By Luke Roney
I'll admit it from the outset -- I do enjoy working from home. Occasionally. When there is some sort of complication or emergency on the home front, it's great to have a boss who's OK with me logging on remotely. But, working full-time from home (or from Starbucks) just isn't my cup of nonfat mocha latte, light on the whip.
And I can say that with confidence -- for I did, indeed, spend a year or so working remotely. So, here's my take on the oft-touted benefits of working from home:
1. Working in your pajamas isn't so great.
It's nuts, I know -- what kind of fool wouldn't want to spend the day working in the comfort of pajama pants and that white t-shirt that's developing holes in the left armpit?
Well -- this kind of fool. Believe it or not, I don't mind getting dressed for the day. Let's take it a bit further: I like to get dressed -- in the morning. Whoa. Hold off on those assumptions that I'm some sort of fop or fashionisto. I am not. In fact, the better part of my wardrobe comes from Costco.
The allure of working in your PJs evaporates quickly. At least it did for me. When you work from home day in and day out, you tend to head straight to the computer upon waking. Next thing you know, it's late afternoon and there you are, still in your pajamas. No need to get dressed now, bedtime will come soon enough -- and the cycle continues, days blend together in some indistinguishable pajama blur.
Just shower and get dressed before you head to the computer and start working, the apologist for remote working may say. Easier said than done, my friend. And it's not just me. While I don't have any hard data, the anecdotal evidence I've gathered indicates that many other work-from-homers also get stuck in the pajama trap.
2. More time with family ... not!
Sure, commuting is a drag -- and then there's that big chunk of time that you're actually at work. But, in my experience, working from home didn't really translate into more quality time with my family.
To be clear, I did see my wife and young son more -- but most of the time I was telling the poor kid to hush because I was on a conference call, or that we could go to the zoo after I finished just one more thing, and then one more thing after that. (And then, of course, I'd have to shower and get dressed because I was still stuck in my PJs -- and, wait a minute, is it Saturday? How'd that happen?)
Just establish a routine and stick to it, our remote-working apologist says. Again, nice goal -- but not always so attainable. The overriding reality of a home with small children is that routines just don't stick. It's tough to make a 2-year-old understand that just because I'm sitting on the couch (with the laptop, of course) it's not a good time to jump on my head. Because to him, it's the perfect time to jump on my head.
When it comes to family time, quantity does not trump quality.
3. Choose your own hours (as long as that means all hours).
Finally, by way of working from home, I'm in charge, the newbie remote worker rejoices. I'm the one who decides whether I work in the morning or the evening or even the middle of the night!
In my case, I ended up working in the morning, in the evening and in the middle of the night. When you work from home, the line between their time and my time blurs -- it all becomes our time and, really, that's mostly their time.
Simply set reasonable boundaries and enforce them, our apologist says. I say the best boundary is geographical distance from the actual place of work. It'd be nice to keep regular business hours and power down after eight hours while working remotely -- in practice, though, it just didn't work for me. When you live in the office, you're always on the clock.
OK, all of you who happily work from home...
Don't jump all over me for disparaging your beloved mode of working. I'm not saying that everyone who works from home will experience these frustrations, I'm just saying that I did. And so did plenty of my remote-working colleagues. For you, it may truly be utopia.
But, I caution, buyer beware -- working from home may not be all sunshine and roses.
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