When we make the phone call to the boss… “My toilet’s broken. The plumber can’t tell me what time he’s going to arrive so I need to work from home today…” we all know the score.
Yes, we are going to let the plumber in when he arrives. But we are also going to chat away to him for a while, maybe even make him a cuppa. We’ll spend time on one or many of our various messaging programs because, let’s face it, there’s nobody walking past to rat us out. If the home phone rings, we’ll answer it. We’ll probably put on a load of washing. And hang it out.
Obviously we’ll be online the whole time, keeping an eye on our incoming messages. If something urgent comes up, no doubt we’ll deal with it. But if working from home is an occasional occurrence, there is little chance that we’ll be as productive as we normally are in the office.
So what happens when working from home becomes more than a one-off? Is it possible to be productive? And is it the utopia we dream it to be?
To be productive at home, one needs to be highly disciplined. The home office must be treated like a real office. The workday should start at a regular time. Lunch should be of a predetermined duration. And as tempting as it is to remain in your night clothes when no-one else can see you, this should be avoided at all costs. Productivity and pyjamas do not play nicely together.
A great benefit of working from home is the scope you have to plan your day as you would like it. It is easier to come and go as you please and make up the time later. But it is also very easy to say you’ll make up the time tomorrow… and then the day after… but never get around to it. If you aren’t strict with yourself about your working hours, personal time can easily creep in and productivity can slip.
Another danger of working from home is the long work day. When there is no separation between the home and the office, it is easier to pop into the office after dinner to quickly check emails… and end up spending hours. Maybe you are making up for the lost time during the day. Maybe not. But you can rest assured that if you have a partner who works in the office all day and wants to come home to spend quality time with their loved one in the evening, they will soon become disenamoured with this habit.
For social butterflies, the biggest drawback of working from home is the limited social contact you will have during the day. If you happen to work from a home that has someone else in it during the day with you, this will be less of a problem. But all day every day at home alone with only the computer for company can become very boring. Very quickly.
Of course, working from home is not all doom and gloom. One of the best things about working from home is the time saved in travelling to the office and not having to battle peak hour traffic or rammed subway trains. Used wisely, this time can be a god-send… project get-fit, personal emails, some quiet time or any number of tasks you never otherwise find the time for can fill this space.
Despite the drawbacks mentioned, working from home can create a great lifestyle. There is a definite sense of freedom that comes from not being tied to daily trips to the office. Potential issues can be addressed… the lack of social contact with colleagues can be overcome by organising other social activities into your schedule. And, if you take your career seriously, you can ensure that you impose strict disciplines on yourself to keep productivity at a maximum.
But if you don’t care for your job and don’t have any ambitions to further your career or make a good impression, the benefits of working from home come into their own. You can turn the music up as loud as you like. You can even sing along with it. You don’t need to shower. Or change out of your pyjamas. You can drink beer or wine whilst working. Or both. In fact, why bother working at all? As long as you’re showing online, you’re probably meeting most of the requirements of working from home…
*Image courtesy of Stock.xchng.