Until this, I got up before 7am, left the house by 7:45, arrived at work around 8:15, started working at 8:300, had half an hour for lunch somewhere between 12:30 and 1:30, left between 6pm and 8pm (most days), got home 20 minutes later, then spent at least two evenings per week planning my OTHER work for the PA community: devising course programmes, networking and mentoring. It felt rigid, very hard work, and very tiring. I'm naturally NOT a morning person, so getting up before 7am every school / work day for my whole life was a strain every day.
Now I get up at varying times (depending on the end of the previous day), commute by wandering downstairs, start working when I choose to (if I'm up early I can skype with colleagues in Asia first thing), take a lunch break when I remember to, go out for a few hours or read a book or play with my cats or take a snooze (depending on my bad back), then start work again whenever I want to, make dinner at some point, watch some TV and do some more work, sometimes catching second or third wind late in the evening and working through til the early hours. In comparison with my 24 years of working set hours, it sounds incredibly chaotic, but for me it really works. I'm awake and at the computer at midnight (when colleagues in America and Canada are also at work so we can skype then), and I go to bed when I choose to, not worrying about having to get up early the following day.
So - what are the pros and cons of one over the other?
For me. the pros of working for myself, from home are:
- I get to pick and choose the number of hours I work on each day.
- I get to choose when I work them - whether all in one go, or here and there throughout the day / evening / night.
- I feel much more freedom in what I'm doing, with more control over it.
- I'm not tied to having to get up earlier than my internal body clock would like (I've struggled with getting up in the morning for years!).
- No driving through rush-hour traffic - rain - snow - to get to work and no staying late after hours to avoid the rush-hour traffic on the way home.
- I'm spending very little on petrol for the car.
- I'm spending less money, full stop, because I'm not stopping off at shops on the way home from work to buy something for dinner.
- Still suffering from ill health, my back pain doesn't allow me to go food shopping with a trolley round a large supermarket, so I order my shopping online - but working from home means I can have it delivered during the day for a much cheaper cost than the evening deliveries I was restricted to when I was out all day at work elsewhere.
- I'm not interrupted constantly throughout the day by visitors to my office, so I feel more productive.
- Being more productive means I can work shorter hours if I choose to.
- If I need to order anything I'm home for deliveries (meaning I don't miss a day-time delivery during the week and then have to hike to the post office to pick things up at the weekend).
- Lots of smaller costs in terms of workclothes (I can wear what I like at home!), costs of shoes (slippers!), etc.
- Almost every week I get new ideas of things that I could do in the future, topics or tasks that I could include in my work - I feel energised and very lucky to be in a position where I can have so much control over what I do.
Cons of working from home:
- Less interaction on a personal basis with people - visitors, taking phone calls for the boss or colleagues, etc - can mean sometimes I don't see "real people" for a few days if I don't leave the house. Having worked in several PA roles where I was an office by myself without much contact during the working day with other colleagues, I'm OK with this. Plus my cats love me being home with them so much.
- There's no regular payslip with money thunking into my bank account once a month. I'm now used to this though, and with my lower spending costs I find that I need less money per month and my fears of "oh my, who's going to pay the mortgage?" have been unfounded - I'm doing OK!
- There can be a temptation to keep running off with new ideas, and not finishing the task in hand. I'm a bit of a magpie and am attracted by "bright and shiny things" (e.g. new ideas) but am learning to rein things in a bit, list the ideas somewhere safe and then return to them at a later date, after I've finished the tasks I have already got underway.
- At first, for the first few months, I had a bit of a "hmmm, who's going to tell me what to do?" feeling, as I've been used to supporting the leader of an organsiation for almost my whole career - but I've always been well motivated and able to find things to do in my roles, so not having a manager has been something I feel that I've drifted into quite easily overall.
Overall, I feel that I have landed on my feet. Leaving my job and starting out as self-employed came a bit suddenly, as it was driven primarily by my ill-health (it had been a "plan" to leave my job at "some point" in the future, but I hadn't planned properly when I would do it) - but I've done it, I haven't gone under, I'm still paying the mortgage, I'm doing OK.
For having always worked for someone else, having spent my working life managing someone else's working life, it's a complete change to be managing my own instead. I love it though. I loved being a PA too - please don't get me wrong - I had some fantastic jobs that I absolutely loved with all my heart - but this is a move to something completely different, which I also now love.
I'm very lucky in this. I know I am. I have had friends who dread Mondays, hate the idea of going to work in the morning, can't bear that the weekend goes so quickly - whereas I now sometimes have to stop myself to think "what day is it?" as I'm so engrossed in what I'm doing or time is flying by so easily and I'm enjoying what I'm doing so much. So yes, I know I'm very lucky. But I do think a lot of it comes down to the great skills I learnt as a PA over the years: managing my own workload, prioritising, scheduling, taking on tasks without supervision, getting things done with little or no budget, coming up with ideas and magical solutions - all of these are skills and abilities that I developed in my PA roles, and all have proved essential now that I'm running my own business from home.
It's hard, of course it is. Most jobs are. Making sure I have a steady enough stream of income lined up for the coming months, timetabling courses, marketing events (which I've not been involved in before, so this is a new thing for me - a new learning curve), and taking a leap of faith on things here and there - but it is SO worth it. I suppose from looking at my lists of pros and cons above this is probably fairly obvious, as I couldn't think of anywhere near as many cons as I could pros.
So.. I'm moving onwards and upwards. Which is most Definitely my phrase for this part of my working life.
ONWARDS AND UPWARDS!