Oh, this is a juicy one! Almost everyone who hasn’t tried it thinks that Working from Home is a cushy situation to be in! After all, you can do what you want when you want, right?
Well, guess what? On behalf of all home workers everywhere, I’m telling you that having a home office is a major challenge that requires a lot of self-discipline! It’s tempting to do other things that are staring at you but IF you do those “other things,” your work productivity will go down the toilet. And if you are working for an outside employer, as most people are, your job will also go down the toilet. Even if you are a full-time freelancer, your clients will go away if you don’t meet deadlines. Maybe five or ten years from now, you can set your own schedule but you’ll work very hard to reach that stage.
When we work from a home office, our time is not our own, except in rare circumstances. We generally work the same hours as our team members, just without the strain and drain of an often hairy commute. There are many interruptions to squelch, even though we put our foot down upfront and tell people upfront we’re not available to do things with them. In some homes people even have to hire a babysitter to cut down on otherwise endless interruptions. I turn off my home phone most days because of endless telemarketers, scam artists, and “phone hobbyists,” as the FCC laughingly calls the annoying little snots who have nothing better to do with their time.
No cooperation from others
The most aggravating aspect of working from home is the total non-cooperation of other people who don’t understand and don’t want to understand that we are not available to them during working hours. I currently write for a major corporation in a heavily regulated industry. My hours basically match what my co-workers in other locations work. Exceptions are made for medical appointments but I also make up the time that same day. I cannot and will not allow my project hours to sink below that of my team. I still have to carry my weight and I owe my employer that loyalty, no matter how frustrated we all get at various times. My work obligation is no different than if I actually drove to a corporate office somewhere.
As my managers know, I’m grateful for the privilege of being able to work from a home office. I don’t jump through hoops for them (or anyone else) but I recognize that currently I am one of the more fortunate people, given my situation. And by the way, my employer also knows when I’ve stopped working to take a break, grab a soda, or receive a delivery. Their software tells them the second I stop keyboarding, and the timer starts.
One of my coaches has said that we have to be firm and kind when we’re setting the boundaries of what we will and will not do. That may work for others but first, people need to have basic respect for you, and some of the folks I know have little or no respect for me or my time. Even my next-door neighbors respect my time and the fact that I’m working. They laugh and wave at my telephone headset while I grab the mail to keep neighborhood thieves from stealing it out of the mailbox. Is it so hard for other people to accept the truth, that I am not like them, that my lifestyle is different?
I have given up trying to convince people that I mean what I say, and have now entered grumpy mode. The next person who asks me to join them on a morning or afternoon shopping jaunt, or filling in on a daytime church appointment is going to get a snarky answer. Everyone’s life needs balance but a widow’s life is balanced unlike any other. We have everything to take care of from the past, the present and the future, and rely on inspiration from Above for what to do next as we navigate our sea of pain.
How many times?
How many times do I have to say No, I can’t do that? I work full-time. Ignorance of a person’s situation is forgivable the first time we hear of it. There is no excuse for disrespecting what someone has told us repeatedly. It’s insulting to pretend we didn’t hear what was said or didn’t understand it. (And “senior moments” don’t cut it here either. ) It simply means we weren’t listening in the first place and/or expect to have our wishes carried out, no matter what. We all live lives that are too busy and stressed in the USA but if we have to, we can easily write ourselves notes or print out emails to put in a folder for the “difficult” people in our lives.
Of course, the follow-up is to bug me about evening appointments. Good grief! There is no room for coercion in our treatment of other people, no legitimate reason for heaping coals of fire on someone’s head. I also told you I’m taking online classes that have homework deadlines, on top of my regular working hours. I have already lived too long to believe that my current job will last forever, and I have an obligation to be prepared in case of the unexpected.
I know there are plenty of other home office folks who are as frustrated and annoyed as I am. Working from home is not what other people think it is but it is very much what you make of it. If you are firm and kind with other people, hopefully that will work for you, but you may have to get a lot more intense than that to complete a full workday every day.
Any home office is a serious undertaking but writing is really serious business and we need to behave accordingly. Working writers aren’t sitting at home scribbling in their diaries on their employer’s time. Most of us aren’t chasing money or trying to climb the corporate ladder either. We are trying to stay out of the unemployment line and that requires loyalty and dedication to our employers, unless someone else wants to step up and start paying our bills with no strings attached. I’m not holding my breath.