What’s your reaction when someone tells you that they work from home? Jealously? Pity? Confusion? Working from home is still a relatively new concept, and many people aren’t sure what to make of it. Last fall, I accepted a position as a high school math teacher for a virtual high school. I work from home, and 95% of my work is done completely online. I teach my classes in virtual classrooms, my co-workers and I attend online staff meetings, and I communicate with students and parents through phone calls and e-mails instead of in the hallways and at parent-teacher conferences. While working from home definitely has its advantages, there are a lot of unfortunate pieces that come along with it as well. Below are the five biggest problems I have encountered.
1. You can never escape your work
You know how people talk about leaving their work at the office, and then going home to their families? Yeah…that doesn’t exist when your home IS your work place. Think it’s easy to just close your laptop and finish work for the day? Think again. While you’re making dinner, your computer is staring at you, just begging you to check your e-mail and see if any students turned in that assignment. Watching TV at night, your printer is staring you down, serving as a reminder that you have to print practice problems to go over before your session with students. When you work from home, trying to separate your work life from your home life is like trying to separate a mixture of sugar and salt. Good luck.
2. It makes you fat
At our first face-to-face meeting, one of the other teachers said that working from home makes you fat, and I didn’t believe her. Boy, was I wrong. Sure, when you’re working in an office they often have birthday cakes, free snacks, etc., but when you’re working from home your entire kitchen is staring at you ALL DAY. Five-minute break between meetings? I should grab a snack. Twenty-minute break between classes? I should eat lunch. Another twenty minute break an hour later? I should eat a second lunch. Some might call this lack of self-control. I think it’s a curse of the job.
3. People don’t take you seriously
If I had a nickel for all of the times people made comments, or facial expressions, insinuating that my job is a joke, I’d be rich. “Wait…you work from home? So…you don’t even have real students?” Actually, my students are real, live, breathing humans. Or, “it must be nice to work from home and not even have a real job to do.” Last time I checked, teaching is a real job. Also, I teach AND do all the administrative tasks that a normal office staff does, so my job is way more involved that a “typical” teacher. And my favorite, “It must be nice to stay home and do nothing all day.” Please…let me give you my to-do list for a day. You would be crying by noon.
4. You don’t get to have the typical co-worker relationships
Don’t get me wrong, I truly feel like I have the BEST co-workers, which is why this one sucks. We get to see each other one or two times a month, not every day like most jobs. We communicate 100x more than typical co-workers do, though, through e-mail and chat, but it’s not the same. Working from home can get pretty lonely and having co-workers that live all across the state makes it a little hard to grab a bite to eat and catch up on life outside of work.
5. People expect you to do a million other things
This one really irks me. I work 8-4, just like the rest of the teachers in the world. Just because I work from home, it doesn’t mean that I can be at your beck and call. No, boyfriend, I can’t take an hour out of my day to go run errands for you. No, roommate, I didn’t have time to clean the kitchen and bathroom. No, mom, I’m not able to just come stop by for the afternoon. Working from home still means that I WORK. It doesn’t mean every day is a free for all, where I can do and go as I please. When the workday is over, I am available. Otherwise, treat me just like you would treat someone who works in an office.
Don’t get me wrong, working from home is a huge blessing, and I wouldn’t choose going into a brick and mortar classroom over my job any day. But it’s not a piece of cake like most people think it is. Next time you encounter someone who works from home, take a moment and remember that his or her job is just as hard (if not harder) as someone who goes into a building every day. Just because they chose to step outside the box and take on a non-traditional work environment doesn’t mean they aren’t as every bit as hard working, ambitious, and busy as everyone else.