WORK-LIFE BALANCE / FEB. 25, 2014
version 2, draft 2

The Double Edged Sword of Working From Home

I grew up in a home that doubled as a business. My father’s paving business had been well-established by the time I was born, and by the time my brother was born two years later, my mother quit her job, to work as the secretary for the family business. To this day, my mother considers her decision a blessed curse, for working at home has proven to be both advantageous and frustrating. Some argue that working from home is a wonderful convenience, while others assert that it is the most frustrating way of working.

Family Nearest

The driving motivation for my mother’s decision to work from home, and she surely is not the only one with this thought, was to remain close to her family. As a child, I was one of the few of my friends, who did not have to ride the bus, or carry a house key. There was nothing wrong with parents who worked out of the home, but both of my parents wanted to be near enough that if we ever needed anything, we were there. While this was a wonderful blessing for my brother and myself having our mother near us to help us get snacks, or work on a difficult word problem, it also meant that my mother was constantly switching between answering phones and tending to us. My brother and I were continually running to her desk to tell her stories from class, to ask permission to get snacks, and to settle disputes over who had more claim to the television remote.

Multitasking Mayhem

Being nearby dirty rooms and soiled laundry also became another temptation for my mother. After an hour of staring at a screen, it became a nice way to take a break by relaxing with some household chores. Soon, however, my mother felt as though she was responsible for the upkeep of the house and the family business simultaneously. She would carry the business phone to the oven, while she prepared dinner and she was running numbers while she folded socks. What had been a convenience was feeling more like a curse at times, and my mother still struggles to decide whether or not being so near household chores all of the time, is really worth the distraction it becomes.

Power Hours

One of the biggest draws to working at home is the ability to work your own hours. Like any ‘on your time’ task, however, the fantasy of its ease, is quickly shattered by the reality of when work comes to you. Your business contacts soon begin to decide your hours for you. Time after time, my mother had to drag herself from the dinner and the breakfast table, to answer the phone. Well past seven, she and my dad went outside to meet with someone, who was so happy that our business had hours they could work with. It soon became obvious that the convenience of open hours was less convenient for my parents and more convenient for their customers.

Worth the Risk?

Despite all of the drawbacks to working from home, the benefits were still there. Every inconvenience somehow convenienced our family in another way. Though it frustrates my mother at times, she has continually decided to continue working out of our home, because all of the benefits continued to outweigh the drawbacks. For every person considering the transition into home working, these double edged conveniences must be considered to ensure that the decision will be the right one.

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