Vishal P. Rao at lifehack.org thinks that working from home can be hard on a relationship if your spouse or partner is working at home too: The fact of the matter is that absence does make the heart grow fonder. There have been no times when […]

Vishal P. Rao at lifehack.org thinks that working from home can be hard on a relationship if your spouse or partner is working at home too:

The fact of the matter is that absence does make the heart grow fonder. There have been no times when my wife waits for me to return from a tired day at work. I am just always there! There is no thrill of taking a day off from work to do some of the household chores that have piled up or the excitement about saving time on a weekend to complete the shopping that we intended to do. Due to constant presence of the other person, we had probably got too used to being around.

Vishal also suggests that working at home can turn you into a hermit:

It is important that we realize that change is something that humans need. It rejuvenates and brings you out of the dreary boredom of regulated life. And if you are always busy on your computer day in and day out without moving out and meeting other people, you will soon become a recluse. Once you achieve what you want, the object looses its charm and attraction and that is exactly what happens when you stay with each other all the time.

Home-based work has many advantages, but it can make you feel stagnant sometimes.

My own personal experience lends some support to what Vishal says. I enjoy the time my husband and I spend working at home in side-by-side offices. But we have plenty of time apart too–we both travel for business regularly and he commutes to his Boulder office as often as he stays home. My husband’s four-day business trip this week made my heart grow very fond.

However, I haven’t found that home-based web work is turning me into a recluse. Quite the contrary. For the most part, I find web workerhood and home-based work even better for expanding my professional and social network than my previous cubicle career. I have made deeper and more meaningful relationships working online than I ever did working in a traditional office setup.

With work as usual, you are limited to the people in your immediate geographic vicinity. With web work, you can connect with the people doing work most similar to yours and whose ideas inspire you. But though I spend the majority of my days working online from home, I do occasionally get out for lunch, take business trips, and meet people face to face, thereby rejuvenating myself with new experiences. I can imagine that 100% home-based work might be a recipe for hermithood.

What do you think? Do you get bored of your partner if you spend too much time together? Do you find home-based work stifling sometimes? How do you refresh yourself after too many days working at home?

  1. Home based work need not make a person reclusive. My home is my office, but I still go to many places to conduct workshops, or go for conferences. These give me plenty of opportunities to interact with people… more importantly people who I can and would like to connect with. There are no forced acquintantances.

    Working from home is also quite empowering, because I do not have to worry about the commute, and I can get my “alone time”, when I need to focus.

    Conversing on the (social) net is not quite like having an in-person meeting, but often when I read my friend’s blogs and comment on them, I almost feel like I am having a conversation with them. When I listen to a podcast on a topic that’s important to me, it very often feels like having a conversation with the author.

    But I do agree, working from home 100% of the time would definitely have many negative side effects, but with a healthy balance of working from home and travelling, it can work out quite well.

    Just my $0.02.


  2. errata…

    I meant “When I listen to a podcast on a topic that’s important to me, it very often feels like having a conversation with the speaker” not sure if “author of a podcast” would be correct usage.

  3. I work from home 90%+, and my wife is homeschooling the kids – though they are out and about far more than I. I have not found any downside yet. 5 minute breaks when my wife wanders into my office to say hi sure beats any 5 minute break I’d take at the office!

  4. Ahhh, thank you for this post. I’ve been hoping for something like this on this website. You guys go on and on about how great it is to be a web worker (and it its true in many respects) but I really like the idea of coming home and just goofing off. Home should be a goof-off place for family and friends. I’m working at home right now and feeling more and more like its becoming my cave.

    I have to say I really prefer working on-site, especially (like my last gig) they let me come in when I want (within reason of course).



  5. My wife and I have both been working from home for the last six months. She’s scheduled to go back to a “real” office this month. I am not looking forward to the day when she does.
    Both of us working from home has not hurt our relationship one bit. In fact it’s probably made it stronger because when something doesn’t go right and one of us needs someone to talk to, the other person is right there. Plus we can eat lunch together, walk the dog together and run errands together.
    I have turned into a bit of a recluse, but that’s probably due more to the fact that I don’t shower/shave/dress every day :)
    I have many conversations throughout the day via IM, email and the phone, so I’m not lacking in communication. I do occasionally miss the “water-cooler” kind of conversations that just waste time in a traditional office. But I do spend time in a traditional office once in a while.
    During the last month it’s been snowing and cold, which has really made it difficult to get outside. It wasn’t until this period that I began to get antsy about being home all the time. But at the same time, I sure am glad I don”t have to drive to work in a snowstorm!
    The other thing I have noticed in my six months being a web worker is that I have not gotten as sick as I have previously. I think being around less people for less amounts of time has helped me avoid catching whatever “is going around.”
    I think working from home is more productive, less stressful and healthier. Not too mention that it helps reduce my carbon footprint and save money at the gas pump.

  6. Working from home definitely has advantages and disadvantages. I love the freedom a home based business brings but I also agree that it is very easy to start to hibernate and not desire to go out into the “real world”.

    One of the downsides for me is my wife is a school teacher, there are times when she will email me or call me to do something for her that makes me feel as though I do not have a real job. She does not do it intentionally but I do feel my time is not as valued since I am not in an office outside the house. She came home from work one night and I told her I did not have a chance to get out of the office all day and she laughed. She said it sounded funny…I’m sure it did but I literally was busy all day.

    One of the upsides for me is that I can help prepare meals and do laundry. They are things that I choose to do to help contribute around the house.

    I love working from home, I do have appointments I go on from time to time but overall I love the flexibility and freedom.

    – steve

  7. When both of the spouses are working from home, it can get to be too much. My husband and I did that for 3 years. Now he goes to an office and it is great. The time together didn’t hurt our relationship, but we have found now that we appreciated each other more and we have more to talk about. At times we didn’t seem to have much to talk about because we were together too much. I also love having the office to myself!

  8. My husband and I have a home business and I’d say it’s had far more advantages than disadvantages. We love not having to dress up, commute or”clock in” anywhere, as well as the comfort of working in our home environment. Being business partners with the stress of working out differing opinions on how things should be done could be considered a downside, but it hasn’t hurt our relationship. That’s life! If anything, we’re closer from working together, especially since our work is something we feel passionate about.

    We’ve had to find ways to keep our business and personal time separate. That can be challenging, but we’re able to do it for the most part. It’s understood that Monday – Friday we’re working during the day and off at night. Saturday is for cleaning, shopping, home stuff, and Sunday is off. We can also take time off during the week if we want which is nice. The freedom is wonderful.

    Seems like how well this would work would vary a lot from couple to couple. In our case, we are best friends and love to do things together. Although we can get irritable with each other from the stress of certain decisions, situations and differing styles, we don’t carry that into our personal life or take it seriously. Most of the time it’s a pretty easy-going experience, and when we need to we can take a break and go out for a walk, do a little gardening or just relax.

    Since neither of us likes having to be in an office environment, on a fixed schedule or to work for someone else, this is definitely the best way for us to go. We feel fortunate we’ve found a way to do this!

  9. burntouthacker Monday, February 5, 2007

    if you don’t get out of the house at least once a week, preferably with someone in the same professional area, you’ll probably end up like me :-)

    Having a former colleague to catch up with over lunch is great, you can get the general dirt you miss out on from the local industry and just generally unload a week of water-cooler talk…

    around my parts, I really notice however, the total lack of user-groups and other semi-social hackfests that other developers probably take for granted – if you have access to this kind of thing, make time for your own sake and get involved! It’s also a great chance to network informally, which is always handy if you’re a freelancer…

  10. What working at home does to your intimate relationships and friendships is a very individual thing. It is connected, I think, with how extroverted you are. Some people go nuts if they don’t have constant and varied human interaction. Others go nuts if they do have that. If you are a very gregarious person you probably won’t be attracted to working at home in the pure sense.

    Most of us have heard the advice that the bedroom is for sleeping, not laying around reading or watching TV; you might have trouble with insomnia if you don’t observe that distinction. It’s no different with work. If you work from home you need a home office and it needs to be dedicated to that purpose. That way when you walk out the door of that room you still have someplace to “come home to” that feels like you have permission to “goof off”. And when you walk in that door it’s easier to observe discipline and stay with your work.

    Family members need to respect not only the fact that you’re working but the nature of knowledge work and the spurts of concentration it requires. You need to set boundaries and enforce them.

    Finally, the anxiety some of us feel about whether we’re “abnormal” or “hermits” is needless. We are who we are. If we are happy and fulfilled then we are getting enough of the things we need. If someone else has a problem with that, it’s their problem. Whether we work in a particular location, with or without other co-workers physically present, will not in and of itself materially impact the quality of our communication with clients and colleagues.

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