January 18, 2013

Working From Home

I work from home. No, those are not magic words. Consider this a wake-up call, Oh Ye Cubical Dwellers of the World.

To begin with, my desk is within view of laundry. Dirty laundry, clean laundry, folded, unfolded, whites, darks, you name it. When you work from home, there is a constant pressure to multi-task, with the majority of tasks being housework-related. In theory, it sounds like no big deal, right? I imagine you rolling your eyes and thinking "can't you listen to conference calls while tidying up?" 

Well, no. Not with any real attention being paid to the people on the phone. Not when the UPS guy comes and the dog goes ballistic at the door. Not when your husband comes home for lunch and can't find the mayo. And certainly not when the washing machine does that thing when it's too full and starts jumping around the laundry room like a 500 lbs. gorilla.

Working from home isn't glamorous. There are no coworkers to shame you to clean up your desk, empty your trash or wash the old coffee cups laying around. It's certainly not classy to start work in your pajamas and, eight hours later, realize that you're still in them. There's little human interaction beyond GoToMeeting, no office gossip, no lunch out, no YouTube breaks. (They aren't as funny by yourself, trust me.)  Worst of all, work assignments and to-dos are with you day and night.  It's just too easy to be lured into answering one more e-mail from the couch, or worse, your bed.

Thing two: pets do not understand work. They understand walks and potty time and snacks and toys. Dogs like to bark when you're on speakerphone and chew beloved items of clothing when you close the office door on them. Cats like to sit on your keyboard. When it's cold, my dog crams herself in between my feet and the small heater under my desk. (There is not room for both.)  

Hey, remember those school days when the weather was superb and everyone would beg the teacher to have class outside? Well, when working from home, you experience that feeling times 500. When it is nice outside, the longing to work outside is powerful, like the force, and you rationalize using that powerful wi-fi signal to your advantage.  But, the minute you step into the backyard... forget getting anything done. The sun glares on your computer screen, your iPhone overheats turning your ear red and you end up focusing on - you got it - yard work. Next thing you know, you're in the hammock with a beer in your hand.

What is the lesson here? The grass is always greener on the other side of the cubical/laundry pile. Make the best of your situation and take comfort in the fact that each work environment has challenges. Attempt to make friends with your coworkers, even if they are weird and steal food from the office fridge.  Myself, I try to set boundaries with chores, maintain a somewhat organized desk, stick to a realistic work schedule and enjoy the fact that sometimes I can begin work in my pjs (but should make an effort to look presentable by 10am).

N.B. I am not the only one who sets up shop in bed.  Writer (and famous spouse) Ann Leary has a whole series dedicated to her bed desk.


  1. So true Kellyn - setting boundaries when working form home is critical! It can be lonely, but also incredibly more productive if someone isn't constantly popping into your office. It's so important to keep networking when you work from home - join local professional groups or have lunch with other professionals so you don't turn into a disconnected hermit. As for the benefits of distractions at home, during a really terrible conference call, it's amazing how comforting a cat snoozing in your lap can be - or how cathartic a short break for a little yard work can feel after a particularly awful encounter or email with someone.

  2. Oh yea- I get the "your desk is a mess" look a lot. And my coffee cups lying around... Normally with a full cup of coffee still in them. LOVE THIS - so true. Keep writing!

  3. I work from home too, Kellyn, and I TOTALLY relate to this whole post - I was nodding through the whole thing! Sounds just like me - from the pets to the conference calls to the laundry piles to the PJs all day look! One thing I've found that helps rejuvenate me is forcing myself to leave at lunch and go to a Pure Barre (or another group fitness class). It refreshes the mind, gives me a little socialization with people, and gives me the energy I need to truck on through the afternoon!


If you do not have anything nice to say, do not sign your comment Anonymous!