Wednesday, October 5, 2011

wfh ftw!

a few years ago i started working from home on fridays. i loved being able to wake up later than normal, skip the usual morning routine of shower, shave, dress, eat, drive, park, buy coffee, and say the obligatory "good morning" to everyone i'd walk past in order to get to my office. even though i was still working, it felt like more like not working. the best part was quitting time, the moment i shut that laptop my weekend had started. normally a friday didn't start until i packed up, said my goodbyes, and drove home.

slowly i started to work from home more than just fridays. two days a week, then three days a week, then four days a week. until one week i worked from home the entire work-week.

everyone in my office was experiencing the same shift of working from home more and more during this time. it must have been mid 2009 that it all started. little did we know, that somewhere in 2010 we'd all be working from home 100% of the time.

our company allows employees of certain departments to give up their office space to work from home 100% of the time. I no longer have a desk with my name in an office space in a building downtown. my company no longer has to pay for the space i used to occupy, the phone i used to use, and whatever else comes along with leasing office space. i do have access to a 'drop in' office space, where cubes, conference rooms, offices, and tables are available on a first come-first serve basis for local work-from-home folks like myself. so if i ever have the itch to go to work, i can.

my company pays for my home internet and phone (land line). i was also given a catalogue and a small one time stipend with which i could by office supplies, desk, chair, printer, shredder, keyboard, batteries, etc.

i've been working from home, full time, for about two years now.

i've learned a few things about working from home. there are obvious pros and cons, and some that are not so obvious. When i first started working from home on a one day a week basis, i would never shower nor change before logging in. this usually resulted in working a full day showerless and in my pajamas. there would be days where i'd never change out of my pajamas, nor take a shower, since i had nowhere to go after work was over besides the kitchen, the couch, and the restroom. now, i don't open the laptop until i've brushed my teeth, changed out of pj's, and started my coffee. i prefer to take a shower after my lunchtime workout, which occurs 2-3 times per week.

there's no water cooler talk when you work at home. you don't drop by someone's cube to chat for ten minutes about the game last night. the only verbal interaction i have is via the phone, and normally it's on a conference call with more than one other person. i'd estimate that half of these calls i'm primarily a listener, and not a presenter, thus it's only a one-way interaction. however, we do have an internal instant message program, which is where we do the closest form of water cooler talk.

i've become pretty good at hosting audio conference meetings. which is far more difficult than a face to face meeting. every audio conference participant is in front of their computer, the probability that they are doing something else while listening to your meeting is 99%. every participant puts their phone on mute, as to minimize distracting noises like dogs, keyboard buttons, cars, kids, etc. this means that as the host, you're talking with zero feedback. if you crack a joke, people may laugh, but you won't hear it. you can't look at someone's face to see if they like your idea or are steaming pissed off that you've just stepped all over their toes.

there are plenty of perks along with working from home every day. i do laundry in between meetings, i don't have to listen to music quietly or on headphones, i can take naps in my bed during lunchtime, i don't have to buy 'work clothes', i cook for lunch, i do errands at lunch like grocery shopping. when packages are delivered i'm home to receive them, the list goes on. i've tried hard to leverage the working from home perks as much as possible. other friends that work for themselves, don't have jobs, or also work from home full time have come over and worked at my place. it feels like having a co-worker during these times, though they are not an often occurrence.

i'm much more efficient at goofing off while working. allow me to explain. an article you want to read is posted to your favorite website. when you're at the office you have to actively be aware of who can see your screen, and sneak snippets of reading during windows of opportunity so nobody sees you. while you're doing this, you're also trying to continue working on whatever work you "should" be doing. nobody wants to get caught doing personal stuff while on the clock, but in reality nobody works every single minute of the work day. when working from home, i can take the 10 minutes to read that article with no time wasted trying to cover up. this way i get goofing off done fast and i'm back working on that thing i "should" be working on.

another perk of working "from home" is the fact that i don't have to be "home". a number of times i have spent the work week at my parents house a few hundred miles away. we all wake up at the same time, they go to work, and i work from their spare bedroom/office. to my coworkers, i'm still available via phone, instant message, and email -just like when i'm working from my actual home office. i get to spend time with family after work hours, and neither of has to take vacation. i also capitalize on those $39 flights that are advertised but only applicable on tuesdays or wednesdays.

it's not all perks though. networking is extremely difficult when you're at home all day. in fact meeting new people in your company/industry is nearly impossible. we are pushed goals of networking, where we setup interviews with people who are on teams of our career interests. yet, on more than one occasion, my request to talk for 30minutes to someone has gone completely ignored.

finally, i know why they call it 'the grind' when people refer to work. the work itself isn't so much a grind as the people and personalities are. allow me to sketch a metaphor. your finger vs sandpaper. rub your finger across a coarse patch of sandpaper. the sandpaper is rough, and you feel the micro abrasions against the tough skin of your fingertips. but there's virtually no pain. now do that same thing, once every hour for five consecutive hours. now take two hours rest, and then do it again, once each hour for 5 hours. your finger doesn't heal fast enough, and soon you're painfully rubbing a raw bloody finger against sandpaper. youch!

you are the finger, and clashing personalities of the office are the sandpaper. if you just had more time between swipes, you'd never get down to that raw and painful state.

ideally i'd go to work 2 days of the week, and work at home 3 days of the week in conjunction everyone in my department. i'd give up subsidized internet and phone for networking opportunity, water cooler small talk, and office space dedicated to me where i can leave and store belongings.

no! wait. ideally i don't need to work and i can do whatever i want whenever due to a large, stable, steady income that requires zero effort on my behalf.


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