Sunday, June 29, 2008

The drawbacks of working at home and some ways to overcome them

I've written about this subject once before, but I'm writing about it again because it's on my mind. Just bear with me here.

Working at home is sooooo wonderful, I can't imagine ever going back to a normal 9-5 office job, having to go out and deal with coworkers, bosses who can look over your shoulder, dress clothes, heels, gas prices, bringing or buying lunch, daycare headaches, taking sick days because your kids are sick, makeup, traffic, the public, the public, and the public. Did I mention the public?

There are so many reasons why it's great to work at home, but then there are also drawbacks; of course there are drawbacks, there are always drawbacks. You never hear, "hey, be prepared for these bad parts of working at home." All you ever hear is "work at home, it's perfect for all you parents out there." You rarely hear "work at home is great but be prepared to have a tough time doing it sometimes."

One of the first and probably biggest issues with working at home are the friends and family who think because you work at home you can just drop what you're doing to visit, shop, talk on the phone, watch their kids or whatever. These may be well intentioned family and friends or even the loved ones you live with, but they are production killers. I've worked at home for nearly 10 years and my husband and kids still don't quite get that I have a work schedule and am expected to actually work it, just like any other job. They think you're supposed to be able to drop what you're doing to throw a load of laundry in, make a meal, look for that lost toy, help with homework, sew something, come see what's totally amazing on the TV, etc. Sure you can do that sometimes, that's one of the good parts of working at home, but you do have to draw the line somewhere and just say no.

Another drawback I've found is that people don't really get that what you do is actual work and that you get an actual paycheck for it. Even after all these years every time I see my dad he will inevitably ask, "so do you still work at home typing?" Like I've magically given it up and started a whole new career. Medical transcription is a career and can even be the one you retire from and have a 401K and insurance with, but because you work at home people just don't get that it's no different than any other career you might do at some office out in the "real world."

Because this is a job and requires long amounts of time in front of a computer you get tired, very, very tired. People (my husband is notorious for this misconception) mistakenly believe that because you work in front of a computer that it's not tiring. My husband has said to me a couple of times in the past, "you can't be tired, you sat all day." Uhmm yeah, asshole (yes, in this instance it deserves a cuss word), I sat all day and listened to boring doctors who wore my brain down until it can't function. I sometimes find it hard to lift my butt off the couch to go pee, let alone want to jump up and fix supper or run to the store for a gallon of milk or whatever the case may be. Long hours of concentration can be just as tiring as a long day of physical labor, just in a different way. I think I've done this job long enough now that my husband has finally gotten used to the fact that I'm tired when I'm done working, that or he's just smartened up enough to know not to make comments anymore about how I shouldn't be tired.

Another bad thing about the job is the fact that you can't mention that you work at home doing medical transcription without getting the million questions and comments about how wonderful it must be to work at home. How'd you get into that? Is it very hard? What is medical transcription? I have a friend who does medical transcription and I've thought about doing that. Do you have to go to school and for how long? That's sort of like medical billing right? How do you do that over the Internet? How much can you make doing that? The list goes on and on and on. I know people are just curious, it's natural, and I must confess I get a little thrill whenever someone seems jealous of what I do, but it's still tiring having to answer all the questions, especially for the 100th time in your career. I think the smartest thing you can do is sign up to be a Career Step affiliate here. You get to set up a little website for free that gives information about MT and the program (you can check out my website here). If someone signs up you get a commission, something like $50 or $100. The best part is they send you an envelope via FedEx that has packets that you can hand out to people. I say print some business cards up with you affiliate web address, your email so they can email and ask questions, and your phone number, and then put a few in your wallet. When you get someone who asks any of the questions above, especially the how do I get into that one, you just hand them a business card and bam, you might even make a little cash on the side from it.

Another downside to working at home is that you work at home and so work is easily accessible. You get bored you find yourself working. You can't sleep, you find yourself working, etc. It's very easy to overwork yourself simply because you work at home and so, therefore, are always at work in a sense. You have to just sort of say I'm not going to do it and ignore the work computer occasionally.

Hmmm, lets see, what else. There really are a whole lot of things I could mention that I haven't already, in fact I could probably go on and on and on for hours on this subject. It may sound like I hate my job, but the simple fact of the matter is I could come up with three upsides to working at home for every one downside that I can mention, so of course the good far outweighs the bad.
The last thing I do want to mention as a downside (which could also be a 100% plus side depending on how good you are) is the fact that most MTs at home get paid on production. This can be wonderful when you're able to actually work and get lots done, but all of the above can help to bring down your line count and in turn you paycheck way down. Being productive means being paid well.

I think those of us already in the MT field all have our little things that we do to be productive and to stay that way. Now that I've been negative, or at least reading back that's how it sounds (I'm just trying to let the world know that working at home isn't all about lack of childcare costs and working in our slippers and pajamas) I'm going to bring you a list of links for sites dedicated to helping you be more productive with handy hints. Check them out, you may find something that you think "wow, why haven't I been doing that all along?"

  • Egg timer. I have an egg timer on my computer that I set for a certain amount of time that I don't want to get up from my desk. I usually set it for one hour and when it dings I finish my report and then go pee, eat a snack, throw a load of laundry in, whatever the case may be. I try and only take five minutes or so to do what I need to do before I'm right back working. Then I reset my timer and work for another hour straight. I don't' take 15 minute breaks during the day, I just take my 5 minutes or so each hour.

  • Tips from Microsoft about how to be productive and stay focused while working at home.

  • Here is a website dedicated to home offices and home business. I think home offices are awesome and I'm always curious to see how people have their's set up. Mine's a complete disaster and I'm going to go through and do a very thorough cleaning on Tuesday and I can't wait. A clean office makes it so much nicer to sit in and work.

  • Here is a great site called Home Office Warrior that has all kinds of interesting little tidbits. They also have an article called Top tips for working at home.

  • One of my own tips I have for being productive is to keep a log of the reports you do. I know it's tedious to write down every single report, but sometimes it's a motivation to actually see how much you've done. If you have a goal of 40 reports a day then number your log to 40 and don't stop until you've done that many reports. I have a spiral notebook that I use for my log. I keep track of the job #, doctor last name, patient last name, length of report and what type it was (dc, H&P, ER, Op, etc). It's really not that much extra work, but it helps me to actually see what I've done rather than just checking my line count a couple of time a day. The next day I write my final line count for the previous day on the top of my page of reports and that way I can know how much I did on that day. It helps me out, maybe it will you too.

  • The Fuzzy Blog has another list of helpful hints.

  • About has a nice list of links to work-at-home hints.

  • An article with suggestions for working at home with children from Parethood here.

  • Here's a very good article about working at home from Station Stops with do's and don'ts.

  • Working at home with kids has it's own problems. Read some articles here, here, links to more articles here.

Okay, I think that's a pretty good list to get you started on tips for productivity. One thing I did when my kids were much younger was I hired two different people to help out with keeping the kids busy. I tried daycare but always felt very guilty taking my kids there. Hiring people to come into my house worked out pretty well while the kids were very young. One of the people I hired for a time was my sister-in-law. She had a young child and she just brought him along. She came and made meals, watched tv with the kids, played games, etc. It worked out pretty well. It was cheaper to do that than to send the kids to daycare and they were still at home near me.

The other person I hired for a short time was a little 11-year-old neighbor girl. I paid her $10 on the days she came over and kept my toddlers busy for a couple of hours. You may be saying "you've got to be kidding," but it actually worked out great. She was getting some baby sitting experience without actually being left 100% in charge and my kids loved her. She was old enough to be able to be responsible for my two, but young enough that she still liked playing with the kids. She generally was just at my home for two or three hours, usually until the kids were ready for a nap and then she would walk home with her $10. It was a great arrangement until we moved. Wow, it's odd to think about her because she's got to be nearing 18 now, crazy how the time flies.

Anyway, you don't have to hire a nanny or a full-time babysitter to have great in-home care and you don't always have to send your children to daycare to get work done. The best part about hiring someone to come into your home is you can check in on the kids anytime you want. You also don't have to hire someone full-time, a local teenager or tween who isn't able to drive yet may be perfect to allow you a couple of hours of quiet time to get some serious work done.

Okay, I'm done, done, done with this post. Now I'm off to do a few more reports. Happy Sunday my MT friends.

2 comments: said...

I saw that you had linked to my tips, read your article and loved it.

I like the egg timer suggestion especially - I can see how that could work really well. I'm definitely going to try that.

Bloggin' Momma said...

Thank you for the kind words.