I have been working from home for more than a decade now. For the purposes of this discussion, when I say “working,” I refer to the job that actually brings in enough money on which to live (ie, my “reall” job), not to my other writing, which I hope will some day bring me fame and fortune (or at least one of those) but currently gives me mainly entertainment and a certain degree of pride. I do sometimes travel to conference meetings, and I make occasional appearances at the office of the company (usually when there’s the offer of free lunch), but other than that, my basement office is my workspace.
Upon hearing that I work from home, people usually respond by saying they envy me or that they could never do that–sometimes both. Then I usually hear one or more of the statements below.
Oh, do you wear your pajamas all day? I totally would!
It’s not as if I have never lingered in my pajamas a little longer than normal, but no, this is not my normal work wear. Somewhere along the line, I discovered that if I spend too much time in pajamas (or any other variety of stretchy pants), I begin to feel like less of a human, and that certainly doesn’t put me in the mind set to be productive. I’m not saying that I put on a business suit to go sit in my basement office, but I do put on actual clothes. Real life requires real clothing, at least for me.
Working from home–that will be so nice when you have kids!
At this point, I usually start blinking really quickly. I do this because I need something to distract me from the urge to roll my eyes and/or smack the speaker. Firstly, it’s if (and a rather sizable if at that) I have kids, not when. Secondly, no. Just no. See, when I say I work from home, I actually mean that I work from home. If you took a toddler to your office, would you be able to do your job as well as you can without said toddler? If you said yes, then I’m pretty sure you have either locked the kid in a conference room or dumped him/her on the poor, unsuspecting administrative assistant. Or you’re just a liar. In any case, you ought to be ashamed of yourself, and I might need to call DCFS on you.
I’d like to get into working from home. How did you get your job?
I very much enjoy having a 10-second commute and an almost complete lack of involvement in office politics, so it doesn’t surprise me when people are envious of my situation. However, when people ask me this question, they are almost never thinking along the lines of doing their current job (or one much like it in their field of expertise) but from home instead of an office. No, they are asking because they have seen one too many of those, “Make $$$ in your spare time from home while raising your kids and dancing a jig with one hand tied behind your neighbor’s back” ads on the internet and have gotten it in their heads that people will pay them a living wage to stay at home, care for their children, watch Ellen, and maybe stuff the occasional envelope or something. Sorry, no. My job is very much like other office jobs, but, thanks to a flexible boss and the wonders of technology, I do it from home.
I don’t know how you manage to work from home and not gain 300 pounds. I swear I would just eat all day.
When I did commute to an office, people would often bring food in and leave it in the kitchen to share with everyone. Bagels and doughnuts were the most common treats, but there was one woman at the company who was a particularly talented baker and brought in magnificent brownies, pies, cookies, and cakes on a weekly basis. It was generous of her to share all this with us, of course, but I do suspect that she was trying to make me fat. For one thing, my cubicle was right next to the kitchen, so when I got up to get another cookie, I couldn’t even rationalize that I was at least walking all the way across the office to do so. Also, this was early in my career when my pay was relatively low, which made the lure of free food that much stronger. Now, when I’m at home, I have already paid for all of the food in my kitchen, and I don’t have to worry about it being gobbled up by my coworkers before I can get my hands on any of it, all of which makes it less tempting to go nosh when I’m not actually very hungry. Now, if I get fat, I have no one to blame but myself, or maybe Ian. He has been known to force me to eat chocolate (by which I mean he occasionally buys it).
Don’t you find that it’s easy to get distracted when you work from home?
Distractions happen, but overall, for me, I’d say I’m less distracted working from home than I was when I worked in an office. In the office, I was distracted, not only by the lure of free food, which I described above, but also…
- The smell of food (sometimes good, sometimes bad) every time anyone used the microwave. This was especially bad when woman in the office went on the Atkins diet and microwaved bacon every single morning.
- Being too hot or cold since I could not control the thermostat
- Talking. Always talking all around me when I’m trying to edit. This improved a lot when I moved from a cubicle to an office, but I think people began to peg me as antisocial because I had my office door closed so much. Or they thought I was looking at porn.
- The ever-present dread of knowing that it’s going to take me an hour and a half to drive the 25 miles home (sometimes it would take even longer if the weather was bad or there was a Cubs game that night).
- The also dreadful thought that, once I finally got home, I only had a short amount of time before I had to go to bed since I had to get up before any civilized person should in order to do another grueling commute and be at work on time.
- People who would interrupt my work to ask me things like, “How do you spell machete?” (No, I’m not making that up).
At home, on the other hand, my main distractions include the Internet and the occasional gathering of cats on my desk.
All in all, it’s good work if you can get it.