Why working from home is both brilliant and rubbish

working from home

I have spent a lot of time working from home and its good. But not that good.

There’s a lot of crap talked about home working, the main one being that you can work in your pyjamas and set your own hours. Neither of these has been are true for me.

I started working from home when we wound up with four children in four different schools across two counties, with varying hours, start and finish times. Before then I did evenings and weekends – I know the bleak horror of the Sunday night 2.30 – 10.30 shift.

How Ikea think your home office should look…

My (childless) boss, while cheerily agreeing to me doing a couple of shifts from home, remarked that it was a good idea as I wouldn’t need to pay for childcare.

This ain’t happening.

It depends on your job, of course, but if you are looking after a child and attempting to work you aren’t doing either of them properly.

Working from home isn’t the answer to your childcare problems. What it does do, though, is enable you to juggle and balance like a circus acrobat.

messy desk

… how it probably actually is

Working from home means you can:

  • Take your kids to school and be there when they get home. This is the main benefit of being at home, the one that wipes out all the disadvantages.
  • Do the washing. I do at least one, sometimes two load of washing a day. Washing is really important.
  • Not commute to work. You save on petrol and stress and spend your time more productively (doing the washing).
  • Not commute home. You finish work and walk straight into the kitchen (and the washing up). If you value family life, this is bloody brilliant.

Additional benefits:

  • You never have to give to leaving collections.
  • Office politics passes you by.
  • You don’t waste time in meetings.
  • There are less distractions, so you actually get more done.
  • You don’t have to make tea for the whole room every time you want a drink, or put up with someone else’s vile attempts at a brew.
  • You are always in when Amazon call (v important).
  • It is company for the dog.
  • On slow days, you can paint your nails at your desk (though I did actually used to do this at work).
  • You can knit while reading emails and not look like a weird cat lady.

But it can also be shit. Here’s why:

  • You are isolated. Don’t underestimate this. You don’t get to hear what’s going on at work, little things can get blown out of proportion because you have no context, you feel out of the loop. There is no ad hoc learning – picking stuff up from colleagues – and you miss out on the camaraderie that can make a shite day at work just about bearable.
  • Office politics. Good to be out of them – not good to realise you have just asked for advice from the biggest arsehole in the office, only you didn’t know because you are not there.
  • You daren’t complain about old equipment or being overlooked because you know everyone thinks you are on a cushy number working from home anyway.
Fingerless gloves

The chilly plight of the home worker…

  • Heating bills. This was a genuine surprise. In the House of A Thousand Draughts, I need the heating on all day, and still have to type in fingerless gloves. The office is a tropical haven by comparison.
  • Agoraphobia. You get so used to not going out and talking to people you forget how to do it.
  • Disturbances. If something happens, you have to deal with it. Once a pigeon got stuck in the chimney and I spent half an hour trying to get it out before it flew around the room, scattering soot everywhere. Another time, someone had a heart attack outside my house just as my shift started. I spent an hour on the pavement waiting for the ambulance.
  • People thinking because you are at home you can be interrupted, chatted to, called on etc. They would never call into your office and start doing that.
  • The fact your home is your work, so you never leave it, and the area you work in becomes tinged with work dislike.
  • You work when you are ill. Employers are often oblivious to this, but you are much more likely to work when you are poorly or in pain if all you have to do is drag yourself downstairs, instead of cope with a stressful commute and an unsympathetic office.
  • No office lunches, and breaks are spent unpacking schoolbags and emptying the tumble dryer. I used to love office lunches – big breadcakes squeezing out Coronation chicken and salad (‘do you want onions with that love?’), followed by a curd cake or a Russian slice. Now it is a packet of own-brand tortilla chips dropping crumbs into the keyboard.
  • You are reliant on your tech, the IT department is 35 miles away and you only have one computer. I once had to drive into work to finish my shift, and go in the next week because pikies had nicked our village’s cable and we had no broadband.

Myths

  • That you don’t have to pay for childcare. Eh? Looking after children is a full-time job. Doing your paid job is a full-time job. Two into one doesn’t go, unless you have a baby who sleeps eight hours solid or a toddler who will play alone silently, get its own meals and change its own nappy.
  • That you are sat in your dressing gown. I get up at the crack of sparrow to organise my many children and walk my needy dog. Can’t do that in slippers.
  • That you are sat in bed. Maybe some people do this, but I’d end up with a cricked back and cables everywhere.
  • That you are simultaneously holding a coffee morning/going to the supermarket/renovating your kitchen. Yeah right. I get so paranoid about workmates thinking I’m not pulling my weight I take the phone into the toilet with me.
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