The idea conjures up glorious images from everyone who is tethered to a cubicle for five days a week. No commute? No irritating coworkers? No need to even put on PANTS for the day? Sign me up!
I spend two days a week working technical support from home. I used to work full-time for the tech company, but I entered schooling for my hopeful new career, and while I was training, the company was generous enough to keep me on per diem so I could still feed my kids while I trained for the new job. Since I was going to school at night, the company decided that rather than have to drive to work, then drive to school three days a week, I would be able to take my phone, plug it into my router, and answer calls from home. All of our support resources are web-based, so it works. I was overjoyed. Pajamas all day, coffee whenever I desired, possible naps between calls?
The reality is not what you’d expect if you’ve never done a regular work from home schedule. Once or twice because of snow-days or illness is one thing, but when you do it often….the less shiny sides become obvious.
1. The damn refrigerator is too close. Snacking habits go through the roof. Tethered to a phone cord that is still long enough to get me to the refrigerator and the coffee machine has ensured that I put on a few extra pounds either while I’m on a call or between them because I can’t do anything else- which brings me to #2
2. You can’t DO anything else. When you’re at home all day, the work that needs to be done there comes bubbling to the surface. “I have to fix that. Oh, hell, we’re out of this, When did that break?…” Trouble is, every time you make a move to do something else, the phone will inevitably ring and you’re stuck to that for another 20 minutes. Try again later? Sure. Go ahead.
3. You’re worthless as a parent. With the wife being a stay-at-home mom, I’m now exposed to what she has to endure every day. When I see something and try to stick my nose in to help, I muddy the waters and get the look that says “You go do your job, I’ll do mine, I know what I’m doing.” – which at first is insulting, but she’s right. I don’t deal with it all day, every day, so I end up being that extra cook who spoils the soup per se.
4. The kids themselves don’t make things easier. I’ve mentioned that Mini-Me is my biggest fan. He constantly wants to play with me, wrestle, or generally just be attached to me at all times. This is not easy when I’m trying to talk someone for whom English is their second, or possibly third language through an EDID copy procedure on his HDBT matrix. (Sorry. I let the nerd show through there for a second. It won’t happen again.) A common scenario is that Mini-Me sees me on the phone and comes toddling over. He’ll stand next to me for a few minutes, point to the phone in my hand and yell his favorite expression: “DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!” At this point, my wife comes running over, scoops him up so I can work, and transplants him somewhere else. This usually elicits a cry of protest, then a wail of anger from him, and I’ll get the customer on the other end of the phone with the “Working from home eh?” remark.
5. Anything you eat will be cold. Forget taking an actual lunch break to try to cram a hot meal into yourself between calls. Contact the office and tell them you’re taking lunch, and you’ll FEEL the eye-roll which means “Dude, your whole day is a lunch break.” So, you’re stuck to cold meals because Murphy will dictate that as soon as your microwave beeps, the phone will ring. And it won’t be a simple call either. Recently, I remember WATCHING as my beautifully cooked chicken dinner turned cold. It was right next to me and slowly the steam tapered to a stop, then it just turned unbearably and unnaturally icy, as if it were mocking me. I would be lying if I said I hadn’t done the “Please hold” bit while I crammed a few warm morsels in my mouth, but by and large, I’ve given up trying to eat a hot meal at work.
6. There’s no cool-down time. One of the benefits of having a commute, no matter how long, is that it gives you a chance to simmer down after a particularly bad day at work. When your office is at home, you don’t get that, and every now and then, those bad days will bleed into the home-life because there’s no time to cool off as you drive home. It’s all right there. Without the drive to detox, I’ve been responsible for some grumpy evenings in our house after dealing with a tough call or a bad day in general, and it’s really not healthy.
– Basically, working from home all the time is hard, with significant pitfalls about it. The utopian view of it is literally full of crap, at least after the first few days. You may be spending time with your family, but you’re not spending time with your family. Watching the kids play as you troubleshoot CAT5 HDMI Extenders (Damn. Did it again.) Isn’t actually being at home.
But, for now- it pays the bills, and you know what they say about beggars and their abilities to choose.