With the rise of telecommuting, more people are working from home than ever before. It’s not uncommon to see words like “remote” or “offsite” in job listings, and it’s estimated that in the United States alone, approximately 16 million people work from their home office at least one day a week. There has also been a massive influx in self-employment, as sites such as Etsy allow folks to make products and sell them online without having to worry about overhead costs for a physical store.
That said, it’s important to remember that just because someone works from home doesn’t mean that they’re either slacking off, or working any less than you are. Those who have never worked done so may have some misconceptions about what working from a home office is really like, so let’s put those to rest, shall we?
“You work from home? How do you get anything done?”
People who work from home tend to work a LOT more than those in offices, as there’s no real delineation between work time/home time, so work hours spill over into what many would consider to be “personal” time. Distractions such as TV, dirty dishes and such really don’t come into play, as home-based workers realize that their income depends on one thing and one thing alone: how productive they are. As such, they’re not exactly sitting around in PJs all day, especially if there are regular video Skype meetings happening. (Of course, they might just be in PJs from the waist down, but it’s impolite to ask.)
Although you may be tempted to tell people how lucky they are that they get to stay home all day, keep in mind that they’re probably working 12+ hours a day. Sure, self-employed folks may not have to commute for an hour either way, but they’re likely using those extra hours for work. Most self-employed people (including freelancers who telecommute), don’t have things like medical/dental coverage, paid sick leave, or other types of health/personal insurance that’s often covered by full-time employers, so a couple of hours’ worth of extra work may mean that some savings can actually be squirrelled away.
“Since you’re at home anyway, I figured I’d just stop by… “
It’s very bad form to just “drop in” on someone who works from home, as they are WORKING. We wouldn’t just show up at someone’s office for a chat, and the same goes for the self-employed. While you may be tempted to stop by to see a friend/relative because you miss them and you figure that they can make time for you if you just show up, ask yourself if you would do that sort of thing if they worked in a standard office setting—if the answer is “no”, don’t do it.
If someone drops by for a visit, most workers will be gracious and polite and try to make a bit of time to socalize, but that really throws off the entire work day. Think about a situation in which you’ve settled into a groove, and were then interrupted by a co-worker, a phone call, or an impromptu meeting. When that happens, one’s train of thought derails and falls into a lake, and it’s really difficult to draw it back into working order, doesn’t it? Please be considerate.
“Hey, I know you work from home, so can I get this done tonight/this weekend/right now?”
People who work from home need down time as much as office workers do—possibly more, considering that whole working 12 hours/day thing—but many folks assume that since the person telecommutes, they’re always available. I’ve heard countless freelancers mention clients who have asked that they work on weekends in order to make the client’s life “easier”, and texts/emails are often sent at all hours of the day or night, as clients assume that freelancers and such are perpetually chained to their desks.
I once received a text message from a client at 2 am on a Wednesday morning, asking me to have a piece edited and polished for 6 am so they could review it before going in to work. When I explained that I had been sleeping and had no plans to get out of bed until 7:30, they didn’t understand: I worked from home, right? Why couldn’t I do this?
“Wow, you must have so much free time! Let’s go to_____ today.”
Working from home does not mean that one’s schedule is malleable. There are often online meetings to attend, deadlines to meet, etc., and it’s no more viable to skip off for an afternoon of frivolity as it would be if mired in an office environment. Sure, sometimes work can be rearranged so that excursions can happen, but those have to be planned well in advance, not just on a whim. If you’ve asked a self-employed friend to do something in the middle of the day and they turn you down, please don’t try to coerce them into it or guilt trip them for not going, unless you plan to reimburse them for the time they won’t be spending at work that day.