Working From Home

Shortly into conversations with new acquaintances, the “what do you do for work?” question almost always comes up. My response is usually something along the lines of, “I work remotely for an IT managed service provider out of San Francisco.” The response back is usually “oooo that must be nice to work in your sweats!” Very clever line, I’ve never heard that one before.

Working from home is the dream of many employees, especially the generation around my age. Landing a remote job is a home run in so many ways, right? Show up when you want to, no one checking in on you, no need to deal with co-workers who talk too much or stay at your cubicle too long. The list of what makes it a dream position (in theory) is pretty lengthy. I thought I would share about the things I like and don’t enjoy as much about it. Don’t worry, I’ll weave in a decent amount of finance talk here, too.

Time – I’ll begin with the precious commodity of time. Working remotely really is a sweet spot for maximizing time. If you work at a physical office, you have to drive to and from that office to your home. It seems obvious, but when you work remotely, you don’t have to step foot in your car. No scraping ice off a windshield, no warming up a car, no waiting in traffic. I have had days where I wake up 5 minutes before my workday starts and guess what? I’m never late.

This may not seem like a big advantage, but it really can add up. Even if you had a 15-minute one-way commute, working remotely would give you back at least 2 1/2 hours each week. Over the course of a year, that’s 5.4 DAYS that you get back by working remotely. This number is dramatically higher and more significant with a longer commute of course.

Eating Out – During my days managing the hotel here in Missoula, I ate out for lunch every day. Shoot, when it got really bad I was picking up take out breakfast AND having lunch out too. It was spendy! But if I didn’t plan ahead (which I obviously never did), lunchtime would roll around, I’d be hungry, and my favorite fast food was five minutes away while my apartment was 15-20 minutes away. No way was I going home, making a sandwich, and hustling back to work.

My wife gets the biggest shout out here because she loves me so well, and one of those ways is with her excellent food skills. She’s a great cook. Before our week starts, she does a great job of making food preps (and I usually try to take care of the dishes) and then we both have pre-made, delicious and nutritious meals ready to eat during the rest of the week. This is much much better for our health, but it’s also a huge benefit to our bank account. Eating out since I’ve worked from home takes time and effort. I’d have to get in my car and drive at least 10 minutes one-way to get some food. Instead, I can walk out of my home office, open the fridge, pop my lunch in the microwave and voila, I’ve got an awesome home-cooked meal in less than 5 minutes. This is the way to go.

Vehicle Expenses – The savings from working from home don’t end there. Without needing to leave the house, my car gets way fewer miles put on it each month. This also equates to less fuel (I now have an electric car, but that is a different topic), maintenance, and other expenses like fixing rock chips in the windshield, replacing tires, and all the other wear and tear that cars absorb over the course of their lives. Since I bought my all-electric Chevy Spark EV this summer, I am on pace for only 4,700 miles per year on it. That is with Jos taking it fairly often for work and errands around town. The average driver in the US puts on 12,000-15,000 miles per year on their cars on average, in comparison.

Convenience – This is my wife’s favorite part. When she’s off work, I’m already home when she gets here. She doesn’t have to wait for me to get back from an office across town. When I clock out, I’m ready to go and do whatever we have planned that night.

If she forgets something at home, or we need to put a load of laundry in, this can all be handled by yours truly if needed.

This is where I will start to discuss the tougher side of remote work. I know I know, you were thinking it was all just rainbows and butterflies…

Along this same vein of convenience is the isolation factor. There are days where I quite literally never leave the house, other than to maybe get a walk in during my lunch break, or when I work out in the morning. No coworkers to chat with, no one else at the house. After a long time, week in and week out, this does get lonely.

Collaboration and Rapport – Not sitting close to other members of your team at work can be challenging. As mentioned above, of course, it can be nice for train of thought, and a quiet work environment. But I can’t just lean back in my chair and ask the guy or gal next to me a simple question. I have to do everything over phone or video call, or more commonly, over instant message on my computer. This may work fine for the most part, but not being in the same physical space with colleagues can be frustrating.

It can also be more challenging to build up trust and good working relationships both with coworkers and bosses. When you work in the same office together, you get to know people better, work-related or not. Working remotely does not easily lend itself to that growth that can be so valuable for career development in an office.

Work/Life Balance – When your work is so close – like right in the other room – it can be difficult to disengage your brain from work activities. I don’t know much about psychology, but I have noticed in my own experience a certain level of isolation and feeling down just because I am not around people. Whether you are trying to relax, or are crunched for time trying to get a work project completed, you are still in the same place (your house or apartment). This lack of separation can be difficult.

Working remotely is easy on the wallet, and helps save money in more ways than just the commute. It saves time, gas, wear on your car, and lowers the temptation to eat out and restaurants. It can also be somewhat lonely and it can be difficult to focus if you aren’t disciplined or don’t have a good personality type for the isolation that can accompany it.

Thanks for reading!

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