Thursday, July 12, 2012

Working From Home Sucks

While numerous studies keep coming out that show that telecommuters are more productive, my experience this week has been far less positive.

Last Friday, I received some painful treatments for a foot ailment (don't worry loyal readers, nothing serious or permanent...just painful and disgusting). The doctor warned me that I would be out of commission for some time. Fine, I thought, I can just work from home.

Fortunately for me, PBworks is highly adapted to online work. Not only do we use our own product, nearly every other one of our software tools is also SaaS-based, which means that I can access things like Salesforce.com and Rally from anywhere.

We're also used to dealing with telecommuting; our entire Sales team is based on the East Coast, and our Creative Director lives in Oregon.

In other words, any telecommuting failures can be firmly attributed to me, and me alone. Even though it's only been three days (and counting), I can hardly wait to get back to the office. Here's why:

1) My office is more comfortable.

Some people love the comforts of home. Me, I like my office. My office is solely my space, and the arrangement reflects that fact. At home, every space is ultimately a shared space. I've never worked from home enough to justify a separate office, and even if I did, I'm sure it would be overrun with children's toys and other bric-a-brac.

2) I miss having people around.

Some people love the solitude; I crave the human interaction. And no matter how many calls or web conferences I do, it's not the same as actually talking with folks in person. Besides, no one at home tells me entertaining stories about his time spent living with the Satanist and the conspiracy theorist.

3) I miss the outside world.

Perhaps it's different for those who work out of coffeehouses and the like, and perhaps it's because my foot has left me confined to the house, but I miss actually being outside. Even the tiny amounts of nature I see walking from the parking lot to my office seem to have made a bigger difference than I thought.

Again, it may be that my experience is different, because I've combined a week at home with a debilitating recovery from medical treatment, but right now I'm crossing my fingers and hoping that I've recovered enough to make it to the office tomorrow.

UPDATE:
My friend Terri points out, "Yes, working from home can be a solitary experience, but there are plusses too: like wearing pjs! :)"

Tragically, I discovered this for myself yesterday, when my wife came home and said, "Are you still in your pajamas?" Without even realizing it, I had sunk into the cliche of the pajama-clad blogger. That's why the first thing I did this morning was get dressed.

6 comments:

Dre said...

Chris,

Have you read Imagine by John Lehrer? It's funny how your three points hit some important aspects.

While Imagine is more about spark, it does acknowledge that focus is required for certain types of work. (Imagine is about epiphanies)

1. Your office lets you focus. Your home is a transformer (with multiple purposes as you mention) so it's harder to focus when it's not built for working.

On 2. and 3. it turns out that social interaction and change of environment are huge for break through insights. Talking to other people or just slightly changing your environment can make all the difference for getting a break through. Sadly, WFH pretty much eliminates these two things entirely.

Good post!

Anonymous said...

This post is great, Chris! It just sucks to be at home all the time.

Chris said...

Dre,

I'd like to read "Imagine." I'm a fan of Jonah Lehrer's work. Just running a bit behind on my reading list....

Ryan Williams said...

I can see how it would suck for those reasons, especially 2 and 3. I just spent a year working remotely and am now just back into an office this week. My determination was that it is a tossup. Yes, the commute and PJs are great perks, along with things like exercise being more easier to fit in and saving money on coffee/lunches. But, I agree it can get lonely and I found it difficult to get into a groove.

It's funny though, now that I'm back in the office I'm wondering "why is everybody talking to me, I have work to do" whereas when I was remote, I was thinking "this can be lonely." Good to try both to have the perspective.

Chris said...

Ryan,

The grass is *always* greener. I suspect we evolved that trait to increase the new things we try.

I do sometimes resent the interruptions when I'm at the office, but I'm pretty good about telling people, "I need to kick you out now so I can finish some work."

I also have built an entire office workout routine; I actually get more exercise when I'm at the office! I'll blog about it sometime.

ranndino said...

There's a lot of truth to this. For me working from home really tests how well I can concentrate on work instead of being pulled away to do other things. Also, working from home for an extended period of time turns one into a total weirdo. I'm a very outgoing, social person by nature, but after having worked from home for a year once I turned into an anxiety ridden weirdo nervous of getting out there and interacting with real people. As you've said using all the modern tech tools to interact with people just isn't the same.