Tall Drink of Nerd – Working From Home, The Sanity Challenge
Can working from home cause insanity? When I discovered that I could work from home at my current job, a little Homer Simpson popped up in my brain and exclaimed “WOO HOO!” Not only would I save money on gas and bus fare, I would get 2-4 hours of commute time back in my day. Sweet!
Well, I’ve been working from home for a little over 2 months now and there are plenty of perks: I control the temperature of my workspace, get to eat food out of my own fridge, walk to the beach at lunch, use my own bathroom, scratch things that itch, listen to music at inappropriate volumes or do leg-lifts during long conference calls. My cats alternately love that I’m home to give them mid-day treats or wish I would stop waking them up all day long.
Not working in a conventional setting has also been a psychological adventure of contrasts. The first thing I noticed is, it’s a little too quiet in here. In the various office jobs I’ve held and the variety of co-workers I’ve worked with over the past few decades, one thing has been fairly constant, socializing. Whether it’s talking about weekend plans, new clothes or babies before a morning meeting, or shoehorning 7 people into a car for an afternoon ice-cream run, socializing on a daily basis makes office life fun.
Keeping in touch via IM with co-workers and friends is okay, but working from home can get a little lonely. Working with bosses and co-workers only through email lacks a human connection. Empathy and sympathy can fly out the window and there is little time or need for small talk or socializing. There have been moments where I catch myself talking, out loud, to myself. At least I’m funny, so now I’m laughing while alone. Perhaps I am cracking.
As a counterpoint to craving company, there are interruptions I don’t miss. Working at home means no unwelcome guests come into my grey cube, “work space”, to eat all my chocolate candies (without asking) and belch without remorse (you know who you are.) Also, nobody hogs the microwave in the kitchen or makes popcorn in the afternoon without sharing. Well, sometimes my husband does, but that’s a different blogumn.
Another positive is, absolutely anything goes for attire. I can wander into my office in my pink, kitty-cat, flannel jammies as long as I’m doing the work correctly and on time. But after the first few weeks of jammies or shorts, tank tops and ponytails, I felt kinda skeezy. There is something to be said about getting in costume for the part of worker bee. Lip-gloss and a frilly shirt are punctuation on personality. You are what you wear. My work clothes have come out of the closet again, at least a few days a week, to plug me into that professionally organized Project Manager mentality.
Even with the freedoms of no commute and non-existent dress code, working from home is an experiment in isolation from community. It is possible that this arrangement is similar to any new work situation; maybe it just takes a few months to adjust into the routine. Hopefully I’ll maintain the percentage of sanity I started with. Or, perhaps, I’ll forget all social graces and the next time you see me I’ll be sporting a stained robe while mumbling to myself about the ROI spreadsheet.
To see the visual representation of the Work From Home dichotomy of freedom and isolation, this brilliant cartoon from The Oatmeal is pretty acurate.
featured image credit: drxiv