Working from home: Trickier than answering emails in your jammies

Woman in wheelchair working at home

I'm not a big fan of air quotes. The kind people use when they say, "Oh, you're 'working' from home."

Those curling fingers seem needlessly passive-aggressive. But even in the tech-loving Northwest, I see them used a lot when it comes to people whose work space is also their eat-Pop-Tarts, wear-fleece-slippers, and dry-a-load-of-laundry space. Yes, Work From Homies. In this new economy, with its multiple gigs and flexible hours, many folks still think their (and likely, your) best work happens within sight line of a cubicle.

So says our latest PEMCO Poll, which revealed about twice as many workers rate themselves as more productive in the office than at home (43% called it a wash). People under 35, in particular, noted their productivity flags on their home turf. Perhaps the distraction of whisper-challenged office mates can't match a bored three-year-old begging for another Disney DVD and GoGurt.

Paradoxically, 83% of respondents said the ability to work from home was at least somewhat important to them in choosing an employer. And that was especially true among people with kids.

Maybe the trick is learning HOW to work from home successfully. One longtime freelancer we know swears it's doable – but she had to train herself with a kitchen timer first. She'd set it for 30 minutes and, barring a shrieking smoke detector, wouldn't allow herself to leave her desk until it went off. Gradually, she quelled her temptations to unload the dishwasher, marinate a steak, or sort through that stack of bills.

Something else she had to learn? Whether or not her homeowners insurance covered her for equipment and liability related to her business. On that, we say ask your insurer. Business-use coverage can be complicated, and it's a case-by-case call. ​

How does your work-from-home experience compare with fellow Northwesterners? Read the complete PEMCO Northwest Poll, in which Seattle's FBK Research surveyed 1,200 Washington and Oregon residents. 

by  Derek Wing

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