportive. She was upset, because I seemed to be disinterested in our relationship, and she accused me of being self-centered. I don’t think either one of us was completely “right” or “wrong.” I think she could have been more understanding and patient with me, since my life had radically changed in a short period of time; but I also could have been more considerate of her feelings, since a relationship can’t flourish without proper care and attention.

3. My smash-hit Kindle release (pro: if you hustle consistently, you will be rewarded for your effort).

With the help of a mentor, I plotted to release a Kindle book called, “The Busy Woman’s Guide to Getting Fit, Fierce, and Fabulous.” I have to confess I can be a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to putting out a book with my name attached, so it took me a (long) while to finish this project, but the result was so very worth it. I launched the book with a, “Get it free for five days!” promo, which helped it land in the #1 positions in the Amazon categories of women’s health, health/fitness/dieting, self-help, and happiness. This book has been read by over 25,000 people since its release, which boggles my mind.

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4. The bout of depression that followed (con: you better not get cocky, because success doesn’t happen overnight; it is an every day struggle).

The point of that Kindle release (other than helping people like you get fit and fabulous, of course!) was to direct traffic to a sign-up page for my online coaching program. Since I was selling the book for 99 cents at the time (it is now $2.99, but also better), I didn’t expect to get rich from it. I thought I might be able to get enough readers interested in my paid service to become financially stable. While I did pick up a few clients, the actual result didn’t come close to mirroring the expectations I had set for myself, and I found myself in the middle of an existential crisis where I wondered if there was any reason to bother trying anymore.

5. My first paid writing gig at Lifehack (pro: it’s nice to have freedom to express yourself and create your own schedule).

If nothing else, reader reviews of my Kindle book boosted my confidence as a writer, so I started looking for paid writing positions that might offer a steady income stream, which I hoped would remove the stress of not being sure I would have enough clients to cover my bills. Lifehack was the first place to take a chance on me. I am very thankful for that, because they gave me a creative outlet where I was free to express my fears, frustrations, and feelings in a way that would benefit people like you (yeah, you, over there reading this!). Contributing for Lifehack has also resulted in getting offers to write for other places like the Motivation Alliance, an online health portal and gamified fitness tracking service for corporate wellness plan participants. Now that I have a decent portfolio and track record built-up, I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to find more fun writing gigs just like these as long as I’m persistent about it.

6. The lonely days that dominated my life for half a year (con: you will get lonely if you’re used to working with other people).

The “freedom” I discussed above can quickly turn into loneliness if you’re not careful. Remember how I mentioned that I have an addictive personality? I got so consumed in writing Lifehack articles, personal blogs, and my first print book* that my social life (and sanity) suffered as a consequence. I love to hustle, and can keep going and going like the Energizer Bunny for a very long time (months!), but pushing myself too hard for too long inevitably leads to a depressing place where I start to associate work with misery. I was so used to working for hours without end that visiting my family, going on a hike, or enjoying a few drinks with friends started to feel like frivolous things to do. Eventually, the irony dawned on me: I wanted to make enough money through my writing and coaching to have freedom of time, yet I was acting as if I was so chained to my work that I couldn’t even escape for a brief moment to get away from it all.

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*This isn’t released yet; if you want to know when it is, please check out the links in my bio at the end of this article.

7. My “let’s meet in the middle” compromise (pro: you can pursue a part-time gig if you start to miss people and/or could use some extra income).

Given my loneliness (which I feel was a direct consequence of living and working alone for over two years) and the simple fact that some extra income would remove a lot of the pressure I had placed on myself, I started browsing job ads in my area. I hoped to find a gig that didn’t quite demand a full 40-hour work-week, because then I’d still have plenty of time to coach, write, and work on my own business. My search concluded in me accepting a position as an office manager at an area YMCA, which only requires about 30 hours a week (and combines fitness and business, two fields I take a great interest in). It amazes me how working with other people, something I took for granted in the past, all of a sudden felt like a welcome escape from the lonely days I’d grown so accustomed to.

8. The woulda, coulda, shoulda’s (con: you will make some bad decisions you wish you could reverse, no matter what you do).

No matter how hard you try, you will fall short. No matter how much you plan, you will make mistakes. No matter how hopeful you feel, you will experience disappointment. I don’t say these things to discourage you from pursuing self-employment. I say it to prepare you for a harsh reality that a lot of people like to pretend doesn’t exist. I’m happy I pursued my passion, but I wish I could reverse some of my decisions. I know I can’t hop in a time-machine to change the past and make all my problems go away, but I can reflect about it here, which might be helpful for you. Below are the four biggest things I would have done differently.

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1. I would have made more time for my friends and family instead of obsessing about work so much. You do have to say “no” sometimes so you can get things done, but that doesn’t mean you have to become a hermit like I did.

2. I would have kept a part-time job initially instead of diving straight into it, because that would have helped me save money I could invest back into the business (and I might have even avoided those lonely days).

3. I wouldn’t have published my Kindle book until I had a print book to sell, too. Self-publishing on Amazon is great for generating traffic to your blog, but I should have had more offerings than a coaching service.

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4. I wouldn’t have waited so long to start pursuing freelance writing jobs. I love to write (so much that I’d do it for free), but I think I could have been getting paid for it a lot sooner than I did.

Make sure you weigh the pros and cons of working from home before pursuing self-employment. If you have any points you’d add to this list or stories you’d like to share, do so in the comments. Please share with anyone you feel would be helped by it.

Featured photo credit: Woman and young girl in kitchen with laptop and paperwork smiling/GSCSNJ via flickr.com

More by this author

Daniel Wallen

Daniel is a writer who focuses on blogging about happiness and motivation at Lifehack.

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Published on July 27, 2021

15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow

15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow
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During the pandemic, video conferencing replaced in-person meetings and has now become the standard option for business meetings. Over the past 17 months, most workers have gotten past the video conferencing learning curve with Zoom or Microsoft Teams (or their platform of choice).

But just as with in-person meetings, attention can wax and wane. Some say we’re just not used to staring at ourselves so much on the screen. Instead of fixating on that, try employing smart video conferencing etiquette, or you may risk indiscretions that will flag you as a slacker.

Put the Pro in Professional

After more than a year of fine-tuning, here are the new rules of video conferencing etiquette.

1. Mute Your Mobile and Other Devices

The first video conference etiquette you need to know is muting your other devices. Just as in the pre-COVID days, someone’s obnoxious ring tone blaring Taylor Swift’s newest single in the middle of a meeting is also an annoyance if it happens during a Zoom meeting and so is the inevitable fumbling to turn off the sound. Even the apologies to the group get tiresome.

Also, when notifications are activated on the computer that you’re using for the meeting, the incoming message takes over the audio and you’ll miss out on snippets of the conversation. Be sure to eliminate this possible faux pas.

2. Dress the Part

While working from home, you may have fallen into the habit of slipping on your comfiest T-shirt each day. Hey, no judgments! But before you log on to your video conference, try to make an effort with your appearance.

Depending on your company culture and the importance of your meeting, consider dressing the part of the professional whom you wish to project. It will help you feel more self-assured, and others will likely take you more seriously.

For women, wear light make-up, put on earrings, and make sure your blouse is crisply pressed. For men, show up freshly shaved. Wearing a crisp collared shirt in a solid color will usually suffice.

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Pro Tip: Stay away from wearing white or black, unless those colors look great on you. Consider wearing light blue or brown instead.

3. Stage Your Workspace

Have you noticed the backdrops of experts interviewed on news shows? Bookshelves and photographs are carefully curated, and no busy-patterned furniture or artwork is in sight.

Take note of what appears behind you when you choose the location of your video conferences. Piles of junk mail on the table or stacks of folded laundry on the couch will convey more about your personal life than you care to share. Make sure you remove clutter from the camera’s eye, and present a tidy, orderly workspace to your colleagues, coworkers, and bosses.

4. Put Some Thought Into Lighting and Perspective

Be aware that in a video conference, your computer camera can actually make you look up to ten pounds heavier depending on where you sit. But you can easily drop those added pounds by moving back from the screen to diminish the wide-angle distortion.

Frame your head on the screen by tilting the screen up or down. Also, it’s best to not place yourself in front of a window or bright light, which makes you appear in shadow. Instead, face the light source, moving it (or yourself) until you have a flattering amount of illumination. You can also purchase some small spotlights that allow you to add light as needed.

Pro Tip: If your lights add too much redness to your skin, consider counter-balancing with a green filter.

Remember That Half of Life Is Showing Up

5. Arrive on Time

In the old days of in-person meetings, it was nearly impossible to slip in late into a meeting unnoticed. In today’s video conferences, logging in late still shows poor form. Instead, strive to arrive five minutes early and get yourself settled.

Once the meeting is underway, the host may be less attentive about late arrivals waiting to be let in. Diverting the host’s attention away from the meeting with a tardy entry request is the ultimate giveaway that you didn’t honor the schedule. If you don’t want a black mark against you, log in on time.

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6. Turn on Your Video

Few people like to see their face on the screen, but buck up and turn on your camera in video conferences. In most cases, it’s better to be a face on a screen than a name in a blank square. Your statements will be more memorable when other meeting attendees can see you.

If you need to turn off the video, either because of a poor connection, some commotion in the room, or a need for a quick break, give a short explanation via the chat feature. Then, go back on video as soon as you’re able.

Pro Tip: Keep your explanation for your departure pithy. “Sorry! Doorbell rang. Back in five” says it all. Be sure to honor what you say in chat and really do return in five minutes.

7. Plan Ahead Before Sharing Your Screen

Don’t be one of those people who makes everyone else wait as you click through folders in search of a document. That’s just poor video conferencing etiquette. If you know you’ll need to share a document or video on your screen, prepare by pulling it out of its folder and onto your desktop. Also, clean up the files and folders on your desktop to reduce clutter and facilitate easy access. Close other programs like chat, calendar notifications, and email. Disable pop-up notifications to ensure there’ll be no unforeseen distractions.

Be sure to remind the host before the meeting that you’ll need them to activate the screen-sharing function. Show courtesy once you’re finished by hitting “stop share” to return to the screen with participants.

Attend to the Pesky Details

8. Make Sure That Meetings Remain Right-Sized

With the easy accessibility of video conferencing, it can be tempting to extend the meeting invitation beyond the core group and include everyone peripherally involved in a project. But just as with in-person meetings, the more people involved, the more unwieldy the meeting becomes.

Use good judgment when asking others to sit through a video conference so that you don’t needlessly take up others’ time and so that participants can be fully engaged.

9. Remember to “Unmute” Before You Speak

Most of us are likely able to count on one hand the number of video conferences when someone didn’t have to be reminded, “You’re on mute!” Forgetting to unmute before speaking has become one of the most common missteps in video conferencing.[1]

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Show everyone your impeccable video-conferencing poise by managing your mute feature with flawless control.

10. Stay on Point to Keep the Meeting Length in Check

As with in-person meetings, an agenda with assigned time limits for discussions remains necessary to keep a meeting focused. Data shows, however, that video conferencing can actually reduce meeting time.[2] Reasons include the elimination of commuting time and the ability to screen share and annotate to keep everyone on task.

Additionally, side conversations are virtually impossible with video conferencing now that you can no longer have back-and-forth exchanges with the person beside you.

Pro Tip: If you’re running the meeting, let attendees know in advance the protocol for the chat feature. Is it okay for them to “chat among themselves” or not? (See point 11, as well.)

Talking Has a Time and a Place

11. Chat Appropriately

Just like side conversations or texting in an in-person meeting, the use of the chat feature during a video conference can be disrespectful unless it’s directed to all participants. Hence, it’s good video conferencing etiquette to mind your use of the chat.

At the start of the meeting, you may want to ask the host if it’s alright for participants to use the chat feature. This allows them to disable it if they choose. Used appropriately, it can be a helpful tool to clarify or amplify an earlier point once the conversation has moved on or to let the group know that you need to sign off early (and why).

12. Use the “Raise Hand” Feature to Avoid Interruptions

The slight lag in many video conferences can result in speaking over another person if you attempt to jump into a conversation. To avoid this awkward interruption, indicate when you have something to add to the discussion with the raise-your-hand feature that signals the host you would like to speak. This effective meeting management device makes video conferencing run more smoothly, especially with a large group, but it must be activated and monitored by the host.

Pro Tip: For meetings of six to ten people, sometimes the old-fashioned raising of your physical hand may be the best option. But it’s up to the meeting host. Ask them what they would prefer, and follow that.

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13. Don’t Record the Session or Take Photos Without Prior Permission

In this case, not sharing is caring. The “sharing culture” made popular through social media has little place in video conferencing. Before recording a meeting or capturing a screenshot of the participants, always ask for consent in advance from the full roster of attendees. Knowing that a video conference will be photographed or recorded could have a bearing on what others are willing to discuss.

Manage Yourself

14. Minimize Distractions

While de-activating audio and video features can keep distractions from affecting the other participants, you will need to manage noise and disruptions on your end to give your full attention to the meeting.

Move out of high-traffic zones in your home, keep your door closed, and ask family members to be considerate.

15. Save Snacking for Later

Save snacking for later—or earlier. Eating while on video conference is a no-no. Munching in front of the group while close to the camera—as you are when video conferencing—subjects the participants to an up-close and (too) personal view of your food consumption process.

However, it’s perfectly fine to sip quietly from a glass of water or cup of coffee or tea. If the meeting threatens to last for more than two hours, you may want to ask the host in advance to schedule a five-minute break at the halfway point.

Final Thoughts

Even though bosses are now beginning to ask workers to spend some of their workdays on-site, up to 80 percent will permit employees to work remotely at least part of the time, which means more video conferencing in your future.[3] Mastering these video conferencing etiquette tips will help you dial in—as well as dial back—your participation and demonstrate your unwavering level of engagement to the team.

Featured photo credit: Chris Montgomery via unsplash.com

Reference

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