Working Remotely: Pros and Cons of a Home Office

View of my home office cubicle where I work remotely

I moved to a new apartment in New Jersey, but I’m working remotely for a company in Pennsylvania. Read on about the pros and cons of working remotely, in my experience.

Many people think working from home is all about working in your pajamas, as if that’s the goal, to not get dressed for the day. “Give me a pair of slept-in pajamas and a lack of reasons to leave the house, and I’m good to go.”

While I appreciate the informal nature of working from home, this isn’t what does it for me. I still shower, get dressed and have breakfast before my work day starts. Usually.

[TL;DR — Here’s the list of pros & cons]

Why I Am Working Remotely (#)

Some people ask why I choose to work for a company in another state, and I think that’s a valid question. When most people relocate, they get a new job and move on with their life.

My field of work puts me in a unique position, because I only need a computer and internet access to get work done. I do web design and marketing, so most of my time is spent on the computer with headphones on.

No Commute Necessary

Traffic jam on the way to work
Traffic jam on the way to work

So I can work from home, but do I want to? I’ve been commuting 40 minutes to and from work every day for the last year. I have also been commuting 2 hours each way to see my fiance every other weekend for the last 3 years. If I don’t have to commute, I’m very happy to work from home.

If I Can Work Anywhere, Should I Continue to Work Here?

Since my job and skill set allows me the option of working remotely, I have to ask myself: Do I like the company I work for?

KAASTI work for KAAST Machine Tools, Inc., which is the USA branch of a global machine tools provider. They sell machines to all sorts of manufacturing companies, including machine shops like the one I worked for after college. So it’s a familiar industry for me, having worked on these kinds of machines for about 2 years.

I work directly with 3 other people. These are my supervisor, a salesman and an administrative/logistics coordinator, and we all get along really well. I think a really important part of any job is the personal dynamics and company culture. At KAAST, I’m very happy to work with the team that I do.

It’s a relaxed, down-to-Earth environment with professional responsibilities and realistic expectations. I also have the freedom to request time off for vacation or other appointments. I also take on projects pretty often that require me to learn new skills and techniques, which I find to be pretty valuable work experience.

I Started Working Remotely at Age 5

Well sort of. I was homeschooled, so I worked from home for grades 1–12 and reported to an evaluator at the end of each year. I also freelanced for a while after college, and worked remote part-time jobs at night to make extra money.

Homeschooling

Homeschooler meme
“What grade are you in?” Not sure.

A couple different years of elementary and middle school I was part of homeschool co-ops. For these I would commute to the office (home of the teacher in charge) once or twice a week, take some classes and work with other students (yay, teamwork), and then work remotely from home the rest of the week.

During my sophomore year of high school I went to a private christian school to try a “regular” school experience. I got up extra early to catch the bus every morning, wore a uniform and sat in classes like everybody else. I liked being with people since I was a little bit socially awkward at the time, but otherwise I hated it.

[Side rant: Usually when an institution, business or band is “christian”, I often find that it isn’t any “good”. People are christians, but a school can’t be a christian because it doesn’t have a soul. And my soul-sucking experience at a christian school ended up being pretty lame.

On the other hand, when christians do stuff like start a school, business or band and try to do a good job, it can be awesome. It sounds like an issue of grammar or semantics, but I find this principle to really be true. “Christian stuff” is usually a cheap imitation of “secular stuff”. But when christians just do stuff and do a good job, it can be very creative, innovative and helpful.

There is no difference between sacred and secular. It’s all part of life. /end side rant]

Freelancing

Freelancer meme
“Freelancer”: What bums call a job

After college, I learned that I just spent 3 years learning a particular skill set (graphic design), but I didn’t know anything about business. I didn’t know how to get a job in my field, so I got a job in manufacturing the old-fashioned way: I knew a guy who knew a guy who worked for a machine shop which was hiring.

As I worked full-time running lathe and milling machines, I began freelancing at night and taking occasional remote gigs for companies around the country. I didn’t know about online job boards, so I scraped the bottom of the barrel for side work.

Remote Part-Time Side Jobs

In 2012, I finally got back into my field by responding to a shady Craigslist ad. I worked full-time for a local newspaper in Chester, Pennsylvania as a graphic designer, front end developer, WordPress expert and go-to “computer/internet guy”. During that time, I took a side job working remotely at night for a sports newspaper in Alabama. I also worked as an independent contractor for a graphic design agency in Maryland for a couple years.

After a few years I learned enough to finally quit freelancing. I started consulting for small businesses under the Doing Business As name of Generate.

Working remotely has kind of followed me through life for the past 20 years. I’ve had plenty of on-site jobs in retail, fast food, manufacturing, graphic design and photo-retouching. So I haven’t always worked remotely, but it’s something that I keep coming back to.

The Pros and Cons of Working in a Home Office (#)

Here it is, the list you’ve been scrolling down to since the first paragraph. Don’t worry, I don’t really care if you skipped the entire blog entry above just to get to the main point. Sometimes I do that too.

Pros:

  • No commute
  • Sleep in an extra hour
  • During my morning, lunch and afternoon breaks, I’m at home
    • If I need to do laundry or wash dishes, I can just get it done during my breaks
      • Less household chores to do after work before dinner
  • I still interact with coworkers through email and Skype, so there’s some element of team work and water cooler banter
  • I can take my headphones off and turn on music in the room
  • I control the room temperature
  • Eat and drink what I want, when I want
    • Donuts for breakfast? No one to judge me!
    • Beer and a burger for lunch? No one to judge me!
      • Just kidding, I’m not actually self-conscious about what people think of my diet
      • I also eat healthy most of the time, since I finally have my own kitchen
  • Did I mention no commute?

Cons:

  • You have manage your own time and performance
    • (This is not hard to do—just make lists and check them off as you go.)
  • You don’t have a lot of face-to-face interaction with coworkers
    • (Email and Skype allow some interaction though.)
    • (Commuting a few times a month also allows the best of both worlds.)

I guess that’s about it.

View of my home office cubicle where I work remotely
View of my home office cubicle where I work remotely

It’s not the best for every person at every company, but in my experience working remotely has more pros than cons. It requires some discipline, but it sure beats commuting!

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