It’s funny that right now I am writing this in a café. Me saying I mostly work from home is all lies! Total lies!
Well, I mostly work from home. But with modern technology I am totally flexible and mobile which I appreciate.
This is my experience and one reflection which may differ from others. It was prompted by reading a blog yesterday that I found drastically differed from that of my own so I had the urge to share. The blog I am responding to was:
Here are some of the things that are major benefits for me in the ability to do my job at home, or wherever I need to.
Working at home drives my inspiration
Sitting at a clinical, minimalist, open plan office hot desk diminishes my creativity. It is necessary and suits me for blocks of time in the office or as a place to stop in between meetings to do a bit of work but for long hours of focus I prefer my personal space setup the way I like it.
Being at home, taking 5 minutes to put a load of washing on or walk outside in the garden to breathe fresh air gives me time to reflect. I have silence. I reduce the chaos of the world and focus on my thoughts and work through project issues or brainstorm a strategy. Connecting with nature for moments across the day is relaxing and inspiring. Also, taking a few minutes to keep on top of housework reduces stress in the household for 2 working parents who have no external support. In a city office, to break away for 5 minutes I would have to head down the hall, down in the lift, out into the concrete and dust and smoke with all the busyness. Certainly not the same as stepping outside my house!
Being around colleagues can be hard!
The office has distractions. It has noise, smells, movement, and in-your-face interruptions.
I read an article a few years ago describing open plan work spaces as “an 8 hour long conversation”. At the time I was in a large transformation program with 2 full floors of hot desks. With the increase in flexible work hours and people arriving at different times I felt like 8am-10am was filled with regular greetings as people slowly flowed in. Then the chit chat would be sporadic and at times long periods across the day with the less productive employees disrupting others.
You can be sitting at your desk, focused and experience a comment as innocuous as “who has seen the latest Star Wars movie” drag into 20+ minutes of conversation. It’s a hard game of social etiquette if you are someone who needs to get work done; trying to seem warm and social but exit the discussion and get back to work.
So long work commute time!
Since my job has changed and my ability to work from home has increased I have the gift of time.
I used to spend 45 minutes on the train into the city. Include with this dropping my kids off and I would have a journey of almost 1.5 hours door-to-door.
This required a 7:30am or at latest 8am drop-off to childcare or before-school care. I had to then rush out the door at 5pm to get to childcare by the 6pm close. To me, my kids were spending too long in care and I carried a lot of guilt. Plus they were worn out. I was worn out. And for my eldest child I felt it would impact her learning and enjoyment at school.
When I work from home, we leave 10 minutes prior to school start time. Leaving that late means when we wake up I am not project managing the morning routine to make the deadline. We have time to snuggle, chat, get ready in a patient way without me eventually being stressed and snapping.
So it’s a win-win. It’s much more enjoyable and we are all much more rested. I take that positivity into my working day. I appreciate my job greatly because I am a much better mother; I dropped the guilt and I put much more energy into my work and relationships.
For 12 months now I have spent most of my time working from home. As an introvert, I really value the space to think, focus and feeling like I have my cave to get things done. I connect with humans with Microsoft Teams for video calls and chat.
Some people can find being at home, especially unique jobs that have them solely working at home alone, very isolating. I think there are a few factors that can lead to this, a major one being introversion vs extroversion.
Think about what you feel like doing at the end of a working day — going out with friends, or Netflix and chill?
The last 4 days I spent working at home the entire time and living alone (my husband and kids were away). I must say, most weeks I socialise outside of work hours very little. My job at home has me on calls all day but also, my house is chaos. I have a husband and kids. There is laughter, energy, noise, sometimes arguments, and at times less sleep.
Once I drop them off each day there is a sigh of relief that I have all the hours between that moment and pickup time completely to myself. I can allocate work time, if there is time I can do a bit of exercise or housework. I don’t think that there is any time that I have to myself that leads to loneliness or isolation.
However, this week, having all that chaos gone, yes there was loneliness. So it was a great reminder of my 20’s, life before marriage, and how different it can be. It was a great reminder of what it can be like for a person who works at home, lives alone and needs to seek out human company and connection.
To be honest I am never fully alone, the dog follows me, sleeps beside me while I work, stares at me when I snack.
If I ever feel the desire to connect, work-wise I head to User Groups, in my personal life I connect with other parents from school or my friends, and in my periods with very young children when I was not working I joined community groups or committees.
I reach out and connect when I need it, and retreat when I need it. I love that working from home give me that choice and I am not forced into the office in the rat race each and every day.
Is working from home all pj’s and TV?
I agree that some people abuse the system. Some people are lazy. But its not working from home that drives this, its personal work ethic. It’s their personality, their job dissatisfaction, their mental health or many other reasons.
In previous roles when I have managed staff I know some have been dishonest and used working from home for other reasons. You see the drop in productivity in their work. Some staff are amazing, but for others trust is an issue and you can feel the limits being pushed.
“Casual clothes, casual attitude”
I heard this comment a lot earlier in my career. Remember when it was all suits, shirts, and even ties? I cannot quiet recall when we transitioned to product tshirts, jeans and converse trainers. There used to be casual Friday and attitudes did feel different. And now its appropriate to work at home and be on calls in a hoodie or tshirt. Some people have said they work all day at home in pyjamas!
I don’t have a strong opinion on impact on productivity when people work at home in their pj’s avoiding video on calls. To be honest I have done some of my best work on the couch, slipper-socks on with my feet up.
The thing I do notice is the double standard I feel being female. I did go casual a few times at home and on video calls there was a comment or two. Things like “oh, are you at home today?” with a definite tone. And I am no slob. It was me probably in a hoodie still with makeup on!
So, the makeup is always on, and I have adapted my updated ‘wfh wardrobe’. Nice sweaters or smart casual tops. I wouldn’t have put much thought in it had I not discovered that if you wear patterned clothes on videos calls it can be distracting. So its mostly solid colours, rather than stripes or floral patterns.
This blog was sparked by one I read yesterday full of negative thoughts and experiences about working from home. As soon as I read the detail about people who work from home are slobs in track pants or pj’s I took this photo — this is me with effort into my appearance for a day working at home while I was reading that blog. Its business me not matter what location.
Although, there is one moment I will confess to. Last year I ran a series of webinars that were across different time-zones. Some were in the middle of the night. For the first few I was business ready, and went on video to introduce myself. One particular night I was exhausted, cold and decided to stay warm and cosy to present. I avoided video on this occasion and prioritised comfort!
Overall, while some people make judgement and think those who work from home are wasting time, watching TV and being slobs, I incredibly value it.
If my job expected me to be in the city 5 days I would quit. My kids are too important. My mental health is too important and that commute alone can wear you down.
There is no way I could deliver my work in a 3–4 day capacity like I do and be around as much for my children the way I do without my ability to have days at home.
However I know everyone’s situation is different. I am blessed with an incredible understanding employer. There is trust, respect and great opportunity. I know it’s not so easy for other roles or organisation policies.
As a working mum flexibility has allowed space for children and career with minimal sacrifice. But I know it’s just one perspective I would love to hear others!