To work from home or not to? That is the question

Working from home always seems like a splendid option.  It tends to feel like the time and energy you save on your commute or office politics would be worth it when saved for something more important like finishing that book you’ve been trying to read for the past two weeks.

Working from home also gives you the added option of waking up late and not having to follow a strict office dress code policy and making yourself a cup of tea soon after you’ve logged into the system before you even check the day’s emails.  Flexible work hours could mean you can have lunch with your best friend and spend the evening working instead. Think again.

If variable work hours seem to do the trick for you, remember there may be a couple of sleepless nights involved with work days stretching long beyond the mandatory 8-hour period you normally spend at an office (with about 4 hours of actual productivity).

While you might feel like you’re saving time driving to work, that useful time would probably be spent on something totally unrelated to the office instead.  It’s amazing how the number of dishes that need to be washed tend to double the minute you realise there’s a deadline to be met or work to be completed.  Refrigerators need defrosting and even fish tanks need cleaning when it’s time to get to work at home.  Procrastination manifests itself in ways that are sometimes unimaginable.

Social networking sites might need to get checked and every random third cousin’s status update read before actual work can start.

While it is always simple to turn off your ‘home mode’ and switch on to ‘work mode’ at an office, there’s no way you can turn off either button when you’re in the house.  There’s always another load of laundry to be put into the washing machine or amazingly another person ringing the doorbell, sometimes on a random social visit in the middle of the day, the minute you sit down to switch on the computer. 

While it does save the commute, working from home involves a lot more than just racing through breakfast and getting through rush-hour traffic.  Household appliances that need to get fixed always have the repair-guy turning up when you’re in the middle of that all-important conference call across the pond.  Of course, knowing there’s no way on earth the repair-guy will come back to your house if you turn him away, the only thing you can do is put your con-call on mute while you quickly give him directions as to where he needs to work.  You are thus left with half your mind listening in to everybody else talk on the conference call and the other half wondering if he’s really fixing something or breaking it up further so that you have to look at replacing the gadget itself in next season’s ‘exchange offer’.

Invariably, once you start working out of the house, the rest of the family tends to treat you like you don’t really have a job and all you do is sit around watching Two-And-A-Half Men reruns because they know you’re going to miss Charlie Sheen once the new season starts in India.  I have always noticed that even if you’re trying to meet a deadline, family members still treat you like you’re the one who’s always going to be able to babysit their child while they go to work because their maid has not turned up to work.  There’s not a lot of respect for the person working from home either — you’re still expected to keep an excellent house with carefully prepared meals for every family member and keep your job while you’re at it.  You end up having to rush through your errands, from groceries to calling the vet, picking up children and coming home to a house full of incomplete tasks — the least of which involves switching on that amazing apparatus called a computer!

After having juggled home and work in the air so much that it feels my knees could buckle under the pressure of the two any moment, here’s a seemingly fool proof 6-step checklist for staying sane while working from home:

Be specific about your ‘office’ hours when you work from home, with both your employers, clients and family.  This means your family and friends cannot afford to make unrealistic demands on your work time.

Schedule the exact minimum number of hours you plan to spend at the computer every day before you get on to household tasks.

Set a time at which every day you can ‘shut-down’ your office.  This gives you more time to stay social with the rest of the family and actually have something that resembles a social life too.

Get yourself a good comfortable work station set up in one part of the house instead of working with your laptop at the dining table so you have to move your research material for every meal.  Besides, a comfortable chair always makes for a more efficient you.

Have every family member pitch in with work around the house.  Just because you work from the house, it does not mean you are also the official housekeeper, cleaner, nanny and cook.

Give yourself a day off.  Even if you have unfinished work, part of being able to work on Monday morning also means spending a day not thinking about it on Sunday.
 
Easier said than done, but do stay cheerful and meet more people outside your home.  Nothing gets the grey cells going better than a friendly face and the view from anywhere outside your home.

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