What I learned from 5 years of working from home

(Philstar.com) - December 9, 2015 - 11:00pm

MANILA, Philippines - I am a living testimony that working from home can actually work. In fact, I have been doing this full time—10 hours a day, 5 days a week—for the past 5 years.  But that doesn’t come without struggles.


Being at home and actually seeing chores that need to be done can easily divert one’s attention. The feeling is more intense because the tasks can be done right in front of you. But that doesn’t dislodge the fact that this can also happen the other way around, that we get too immersed in our work that we spend longer working hours. Maybe it is because we know we don’t need to travel back home that we have extra time or maybe it is a self-imposed pressure to do more.

It takes a lot of discipline and practice to avoid this pitfall.


The concept of working from home is not a very widely known setup especially for non-corporate people. Spending time at home gives an impression that you’re available anytime needed. Important or not, you get a call or a knock on your door simply because people think you’re “just staying at home.”

So here are a couple of things that I have tried to break away from the “just home and always available” image:

1. I stayed in another place a few days a week, such as a friend’s nearby condominium unit in which nobody else is staying.

Advantage: I got the space and concentration that I needed.

Disadvantage: Technology wasn’t on my side. The condominium, being a new project, didn’t have good mobile reception and limited Internet subscription options. Also, it wasn’t easy to find a nearby vacant space.

2. A day office rental. There are quite a number of companies offering services like a virtual office or a workstation rental. Basically, it is an office that is being shared by individuals or small businesses. They offer services such as an office address, fax, Internet, phone, secretary, a workstation, a meeting room, and teleconference room.

Advantage: You get to be in an office environment.

Disadvantage: As most of these offices are in a business district, traffic and parking slots are big issues. Another is that this costs money. Aside from the monthly rental for a workstation, there are other expenses you will incur when you choose this setup—transportation and food budget are examples.

3. Coffee shops.

Advantage: Cost effective as there is no monthly fee. I can go to a nearby shop anytime needed only. Minimal travel time too.

Disadvantages: It can be a hassle if you have to line up and order or you need to go to the toilet and you have no one to leave your things with. Noise but can be remedied with a good noise cancelation headphones.


As working from home limits a person’s daily interaction with people, it may sometimes cause a feeling of isolation. I only visited my office once every 3 months during my first year. Then it became twice a year the second year. On my 3rd year, I was feeling more and more isolated. Though I was happy that I had more time with my family, I noticed my world was getting way smaller. A workplace often provides opportunities to meet people; working from home long term may create exclusivity, limiting growth in other aspects of one’s being. I had to exert extra effort in presenting myself with opportunities to mingle with others—calling long time friends for meet-ups, attending seminars, hitting the gym, and travelling.

I suggest that if it is possible, schedule a regular visit at work. Working in the office once a week or twice a month may provide a healthier setup, be it personal or career-wise.

This article was first published by the IESE and the International Center for Work and Family, or the IFREI Project in Asia, promoting organizational cultures that focus on people

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