Someone recently told me she was considering working from home and she asked me for advice. Here’s an extended version of what I had to say.
As someone who works from home, I have no problem getting work done and I’m rarely distracted by housework, which seem to be two common complaints amongst work-from-homers.
Let me rephrase. I am never distracted by housework. Ever.
And, from this point forward, I’m calling people who work from home “homers.”
Working from home allows me to work on multiple projects, work uninterrupted, and I get in my daily homer workout while still making it to my desk early in the morning without any commute.
These days, however, my schedule is thus: I get up in the morning, I check my phone to see whether anyone has played Words with Friends, I put on my oversized college t-shirt that I would never wear in public, I lace up my sneakers, I grab an emergency banana or yogurt, and I head to the elliptical Groom and I bought a few years ago (best $600 I ever spent) but decide to quickly stop at my homer desk to check my email….annnd then it’s 5:00.
I’ll discover an empty bag of potato chips at my feet that I swear I have never seen before, my back hurts from sitting in the same position, and I’m still in my workout clothes. The post office is closed. I’ve missed a handful of phone calls. My glasses are in the kitchen for some reason. I’m still sipping a cold cup of morning coffee. And, no, of course I haven’t showered nor have I washed my face.
During less busy times, something else happens during my work day, and this one is a little more disturbing. I’m a restless person (not to be confused in any way with an athletic or motivated person) so I tend to wander, especially while I’m on the phone.
Millennials, take a seat for a second. Does anyone else remember getting all tied up in phone cords? Or getting yelled at for stretching the cord well beyond its capacity so you could stand in the pantry and have a private conversation without your pain-in-the-ass siblings eavesdropping? I have pulled more desk phones onto the floor than I have had sex dreams about Jason Bateman (which in and of itself is a weird thing to admit or to experience even once, let alone multiple times). I once worked in a long, skinny office space and I would march up and down that space, the length of the phone cord, until I got yanked back. Pace pace pace yank pace pace pace yank.
This restlessness while I work is not a new phenomenon for me, nor am I alone with this. I’ve been working from home, off-and-on, for almost ten years and have discovered I have many kindred spirits out there. Some of them reorganize their work space a couple times a month. Some discover they haven’t left the house for days. Some never remove their pajamas. One friend insisted she got more work done if she put on her shoes in the morning. I was impressed she was wearing pants.
I considered starting a support group for homers who may be going insane from being cooped up (which I really want to spell “couped”), mostly as an excuse to get myself out of the house and, let’s be honest, I’ll use any excuse to have a cocktail. But, it never panned out. I can’t get myself to leave the house or unchain myself from my desk. I certainly can’t get my fellow homers to do it either. Groom has threatened to open a Meals on Wheels account for me many times.
Working from home, especially as a freelancer, requires constant attention. I don’t want to miss a last-minute job. I don’t want to miss an emergency phone call from a client. I don’t want to skip a deadline. I know this is terrible for me and by the end of the day, I can barely see because I’ve been staring at my computer for 10 hours before popping in a movie before bed where I will stare at Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter on my phone until I fall asleep.
Coupled with that need to stare at my monitors and hit all my deadlines, I crave communication and I thrive on other people’s energy (my recent reaction to an overcrowded cruise notwithstanding), so when I can’t get that external energy, I entertain myself like a crazy person. Like a real, honest-to-goodness, call the Charlestown Asylum and book a room crazy person.
I talk to myself. I sing. While I’m on the phone, I flip through pictures that I keep in a box and force myself not to hum a nearly tuneless rendition of Ring Around the Rosy. I pull old sweaters out of the closet and pile them on the floor. I wander down to the mailbox in a muumuu and fuzzy pink slippers. About 10 years ago, I was talking on the phone while walking around my apartment—because seriously who in their right mind can sit down for an entire phone conversation?!—before I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I was wearing a purple old-lady bathrobe and a long black wig. I had no recollection of even putting it on.
My advice for anyone who considers working from home? Be prepared for the crazy.