These are the things people rarely talk about.
I’ve been working from home for 13 years now, and other than a brief stint answering customer service emails for a department store and a few months of bartending, I’ve been doing it full-time.
When 2020 hit and offices everywhere were closed down, I told my wife that this was the moment we were built for: she a stay-at-home mom, me a work-from-home dad. Professionally speaking, we didn’t miss a beat that entire year.
Of course, the online conversation moved quickly into tips on working from home, advantages of working from home, etc. etc. etc.
I was amused by a lot of these simply because this was a generation of workers discovering for the first time the things that I had been enjoying about working from home since the spring of 2008 – a month before I got my college diploma.
But what amuses me the most is how all of these WFH articles are pretty much the same. “No commute!” “No dress code!” “Freedom to work out during the day!”
Those are all great benefits to working from home, don’t get me wrong.
But shoot… there’s so much more.
In fact, I would argue that my favorite benefits of working from home are not the typical ones. I don’t mind a commute, for example.
So let’s talk about the benefits of working out of the home office that don’t get as much press…
I can change my clothes whenever I want
Before I sat down, I just did this.
I live in Wisconsin. The weather changes here more often than some of us change our pants. It’s not uncommon that you wake up to a cold morning only to be sweltering by the afternoon. Or a humid day shifts to a chilly, rainy afternoon within an hour.
When I woke up this morning, I was a little cold. Not a ton, but enough that I would be uncomfortable with bare arms. I wore shorts, but put a hoodie on top. After a few minutes of working, I slipped some thin socks onto my feet to nip that chill on my toes.
But after lunch, I made a cup of coffee and noticed I was warming up. I casually sauntered into my bedroom, opened up my dresser drawer, put the hoodie away, and grabbed a t-shirt to change into.
And I pulled off my socks and dropped them here on the floor next to my desk.
Working in an office requires you to understand the weather and plan accordingly. “Should I wear layers? Maybe keep a sweatshirt at the office, just in case? What if I wear this shirt today and I get too hot? I should just wear it a different time, right?”
I don’t spend a ton of time thinking about what I’m going to wear for the day because it takes 30 seconds to walk down the hall and change my outfit, if necessary.
You know that feeling you get at the end of a long day, when you peel off your shoes and socks and relax, sighing “AHHHHHHHH” as you let your feet breathe?
I don’t have to do that.
The No Dress Code advantage of working from home is well established, and I am in favor of it. I also don’t mind dressing up, so dress codes aren’t a huge hill that I want to die on.
However, shoes and socks are another thing.
I prefer to be barefoot as much as possible. I want to be comfortable, and I want my feet to breathe.
Not having to wear shoes ever is just the greatest thing in the world.
The home bathroom
We’re all adults here. I’m going to cover a sensitive topic, and we need to be honest about this one.
We all prefer to use our home toilets.
That’s the truth. We’re comfortable here. We don’t have to worry about some gross coworker stinking up the joint.
Whenever you walk into your home bathroom, even if you have a spouse and children around, you know what to expect.
I am comfortable on my home toilet. I don’t have to wonder if someone else is going to walk in. I don’t have to cringe at the cheap toilet paper. I don’t have to worry that I’m going to catch something from a surface that I’m entrusting to a cleaning crew after-hours.
Since I was in kindergarten, I’ve had a healthy distaste for public bathrooms. Now, I almost never have to worry about it.
The home-cooked lunch
This is the closest thing to a “typical” benefit on this list, but I’ll run with it.
Being able to cook lunch from home – fresh – is awesome.
You know what’s better than a hot dog heated up in the microwave? A hot dog heated up on the grill.
Or what’s better than whipping up some fried rice in a pan quickly?
Or throwing some chicken in the Instant Pot before your lunch break?
Sure, many days I’m still reheating leftovers or assembling a sandwich. Nothing wrong with that.
But having the option to cook a real meal during my lunch break is almost certainly healthier and less stressful than having to figure out how I’m going to pack and reheat my lunch later.
One office I worked in during my college career, I had very set breaks: fifteen minutes in the morning, thirty minutes for lunch midday, and fifteen minutes in the afternoon.
This morphed later into just one sixty-minute break midday.
It’s very constricting, and it makes it difficult to decide what to do. You read a couple blog posts, go to the bathroom, and your break is over already.
Working from home is a different story, because I can take breaks whenever and however I want.
Yes, this can be abused. I get that.
But more often than not, this ability empowers me to do better work.
If it’s 9:30am and I’m struggling to focus on work, I might set a timer on my watch, lie down on the floor under my desk, and snooze out for 15 minutes.
Or it’s not uncommon for me to be so overwhelmed that I shut everything down and go run for a couple miles.
It’s a real strength of working from home that doesn’t get talked about enough. I can take real breaks.
Music on the speaker
Here’s a quick one.
Many days during the week, my wife will take our three kids out of the house to run some errands or go visit her mother.
That’s when I ditch the noise-canceling headphones and play my focus music out of the speaker.
Yes, it’s easier to focus with the headphones on.
But sometimes you just don’t want to wear headphones, but you do want to be able to put something in your ears.
If you work in a cubicle, you can’t play your music out in the open. Here, you can.
Fresh air when I need it
With those do-anything breaks, I can even take advantage of my location by stepping out the back door and walking up and down the driveway a little bit.
Nothing clears your head and fills you with energy like being outside.
I get excited mid-morning when the mail truck drives by, because that gives me an excuse to run outside and get a minute or two of sunshine and fresh air.
I can set up dinner
So many subscription meal boxes come with reminders that “you don’t have time to cook from scratch!”
Well, if you work from home, you do.
I can throw food in the slow cooker by 9am or even by noon, if the recipe calls for a shorter cook time.
I can decide at 2pm what we should eat for dinner, run down to the basement to pull meat out of the freezer, and plunk it in a big bowl of water to thaw it out by the time I’m ready to work with it later.
Cooking is one of my passions, so I love having the ability to cook right away when I get done with work. We can have great meals without being forced into convenience.
Complete control over my environment
As I write this, the window in my office is closed and the ceiling fan is on.
Later, I might open the window and turn off the fan.
Or I can plug in the space heater.
It doesn’t matter. I don’t have to argue with anyone about the thermostat in this room. I don’t have to prepare because my boss likes it too cold. I can just set up the environment however I wish.
Some days I want a candle burning on my desk.
Other days I want to just work from the sunshine.
Other days I keep my desk lamp on all day.
There is no compromise needed.
I can work when sick
This sounds like a disadvantage, but it’s not.
As I write this, I have a pretty massive chest cold. It’s getting better, but I still sound like Barry White and I feel like an elephant is sitting on my chest.
Regardless, I’m at least doing the minimum amount of work that I set out to do today.
I can rest as needed. I can pause to take in some fluids. I can pace myself.
And I don’t have to worry about infecting anyone, to boot.
Being able to work when sick with something like this is a big bonus because I can keep my clients happy and keep the money flowing without having to give up my days due to illness. If I’m capable of being upright and concentrating, I can still work.
I can work HOWEVER I want
Getting things done is really difficult. Working from home, it feels impossible.
I must have seen and read thousands of blog posts and articles from people talking about how they beat procrastination.
I can apply whatever I learn at any time.
I can start working at 5am.
I can start working at noon.
I can knock off my 3pm.
I can work with a Pomodoro Timer.
I can prioritize my deep work tasks and my shallow tasks.
You get the idea. Working from home gives me options that I would not have had in any other working arrangement.
Yeah, I can work in my pajamas. But the ability to cook great meals, adjust to the ever-changing day, and sit on my own toilet?
Those are the advantages that I’m here for.