Sometimes having a home office sounds much better than it actually is. No racing around getting ready to leave for work, no sitting in traffic or long commutes, work in your pajamas, eat breakfast at your computer and no one steals the last cup of coffee. You can set your own work hours and spend more time with the family. Sounds great right?
The realities of working from home are different and yet all too similar.
Working from home used to be called “taking a paper day” which meant you were staying home to catch up on your paperwork. For my ex, this involved 15 minutes of paperwork, several phone calls and a tee time.
With the advent of home computers, “paper days” started to involve more actual office work. Emails became the new memo and 24 hour access to sales numbers meant sneaking into the home office before and after dinner to check them. “Hey, where did daddy go?” became the family catch phrase.
Then, there were the conversations on speaker phone and the dreaded conference calls…for a two hour time slot there was supposed to be no extraneous noise in the house. Try getting three boys off to school in silence. I dare you. Try finding a time to vacuum the entire house or crank up the volume during a work-out. Closing the office door never seemed to muffle those pesky signs of life from the rest of the house.
For over 25 years whenever he worked in his home office, we lived where he worked. The boss persona often followed him out of the office, and comments began to center around how I could be more productive during the day and how the boys should be spending their leisure time after homework and hockey practice. The office even followed us into the car. Hands-free phones let him talk while we drove to hockey tournaments or went on vacation. Think about this…me in the passenger seat and my three sons in back trying to stay quiet during a conference call in a mini-van barreling down the Interstate.
Fast forward to today. I’m divorced, and I now work exclusively from home. I do most of my interviews by phone. I write articles and books at my computer in the living room of my open floor plan home. I occasionally leave command central and work from an IPad. I also care for my youngest son who is battling an incurable disease. Out of respect for his privacy, I won’t elaborate.
Because of my ex, I have a better understanding of the frustrations of trying to work uninterrupted, but I don’t have unreal expectations about working from home. I’m my own boss with no supervisor to answer to or CEO to impress. I’ve learned to put away many of the stereotypes about professionalism and focus on getting the job done. Truthfully, I could work almost anywhere because story ideas formulate in my head whether I’m in front of the computer or not, but I have learned when my butt is in the chair I need to be working, not checking Facebook or shopping on-line.
I have friends and acquaintances who also work from home. Many of them have small children who go to daycare. I know what you’re thinking. “Isn’t the point of working from home to be home with your kids?” You do what works. These people have set work hours that end when they pick up their kids. They make enough money to afford day care and the kids get to be kids instead of being scolded for being noisy.
Other people who work from home cannot afford day care. They get up early and knock out work before the kids wake up. They work after the kids go to bed and occasionally, they put on a Disney movie.
I also have friends who “work from home” but never seem to get anything done because of the many distractions. They actually go into the office to get work done. It’s crazy, right?
So, what’s the answer? Isn’t this supposed to be one of those articles where I lay out the magic formula for success in bullet points or a clever list where the first letters spell out some inspirational word or phrase?
Heck no! The point of this article is to ask the question, “Do you work from home or live where you work?” It’s something only you can answer. Honestly, I’m still working it out and the answer changes on a daily basis.