A report on telecommuting in the United States from FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics, 2017 State of Telecommuting in the U.S. Employee Workforce, found that 3.9 million U.S. employees who make up 2.9 percent of the total U.S. workforce work from home at least half of the time. Moreover, there’s been a 115 percent increase in telecommuting between 2005 to 2015 (up from 1.8 million in 2005).
Despite its growing popularity, however, many people who don't work from home don't seem to realize that remote work is still work. We asked women who work from home what comments and questions they hate hearing the most. Here are 30 of the most frustrating things to say or ask a remote worker.
"I've been a working-from-home virtual professional for over 12 years," says Denise Dukette, chief taskmaster of Out of the Office Virtual Assistance, LLC. "Here's a short list of cringe-worthy comments: 'When are you going to get a real job?' 'You must love being in PJs (or yoga pants) all day!' 'You can change your schedule, right?' 'It must be great to work anytime you want.' 'You're unsupervised? You must get away with so much!' 'Can you go and [fill in the blank]? I know your schedule is flexible.' 'I'll stop by sometime for coffee (during the day, during work hours).' 'When was the last time you wore makeup?'"
"Over the years, I've come up with some pretty funny yet no-nonsense responses to family and friends so that they understand that I am working, in my office, during work hours."
"I've been working from home for many years now, and I've had neighbors who seem to assume that, because I work from home, they can ask me for anything during business hours — and I should be available to comply," says Michelle Garrett, a PR consultant and writer. "I've also had people who didn't understand why I could answer the door or their call when I was working — sometimes I'm in a meeting or something else, and I can't answer."
"Prior to starting my blog, Looks Like Happy, and becoming a full-time blogger, I worked from home as a paralegal," says Allison. "The most annoying comment I hear is 'must be nice!' Yes, it is 'nice.' It's also a lot of work and dedication to remaining on track to accomplish tasks on time. Working from home as an independent contractor, and now as a blogger, also means no benefits, no 401k, no paid vacation days, and no one to cover for me on sick days. Don't get me wrong, it definitely has its perks, such as I don't have to request time off to go to the dentist, and when my adult children or friends are visiting I can work around spending time with them, which is very nice. But it also means I am often up working at 5 am or until the wee hours of the morning to catch up.
"The second most annoying comment I hear a lot is 'Oh, you work from home? Do you want to watch my kids for extra money?' Um, no, no, I sure don't. I am actually working, and adding childcare to the mix would mean I am working two jobs at once and the odds of succeeding at both would be slim.
"And, finally, the worst work-related interruption is when I am letting my dogs out real quick and I am flagged down by a neighbor who wants to chat or have a beverage and doesn't understand how I could possibly 'still be working' at 7 pm. Sometimes I feel like I am hiding in my own home."
"I've worked from home since 2013 when I created my agency Charles Ave Marketing," says Kim Kohatsu. "On Sundays, it's common to gripe about having to work the next day. Too often, people look at me and say, 'But I guess you don't have to worry about that.' Sure, it's true I don't have to travel to work the next day, but I still work. And if anything, since it's my own business, I probably have to work harder. It really bugs me that, just because I don't have a commute or dress code, the work I do gets discounted. There's no question that working from home is a luxury that I'm lucky I get to do. But it's still work. It's mentally taxing. I put just as much thought (if not more) in working from home than I did when I worked in an office. Not to mention that, when you work from home, you never get to leave the office."
"I need to be at my computer at least four to six hours a day to do my job well, says Kimberly King, author and sexual abuse prevention educator and speaker. "I get a lot of 'mom-hate' when I don't volunteer for things that don't work with my schedule. Recently a mom said to me, 'Oh, well you can just drive that over to me because you don't work!' It drives me crazy. I work all the time. And, I am frequently interrupted by kids, friends, school, sports, driving. It is extremely hard to set a work schedule. It is hard for me to say no. But, I need to!
"I often wonder how much more effective I would be as an author, wife, and mom if I went to an office to work... I really can not stand when people say, 'I should get a real job' or 'I don't really work.' I am thankful that I can work from home because I get to be the mom I need to be. I am always happy to pick up the sick kid from school or participate in volunteer activities at school and in my community. I have a flexible schedule. But, it does feel that people take advantage of me sometimes because of that."
"I work from home," says Kathryn Selby, president of Selby NYC. "I hate hearing: 'You must love working from home so you can do all your errands and personal things.' And 'It will be so easy when you have a baby because you can just stop working.' And 'You are able to always go on vacation.'"
"I hate when people say 'Great you get to work in your pajamas all day!'" says Sophie Burkart, owner of and designer at Soffia B. "To a woman who started a luxury robe business at age 44 after a successful career in IT, really?"
"Many times, I hear from friends and people, 'Oh you have such a great life, working from home — you can take naps and get up whenever you like," says Beatrice Davis of Sassy B Worldwide Productions. "At other times, I get asked, 'Don't you get bored at home?' or 'Why don't you rent an office?' At times, it really can make you upset because it is not understood that you have to work harder at home and you are always reachable to your clients because you work from home."
"I have been working in a remote job for over eight years now," says Sireesha, a career blogger at Crowdworknews.com. "When I first started working from home, nobody believed it was a 'real' job. They were quite surprised and a bit skeptical that anyone actually can work from home. I think that work-from-home jobs get that vibe a lot. Two of my biggest pet peeves are, because I work from home, I am always around, a.k.a I am available. 'You are anyway home, so let's go out shopping?' or 'Can you take care of my kids for a while until we come back from work?' These are some of the things I hear very frequently from my friends. People do not realize that working from home is much harder than working a desk job and, because you are home, it does not mean you are on a day off. It's always work for you.
"Another thing that has always bothered me is, if you are working from home, then there is always a doubt if you are doing anything worthwhile. 'Is it a real job?' 'Do you actually get paid?' These kinds of questions really push me to the edge. The world of remote working is on the rise, and it surprises me that even now people do not understand that there are many high-paying, real jobs in the remote industry."
"I have heard all of these, and they drive me crazy: 'Oh, so you get to work in your PJs all day' and 'You're so lucky being able to do the laundry and things between work,'" says Patti Barnes, blogger at RedHeaded Patti. "I have to go out to work, and I never have time to keep the house clean — it drives me mad that people, and especially other women, assume you spend the day doing a little 'work' interspersed with chores.
"Everyone also assumes you work from home because that way you don't have to pay for childcare and you can look after your kids at the same time. I always ask people who assume this — and how much work they'd get done in a day if they took their child to work with them."
"I have my own online retail business and I have a 16-month-old baby full-time," says Maryna Shkvorets, entrepreneur at marsandstarsbaby.com. "The question I hate the most is 'How much do you make?' I consider this a taboo question anyway but, even if I was comfortable divulging my earnings to everyone who asked, I have to give context. I mean I run a business during a toddler's naps."
The thing I hate hearing the most is 'Why isn't the house clean?' or 'I'm so jealous that you have extra time to do chores like laundry,'" says Jolene Rheault, marketing manager of Bid Lab. "People assume that because I'm working out of my house that I have more time to clean which isn't necessarily true. Believe it or not, I'm spending that time actually working."
"As an online business owner and mom of four, what I hate the most is when I get asked if I can babysit because people assume that I am available since I'm home," says Lindsay McCoy, co-owner of One Strong Mama online prenatal exercise program.
"During my years as a published author and an independent inventor, more than one close and otherwise supportive friend has said some variation of these words to me: 'I don't know how you do it, Cardyn, sitting around doing nothing all day,'" says Cardyn Brooks. "Their comments annoy me, but don't anger me because my first thought is that that is a ridiculously untrue statement. My published books, reviews, blog posts and multiple iterations of my prototypes don't write and manufacture themselves. To my friends, I usually say something like: 'Some days I miss the predictability of being a worker bee with a guaranteed salary and benefits offered by conventional employment, but having personal control of my schedule, artistic freedom, and autonomy are worth the risks.' I simply ignore acquaintances or strangers who feel compelled to share any types of uninformed opinions with me."
"I'm the host of the Freedom Lifestyle podcast series and online community of freelancers and female entrepreneurs," says Sam. "As someone who works from home, I've noticed that my friends with 9-5 jobs assume I should be the one to run errands for girls' night and that the responsibility should fall on me to make their lives easier. They don't understand that I'm only making money when I work and that, while I do have the freedom to work wherever and whenever, it doesn't mean my work is less intensive or burdensome than theirs."
"I am a full-time blogger and online content creator, and I work from home," says Angela Paris of Juggling Act Mama Blog. "People do not understand my job or my schedule at all. Often, others assume that I'm available to do something because I'm 'home' even though it's during traditional work hours. It drives me crazy when someone needs something and starts a sentence with 'since you're home...'"
"My friends and colleagues think I am always available when I’m not," says Lynn Hobson, a publicist, author and content creator. "I got a text from a real estate broker friend who said, 'Hey girl. Are you at home? I need you to act as a stand in for a client. The property is next door to you. May I borrow you for two minutes?' I got a call from my mom when she said, 'Hey. I want to have a birthday party. While you are at home, please make an invitation for me. Please also order anything that I would need to have a birthday party at my house.' And my neighbor once said, 'Hey! I am going under the knife tomorrow. Can you please be my point of contact and pick me up from the hospital? The entire procedure will take four to six hours.' Like... my life is crazy!"
"I'm a freelancer and author that works from home," says Tessa Clare Endencia, author of The Divinity Bureau. "The comments that I hate hearing the most are: 'I actually have to go to a real job.' It's usually in the context of something like complaining about how they have to get up early, or when it's Monday and they don't want to go to work. I have a real job, too. Sometimes, I have to deal with clients I don't like, or sometimes I have to work weekends because I'm on a deadline. There are also times when it's like having 10 bosses. But most importantly, it pays my bills. You'd never say something like that to a waitress (or another person with an occupation that doesn't involve a 9-5 schedule) but, for some reason, people think that it's perfectly acceptable to say it to me."
"Some of my closest friends are stay-at-home moms, so the fact that I work from home and send my three kids (ages four and a half, two, and four months) to preschool can sometimes throw them for a loop," says Chaviva Gordon-Bennett, a full-time copywriter for SmartBug Media. "Like, if I'm home, why can't the kids be home? Being a full-time working mom with a remote job is tough, because people just don't get it. People see me working at a coffee shop and think they can chat me up, while inside I'm cringing and growing more and more anxious about the deadlines that are slowly slipping away. I work in coffee shops so I don't see the piles of clothes and dishes at home — not so I can socialize. In fact, I often wear headphones just so people won't talk to me.
"The other hard part is that, with an entirely remote job, my hours are flexible, but only to an extent. My kids are at daycare from 8-4, and I work from 8-4, but if we need groceries or I have to take a kid to the doctor, I can take that time to run out, but I have to make it up on the weekend or in the evening. So when I ditch my husband on a Sunday with all three kids to go work, sometimes people are like, 'Why are you always working?' I'm not. It's just hard to work full time at home and still have time once kids are around to make food, do dishes, wash the laundry, go buy groceries, run other errands... You get the picture."
"I hate when people ask me: 'So, you have tons of free time right?' 'Why do you need a housekeeper if you work from home?' 'When are you going to quit and get 'a real job?' 'Why do you work so much — you work online right?' " says Michelle Lewis, founder of VisibilityVixen.com and coauthor of the Amazon bestseller Publicity Jumpstart: 10 Ways to Get Your Brand in the Press.
"I cannot stand the comments and questions that I get from friends, some family and strangers," says Michelle E. Fernie-Oley, the owner of and lead planner for Michelle Elaine Weddings. "'What exactly are you working on every day?' 'Do you even work every day or just watch TV and pretend to work?' 'You work from home, so you're not really working.' 'You work from home so I don't know why you never have time for anything — you have more free time than people who actually go to work everyday.' 'Don't you hate living and working in the same place; that sounds so stressful.' 'That's sad you can't 'afford' an office space. If you had an actual business maybe you could spend the money to have a real office.' 'Must be nice to work from home.'
"I work for myself and we live 10 minutes outside of Manhattan, meaning that rent is very high. I can't afford an office space in addition to my apartment rent. I typically go to my clients, so right now it just doesn't make much sense to spend that additional money on an office space when I need those funds for staff and the business itself. People who are not small business owners just cannot relate, and they think my life is so easy and carefree, which is very much the opposite. I love what I do but I struggle way more than 'regular' working people while getting zero credit all the time."
"I get asked a lot if my full-time income or a hobby — I dislike how people think I just play with dogs and do not take my business seriously," says Kristine Bennett, who owns a pet sitting, dog walking and dog training business, Well Mannered Pups. "The lack of flexibility to understand why I work Monday through Sunday and cannot work Monday change quickly at a moment's notice is something I experience often. Also, the misconception that you can rearrange your schedule or work as little as you want is not true. It is a business that has to be worked on and managed every day."
"Working from home is a weird balancing act that requires more discipline than a lot of people understand, plus the ability to keep yourself motivated without the energy of others around you," says Sunny Lake Hahn, a management consultant for entrepreneurs and real estate brokers and owners at 7DS Associates. "I live on the east coast, but have a number of west coast clients. So while I may have time to sit by the pool in the middle of the day, I am on calls or video chats with clients well into the evening. So figuring out my work-life balance is not easy.
"Hearing how lucky I am to 'work in my pajamas' is enervating. Most of the time, I get up in the morning and shower and get dressed just like I would if I were going to the office. My office just happens to be across the hall from my bedroom, so my commute is easy. I have to dress for work just like everyone else does, partially because creating that structure and routine into my day helps me be more productive, but also because I'm on video with people all the time. While I sometimes work in my jammies, it's usually because a client has reached out to me at the end of my day, but I still want to take care of him/her."
"I’m a mother who works from home full time (not self-employed), and I get so many questions, comments and judgements on what I do for work and how I do it," says Cheyenne Goguen, a social media manager. "The most common thing I hear is, 'Wow, your life is so easy! I wish I could lay around all day and get paid for it.' A couple of my other favorites are 'Do you even work full time?' and 'I’d be so bored if I were you.' And, as a mother of a preschooler, I consistently am asked about how I’m able to balance mom-life and working from home. Most often, I’m asked why I pay for a babysitter when I work from home and can just watch my daughter myself. FYI: It’s not possible because one part of that equation (either my daughter or my work) would be neglected.
"I have had my own business for several years and full time since 2013," says Vanessa Codorniu, an online intuitive business coach and clinical hypnotherapist. "I do 1:1 coaching and have various four-week, eight-week and eight-month programs in two languages. Needless to say to create all this, I have to be very disciplined and organized.
"Some things that annoy me: 1. Assuming that my business is a 'hobby' and that I am playing at having a business. No, this is my calling, my mission my raisin d'être and my bread and butter! 2. Assuming I am always available and able to support everyone for free. Friends and strangers ( because students and clients know better!) write, call, text and contact me through social media asking for advice, insight and coaching for free. Somehow they miss that this is a job and that I am solely responsible for paying myself, staff and creating a benefits structure for myself. That means I get paid for my services. 3. Assuming I should be able to handle household duties, because, after all, I am home..."
"As an entrepreneur there's already a laundry list of questions I expect, but hate to have to continually answer," says Jennifer Pink of McGhee Collective. "As a MOM-preneur, the list sometimes makes me want to say, 'Are you serious?' A brief list of questions I hate being asked: 'Why don't you just put the baby in daycare?' 'Don't you need adult interaction?' 'How can you spend all day with your husband and kids?' (We run the business together.) 'How do you make money?' 'Can you do this real quick (because [you're] clearly not doing anything)?' 'How long do you plan to do that (as if running a business isn't a real way of life)' 'Can't you just stop working?'"
"I am a Boston-based holistic nutritionist and, when I first started out working from home, I was constantly questioned by friends," says Kristen Ciccolini, CNE, of Good Witch Kitchen. "They would assume I was available at all times because I make my own schedule, and get offended when I didn't adjust my schedule according to their plans. The beauty of my job is that I can be very flexible, but I also can't just drop everything if you're in the neighborhood! I also have an older relative who thinks I'm unemployed because I don't go to an office every day. She's always asking if I've found a job yet. I do have a job, and I own my own business!"
"Some of my personal favorites are, 'Oh, so you are pretty free all day,' and 'So what do you do all day?' and 'You don't have to go anywhere for work so can you X,Y,Z (that lovely assumption that you aren't busy)," says Jessica Jones, a social media manager for Jessica Jones Social Media.
"It's been fascinating to hear people's responses when I tell them I work remotely — I expected people to be envious of my flexible schedule and ability to do laundry while on conference calls," says Cori Carl, director of The Caregiver Space. "Ditching my commute was amazing. I can spend as much time visiting family or living in another city as I'd like, since I can work from anywhere. But I've found that when I say I work remotely, a certain percentage of people hear that I'm unemployed. The first time someone suggested I think about becoming a nanny or an online personal assistant I dismissed it, but there's a clear pattern of people suggesting I 'look into' low-paying, low-skilled employment. This seems particularly peculiar, given that I did not get these types of comments when I had the same position and went into the office."
"I work from home and run my own business, and I'm also a new mom, as well," says Kelly Hsiao, co-founder and president of the skincare company Block Island Organics. "I worked in the corporate world before leaving and starting my own company. Many of my old coworkers don't understand what I do or believe I really work or work as hard as them. They think I have so much flexibility and freedom. What they don't understand is that all the decisions I make in regards to my business matter. It's stressful, but at the same time, super rewarding. I left a 16 year-long corporate career in media and technology to pursue my dream of running my own business. In a corporate organization of thousands of people, many times the decisions you make and work you do don’t always have a great impact or change the course of the company. When running your own company, particularly a small one, everything you do has an impact."
AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at HerReport.org by night.
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