Home or away?

In the past few months, I’ve spoken with a few translators who fall into a small but interesting group; people who hate working from home. One, who I’ll be profiling in an upcoming post, switched to an in-house job after a lengthy tenure as a freelancer and says he’s “never going back;” a couple of others are happy as freelancers but work at rented offices rather than from home.

Talking to these people made me realize that rather than endlessly touting the benefits of working from home, it’s worth taking a look at the pluses and minuses of the home work environment. When I talked to the former freelancer who has gone in-house, he didn’t seem torn about his decision in the least. His reasoning? He leaves the job at the office, gets paid vacation and training, doesn’t worry about cash flow and, since he’s paid by the hour, can take the time to do the job right rather than rushing to meet a deadline or keep the money coming in. The freelancers who work in rented offices mostly focused on one factor in their decision: social isolation.

To me, the important element of this story is that it’s worth exploring your options as a translator even if you don’t think that working from home is for you. Personally, I could write a mountain of posts on the things I love about working from home: obviously, freedom and flexibility are at the head of the list. Also, I’ve learned from working at home that I work best in shorter, more focused periods of time; my work day is usually divided into a few chunks of two to four hours and I find that my mental energy gets diluted when I have to work a semi-continuous stretch of eight or nine hours. Also, I think that the logistical circumstances of each translator’s life have a lot to do with that person’s level of satisfaction with working from home. In my case, I feel that the home-based cards are stacked very much in my favor; my husband and many of my friends are either freelancers or work very flexible part-time schedules, I live in a semi-urban walkable neighborhood where the social stimulation of a cafe, the library or an exercise class is at most a few minutes away. Other people may dislike working from home because they find themselves in the opposite situation, living alone or with a spouse who is at work 12 hours a day, in a rural area or a suburb with little possibility of social interaction during the day.

The one aspect of home-based work that I’m still struggling with is one that I think is common to many home-based workers: fighting the urge to work whenever I’m at home. So, I’ve developed (and am still in the process of developing) strategies to combat this tendency: turning my work computer off and not answering my work phone when I’m not working, planning at least one activity out of the house every day, and setting a hard and fast “quitting time” that can only be broken if I have a deadline for the next morning. All of these have helped me get more enjoyment out of working from home; feel free to contribute your own thoughts on working “at home or away.”

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