The business world is all in a kerfuffle this week after Marissa Mayer, Yahoo!’s CEO, told all employees working remotely that they either needed to come to work in the office or quit. This is interesting considering the fact that so many businesses are offering their employees the ability to work from home at least some of the time.
What’s the BFD, Marissa Mayer!?
I work from home, and while I occasionally wish I was around other people during the day, I can’t imagine going back into a rigidly structured environment again the way I did when I was teaching — having to be there at a certain time, having an agenda for the day (that never stuck past first period anyway), not being able to leave until a certain time, having to frequently wear pantyhose and heels. For the record, in case you’ve never gone outside to scrape ice off of your car before 7 a.m. while wearing a skirt when it’s 15 degrees outside, it sucks. This is but another of the many reasons I feel so fortunate to be able to work from home.
This conversation about working remotely is kind of timely for me as I’ve been realizing a lot lately that I’m not sure people really get what I do all day. I don’t mind helping people out, but I do mind when they want me to run all over the place for several hours in the middle of the day. “Can’t you just do your work later?” they ask.
So with that in mind, I’ve come up with my own little listy-poo here of things that I wish people understood about working from home.
**Please note that, as always, what I write on this blog is a lot of tongue-in-cheek. Any resemblance to any of my friends or family members is purely coincidental. When I mention my actual family members, that’s not a coincidence, though. Or is it? All references to my dogs are 100% accurate. Got a problem? Please address all concerns to Vanilla Ice (né Rob Van Winkle). He’ll solve it.
1. No, I Actually Don’t Sleep All Day. Surprise! I’m Awake.
One of my favorite misconceptions is that I sleep all day because I’ve got nowhere to be. I’ve always been very naturally nocturnal. I just think and work better at night. It took me a while, but I’m on a good schedule that allows me to stay up late (it’s 12:30 a.m. as I write this), but not as late as I had been (3 or 4 a.m. — the insomnia of the depressed and unemployed!).
Still, I wake up to an alarm at the same time every morning so that I can take care of the dogs and then start working around 9 when lots of other people are. My aunt stopped by the other day at 8:45 to drop something off and was shocked when I opened the front door to greet her. “I thought you’d be asleep for a while still,” she said.
I just grinned and giggled silently a la Mark Zuckerberg (that link should sufficiently creep you out for the day).
My dad has a 45 minute commute to work. He has to be there at 6 a.m., so he gets up at 4:30 during the week. My bedroom is about 10 yards away from the kitchen. He wakes me up at this hour quite frequently, banging pots and pans and frying bacon (I despise the smell of bacon waking me up. Sorry, world). I beg him to let me sleep in on weekends and not wake me up with cooking smells at 7:30 (which is sleeping in to him).
“What do you mean?” he says. “You sleep in every day.”
2. Working From Home Takes A Lot of Discipline, Yo.
When you tell someone you work exclusively from home, they smile politely and say that’s nice, but you just know they’re imagining that by “work,” you really mean sitting at home in your pajamas eating large bowls of Lucky Charms all day while you sell stolen items on eBay and watch really bad TV.
Or sometimes they think you’re involved in a pyramid scheme.
But I don’t. I get up.
There are times when I think, “Wow, my eyes are really tired of looking at the computer. I should stop and take a nap.”
But I don’t. I get up and stretch. I let the dogs out. I get a drink and get back to work.
(To be fair, I probably take breaks to let the dogs out around 20 times a day. This is partially because I have a diabetic dog who pees a lot, and partially because said diabetic dog thinks that he should be rewarded with a treat every time he goes out, so he fakes having to pee. He’s an asshole like that, but I love him.)
There are some people who just couldn’t work like this. They’d be too tempted to go meet their friends for lunch every day or watch TV all the time instead (I almost never turn the TV on, and I never miss it). They’d put fun before work all the time because no one is standing there telling them not to. So before you assume that working from home is chump’s work, ask yourself if you could really have that kind of discipline.
(Except for the pajamas. It’s totally okay to be undisciplined about getting dressed and wear those as often as you like. Eventually you’ll feel disgusting enough to put on real clothes!)
3. Just Because I Work From Home Doesn’t Mean I’m Not Working.
I spend a lot of time in front of a computer. Like everyone else who does this, it’s inevitable that I’m going to occasionally have a quick conversation with a friend on Google Chat or cruise Facebook for a few minutes here and there. Moderation is key, so I don’t let it distract me from what I need to do.
In my experience (and I’ve heard this echoed by others in similar situations), when you have the discipline to work remotely, you actually end up working more than a lot of people who go to work and come home. Work is always there, so it’s more difficult to put it away. I had a lot of trouble with that for a while, but it’s all good now. Although, I suppose this is mostly the case if you like your work (I do). Then you can turn into a real workaholic. If you hate your work, well, then I suppose you can’t wait to put it away and this doesn’t even apply to you so ohmygosh why are you still reading this part!?!?
Still, this doesn’t stop people from making comments about how I must spend a lot of time playing computer games and pretending that I’m doing something.
4. Yes, My Schedule Can Be Flexible. No, I Cannot Just Abandon It For a Day.
I don’t mind helping people. In fact, I like it. But I’m not about to shrug my own responsibilities just to make your life easier. Sure, I can run to your house in the middle of the day and let your dogs out. I can take you to your doctor’s appointment across town. But no, I cannot sit there for four hours and wait for your cable guy to show up. My work is always moving. If I just didn’t do anything for a few hours, I’d have a ton to get caught up. Plus… just abandoning your work in the middle of the day is irresponsible (that sounds hokey, but I mean it. I have a thing about responsibility. Oldest child syndrome). If I’m not doing my job, the work is either backing up or someone with their own work has to do it for me. I take my job seriously and I’m not comfortable with either of those situations.
5. It’s the Absolute Best. I’m Sorry You Have to Go to the Office. I Win!
I love working from home. A large part of this is because I love what I do and the people I work with are fantastic.
(Yes, you can still have co-workers when you work remotely. You just spend a lot of time on email is all.)
Furthermore, I don’t have to buy packable food items to take for lunch. I don’t spend the money on gas for a commute. I don’t have to replace snagged hosiery every week or buy new dress clothes. So I’m saving money.
Also? If you’re an introvert (yo.) and need time to process before you speak, it’s perfect. You do sort of have to be careful though. It’s easy to hide behind a computer and never actually socialize with people for real (this has been a problem for me since 8th grade. I’m just really shy and kind of socially anxious, so I have to make myself work hard at social situations until I get comfortable with people. I still need practice. The beatings will continue until I’m no longer silently freaking out about what to do with my hands when talking to new people.)
I’m planning to take an adventure and move out on my own again this summer (I had to move back in with my parents almost 5 years ago… it’s time). I need to get outside my comfort zone and I’m interested to see how it will go when I’m living alone and working remotely. I’ll have some friends and a cousin in the area, but I’ve been looking into various organizations that I could get involved with to make some new friends too (the reason it’s important to me to live somewhere close to civilization). One of these possibilities is a co-working space where other people like me come together to work alone, basically. Still, could be a good way to meet some new people and make some new friends.
You know. If I get over the whole socially awkward thing first (hahabutseriouslyhaha).
The moral of the story? Next time you meet someone who works online/remotely, don’t just automatically assume their job must be a joke or they’re doing something illegal. And if you’re ever able to try working from home, definitely give it a shot.