27 Jun

debunking the myths about working from home

When I tell people I work from home most days, they say one of two things:

Oh, you’re so lucky!

or

Oh, I’d never get any work done.

The first one is true, at least in part. The second couldn’t be any further from the truth (most days).

I’m so lucky!

Let’s start with luck.

I’m lucky to work from home because it saves me a lot of commuting time.

This is the number one reason I work from home. All the other benefits of working from home are great, but it’s the time I save that made me make a shift from spending a majority of time in the office to a majority of time at home.

The single biggest time saver is forgoing my commute, which takes anywhere between two and four hours a day, depending on what time I’m going to and from the office. If I have a 9am meeting, I have to give myself two hours to get to work. I left the office at 3.30pm the other day to ‘beat the traffic’ and it took me two hours to get home.

Downsides:

  • No commute means I’m not in the office, and sometimes it is actually nice to be in the office.
  • No commute means no time to decompress. I can’t sing out my shit day in a concert on the way home, or take out my rage by banging out drum and base beats on the steering wheel. I just get up from my desk, push in my chair, and walk into the kitchen.
  • No commute means I work stupidly long days, because I can.

I’m lucky to work from home because I save lots of little bits of time.

These little time savings might sound petty, but they add up quickly. I’d say I save about an hour or two a day on these little time savers.

  • I don’t need to put makeup on or blow dry and straighten my hair if I’m working at home. That’s a half an hour saving.
  • There are less interruptions at home (on weekdays at least – weekends are a bit different). When my niece and nephew were living here, people often asked me how I could get any work done with a couple of three year olds in the house. The reality, though, is that I’ve worked from home for as long as they can remember, and they actually interrupt me less than the adults do.
  • There are no hallway conversations when you aren’t in the hallways. I save a lot of time by missing all the incidental conversations that happen in an open plan office.
  • Meetings are more efficient on Skype. For one-on-one or small group meetings, Skype is a big time saver. You don’t have to factor in time to get from your desk to wherever the meeting is, and no one ever bothers with all the niceties you get in face-to-face meetings.
  • If I ever ironed anything, I’d also save time on that too, because yoga pants (my work at home uniform) don’t need ironing.

Downsides:

  • I rarely have to bother with my appearance and never putting any effort in invariably impacts on how you feel about yourself.
  • I miss out on hallway conversations. I like the people I work with and I value my interactions with them. We run a great ‘virtual office’, but I still miss out on serendipitous encounters. It’s the encounters with the people I don’t work closely with that I miss – my immediate team is highly connected online.

I’m lucky to work from home because I save a lot of money by commuting less.

Parking costs me at best $25 a day and at worst $70. Last year I spent $2000 to rent a car park for 6 months, and it was bliss. For a whole six months, I didn’t sit in morning traffic stressing about making it in time for the early bird parking. Now there’s a new car park at work right next to my building that has reasonably priced parking (for the city at least), but it’s still $40 a day.

Then there’s petrol, which, if I had to go to work five days a week, would cost me well over $200 a fortnight.

Downsides:

  • Ummmm… Yeah. I can’t think of any either.

I’m lucky to work from home because I save money by not buying lunch and coffee.

There’s a bunch of temptations on campus, including the irresistible Guzman y Gomez and delicious Campos coffee. And we won’t talk about the pineapple lollies at the corner store. When I’m on campus, I spend at least $20 a day on coffee and lunch without even thinking about it.

Downsides:

  • At home, I forget to have lunch or I skip it because I don’t want to ‘waste time’ making it (because you never prepare lunch the night before when you’re working at home).
  • I drink waaaaay too much coffee because my Nespresso machine makes delicious coffee, fast. And relatively cheaply.

I’m lucky to work from home because I do good work here.

I think best when I’m wearing yoga pants, a hoody and my slippers. Have you ever tried to write a thesis chapter in heels and a suit jacket? I don’t recommend it. When I’m comfortable I’m more creative, more productive, and smarter. It’s true. Hoodies make you smarter.

Music helps me focus, but not if it’s pumping into my ears via headphones. I need music to be around me, not inside my head. I can work longer and concentrate better if I’ve got music playing, particularly when I’m doing repetitive or bitsy work, like marking. But firing up my sound dock in an open plan office is really not an option.

Downsides:

  • I find it hard to do good thinky work when I’m in the office because I’m used to the conditions at home.
  • The only shoes that come close to the comfort of slippers are Birkenstocks, so I’ve traded in my Jimmy Choo flats for a million pairs of the German sandals.

I’ll never get anything done!

Now we’ve got luck covered, let’s move on to the idea that you don’t get anything done when you work from home.

I get heaps done because housework is really not that tempting.

People tell me they think they’d be distracted by dirty washing, floors that need vacuuming, and pantries that need rearranging. Fortunately for me, I don’t do the washing, I have a cleaner to look after the floors, and PhD procrastination has already taken care of my pantry. And my spice drawer. And my fabric stash. And my stationery supplies.

Most days, my work is infinitely more interesting than the dishes. Strange, but true. In fact, I rarely do even tiny domestic jobs like washing my breakfast and lunch dishes until the evening. I generally wash my coffee cup and the Nespresso milk jug because I’ll invariably want more coffee, but that’s it. I don’t do this stuff because if I’m going to waste work time, I’d rather waste it doing something fun.

Downsides:

  • My family don’t understand why I can’t do the washing while I work. Or rather, they profess to understanding, but then I¬†occasionally¬†hear them muttering about my being home all day and not doing the dishes.

I get heaps done because I have more time.

I’ve already talked about how working from home saves me time. You might think I’m spending that extra time sleeping late and watching daytime TV, but the reality is, I spend pretty much every minute of it working. If I go into the office, it’s difficult to put in more than an eight hour day because I’ve got a commute at either end. There’s a finite amount of time in the day and something has to give. If I’m at home, I can put in ten hours, 12 in peak times, and still get to bed a decent time. Most days, I knock off for a bit around 6pm, try to sort out something for dinner, and then put in another couple of hours in front of the TV, with half an eye on whatever’s on. In short, staying home means I can work longer hours and get more done.

Downsides

  • The work day rarely ends before bed time, or to be more accurate, until I fall asleep (cause you can still process email in bed!).

I get heaps done because the conditions are perfect.

My wifi is fast. I’ve got more HD screen space than you could ever imagine needing. My stationery stash is well stocked. I get to control the temperature. My chair is super comfy. I have a huge amount of desk space. My sound dock is within reach. I’ve got several pin boards. I’ve got an awesome colour laser printer.

My home office is perfectly set up.

Downsides:

  • I’m a creature of habit and my on campus workspace is not set up the same way, so this means I feel a bit out of sorts in my office work space. This could have something to do with the fact we’ve been in transit for quite some time, but now I have my own desk things might change.
  • I don’t control the conditions at work (like temperature, light level, noise), and that can impact on my productivity.

I get heaps done because I can have a nap if I need it.

I start work early (starting with email in bed from about 7am – terrible habit – and then moving to my desk by 8am) and I finish work late (and I don’t mean 5.30-late, I mean 9pm-late). So sometimes, I am dead tired in the middle of the day. Instead of staring at my computer screen and wishing the day would end (which is what I would do if I was in the office), I have a nap. Having little kids around has taught me to sleep in 45 minute sleep cycles and to get to sleep fast. A 45 minute nap can give me literally hours more productive work time in the day.

I used to torture myself about having naps and ‘making up the time’. Then one day I realised just how much I was working, so I stopped worrying about it.

Most people have lunch breaks. I have naps. I stopped beating myself up about it because the reality is I still work fifty million hours a week even if I have a daily nap (which I don’t do all that much these days, seeing I get more sleep now the kids are older).

Downsides:

  • There are none. Everybody should nap. We should all have sleep pods built into our cubicles.

I get heaps done because when you’re always in your office, you tend to work all the time.

People tell me they wouldn’t get anything done if they worked at home. But what these people don’t realise is that when you work from home, you never leave ‘the office’. Not at the end of the work day. Not at the end of the work week. And not when you’re on leave. The reality for me is that I’m tempted to work all the time. If I want to take a weekend off, I have to plan an itinerary in advance, because if I don’t have plans and I’m sitting around idly, I’ll invariably end up working.

Downsides:

  • I work. All. The. Time.

But you know what? I really love what I do, and it is very rare that I wish I worked less.

30 posts in June: 21/30

PS. Tomorrow, I’m going to post my top tips for making working from home work for you.

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