A nasty summer cold recently allowed me to take advantage of one of the much-touted benefits of our increasingly networked society — working from home. While I was able to complete as much work from my bedroom as I could have at the office, I don’t think working from home is something I’d want to do regularly.
From a practical standpoint, there’s really no drawback to working from home.
The principal tools of my trade are a telephone, a computer and an Internet connection. All are available to me at home. I also have a second phone line used only for Internet access, so I can be on the phone and on-line simultaneously. And with a decent all-day long-distance plan, I can make calls anywhere in Canada or the United States at reasonable rates.
The problem with working from home is, well, that it’s home. Distractions abound.
When I’m at the office, my activities are limited to either working or staring at the walls of my cubicle. (There’s Web surfing, too, but that gets tiresome and eye-irritating pretty quickly.)
At home, the possibilities are almost limitless. The idiot box tempts me from across the room. Daytime TV has its limits, but there’s usually a decent afternoon baseball game available.
Then there’s the latest computer game I’ve purchased, begging me to finish its next stage. And the current issue of Vanity Fair, featuring an intriguing article on the discovery of long-lost Everest pioneer George Mallory.
After a brief mental tug-of-war, work won out over the distractions of home. What ultimately shifted the balance in favour of work was the fact that I have regular deadlines and if I didn’t finish the work at home, I’d be putting in extra time at the office. But if I had to struggle against the distractions of home on a regular basis, I’m sure there would be lapses when I shoved work aside for more enjoyable pursuits. No one’s perfect.
Perhaps even more difficult for me than the distractions was the lack of a sense of release at the end of the day. Once 5 p.m. rolled around, there was no elation about the work day being over, no prospect of escaping to a better place where I could relax and unwind. I was already home.
I’m not saying working from home is bad for everyone. People needing to travel long distances and those with children at home would obviously benefit.
My advice to anyone wanting to work from home is to set up a space where distractions are minimal and to remain in that space for as much of the day as possible. This way you can make sure your work gets done and keep your home and work lives separate.