Alison Griffiths


Recently, my daughter mused longingly about quitting the rat race to work at home — like her Mom. I frequently get work-at-home envy. "It must be nice," people say, "No commute, no cubicle, no boss." Yes, it is nice — but there's a flip side.

As an act of generosity to my daughter and all those work-at-home wannabees out there, here are 11 reasons why the home office can be less than ideal.

1. Nobody thinks you're really actually working! Drop-ins and long family phone calls cut into your day. Call display notwithstanding, you still get dragged away with non-work related emails, texts and phone messages. I've even had friends ask me to watch their kids when a sitter cancelled.

2. Lack of support from a significant other. Though my first husband was unemployed most of the time, he didn't respect or support what I was doing. Keeping current by reading newspapers and magazines, browsing the Internet and just pondering are a big part of my job. But he saw it as slacking. I've heard versions of this from many other at-home workers whose spouses often expect cleaning, cooking and errands to be done during their workday.

3. No structure. You have to create your own 9 to 5 in the absence of time cards, memos, meetings and bosses, which isn't nearly as easy as it sounds. A huge dose of self-discipline is essential. If you don't have it, don't bother.

4. Hey, it's lonely out here! There's none of the socializing with co-workers that's often a pleasant aspect to office life. As a result, I know all the couriers who deliver here by their first names as well as most of their life stories.

5. No money comes in if the work doesn't go out. Yes, you can get up late or leave early, but if you're self-employed your income will suffer. Those who telecommute may have more structure and a designated job list but if you fall prey to #1 or #3 you'll eventually get the call back to the office.

6. Guests are hell. I don't know what it is about guests but they don't seem to understand that when I'm in the office, I'm working. They like to wander in for a lingering chat about a recent movie or YouTube favourite just as you're trying to meet a deadline.

7. Chores don't go away. It would be nice if I could shut the office door and forget about dishes in the sink or the bathroom that needs cleaning. Because work leaks out to consume more of your day than in a regular office, chores and errands get squeezed into a smaller amount of available time.

8. You're a work-at-home nurse. When the kids are sick, guess who looks after them while the happy spouse heads off to work? And if you have a spouse who insists on booking holiday time that doesn't sync with school vacations, it may be time for a serious talk. Those of the sandwich generation will find innumerable calls on their time to ferry aging parents to medical appointments.

9. Your office is never closed. As long as you're home the office is open. Even on a Sunday morning an unfinished job beckons. And employers know you're there so they don't hesitate to call outside normal office hours.

10. Way too many bosses. On the face of it working at home frees you from the boss but if you are self-employed the number of bosses can multiply fast. Instead of one set of expectations you're dealing with many.

11. Your children won't like it. My children, particularly when they hit their tweens and teens, hated having me around all the time; overhearing phone calls, going to all the parent teacher meetings and hitching up the four-wheel drive to get them to school when the bus couldn't make it because of snow.

Having laid out the negatives, working at home suits me perfectly. If you're bidding the office goodbye, enjoy, but don't say I didn't warn you.

Alison Griffiths' latest book isCount on Yourself: Take Charge of Your Money. You can reach her at www.alisongriffiths.ca, and on Twitter at @alisononmoney.