I have now been self-employed and working from home for almost one month. Prior to this I spent the last 25 years working in huge, open-plan Trading floors of Banks and Broking companies surrounded by 100-400 ‘close colleagues’. To all intents and purposes a battery hen leashed to the desk by a length of telephone cable.
Now, my home is my office.
So how does working from home feel? What are the differences, good and bad?
Clearly I no longer commute (this is good).
I don’t object to using public transport, I just don’t like using it at the same time as the rest of the population of London. I now use my commuting time to exercise every morning. It wakes me up and I can now balance my iPad on the cross-trainer so that I can read books and catch up with the news. A win-win. By 9am every day I have achieved two of my personal goals for the day.
I still get dressed (good).
I have heard stories of home-workers who forget to do this and find themselves in their pyjamas at dinner time, so a pat on the back for me. In my case of course the exercising in the morning also means that I really have to shower and dress so I guess that’s another win. I am also still wearing make up every day (but I accept it has only been three weeks and I am pretty sure this novelty will wear off).
I work hard — really hard (good, but feels a bit odd).
I used to be in the office for 11 hours per day. Breakfast at my desk, lunch at my desk, coffee breaks at my desk. Never taking my eyes off the screens. Partly of course I had to be there, but also increasingly I almost couldn’t be bothered to go anywhere for a break. I had so little life left in me that even leaving the building for a coffee was too much effort. However, if I add up the time I spent doing productive work each day, it was often only be a couple of hours. Now I keep a time sheet for an employer who trusts me to work from home, so I put my head down and work solidly for two hours before I even take a break. I turn the clock off for coffee breaks and meals and it is only now that I realise how much I can get done in a short space of time.
I reward myself (good —very good).
As I am allowed to work flexibly I try to stack up my hours on some days so that I can totally switch off and go for lunch with a friend the next day. For someone who has been juggling her work and family life for decades (and often compromising both) this is big step. Finding compartments of time for work, and time for me. I have acquired the ability to enjoy the ‘now’ and get totally absorbed in what I am doing, without the back of mind running through lists of all the other things I should be doing.
And the downsides of working from home?
Noise…and Silence (both bad)!
The start of my first freelance contract has coincided with my neighbour starting a basement conversion, and in a few weeks another neighbour is starting their basement conversion! My ‘office’ is now in the middle of a building site and the constant noise is distracting and draining. When the builders do eventually leave for the day the silence makes my ears ring. I have yet to decide which of these is worse.
Food (annoying – bad).
I do, of course, share my ‘home office’ with my husband, three sons, a cat and two snakes. All of them need feeding regularly and there is now an expectation that as I am working from home the quality and variety of food delivered at the end of the day might improve. This couldn’t be further from the truth as I often don’t think about cooking until very late in the day and I open the fridge to see a packet of bacon and 24 pints of milk (sounds a lot I know, but it’s on special offer and this stockpile only lasts us 3 days).
My house is not tidy (bad, bad, bad).
In my previous life I could pretend it was tidy. I would leave the house before 6.30am and not see the post-breakfast carnage (or have to tidy it up). At the end of the day I could legitimately claim to be too tired to do any housework. Now I am sitting in the mess and trying hard to ignore it all day. I am embarrassed when I visit friends houses and realise that other people do not need to pick their way through newspapers, debris and toys just to answer the front door.