Monday, May 15, 2006

The Beginning

I'm actually starting this a little later than planned. I became a full-time telecommuter over a month ago (on April 1), and my goal was to blog about it for the first full year, but, I've already gotten behind on that goal, so now maybe my goal will be to blog about it for the first full year and a couple of months. Remember, I said "maybe." We'll see how it goes.

So, now I'm stuck with the monumental task of cramming six weeks worth of commenting on this experience into one post. Don't worry. I don't really plan to do that. I'll just pretend this is my first day of telecommuting and lay out what I might have said back then, and from now on, I'll move forward instead of trying to catch up. It's no big loss to anyone who might actually be reading this blog, anyway, since I spent most of April traveling to conferences. I wouldn't have had much to say about the home experience during that time, except that I was missing my kitchen terribly.

I'm an editor. Some people find it impressive when you tell them that. I don't. As far as I can tell, it just qualifies me as someone people love to make fun of when they find grammatical errors or too many typos in anything I write ("too many" translating as "at least one"). But what I do isn't really all that important, except in that it has allowed me to bring my work outside a specific setting in a way that, say, being an airplane pilot, wouldn't, and to set up a little office at home.

I'm very curious to see how this working from home business shapes up over the year and to have a record of my ups and downs with it, which is why I've begun this record. My biggest question right now is the opposite of what most people seem to be asking me at this point, which is: "Do you really have the discipline to work from home?"

They insinuate that they lack such discipline, and that, therefore, so must I. Well, I would have to have been an idiot (which is, of course, not to say that I'm not) to decide to do this if I didn't think I had that kind of discipline. Besides, working in an office isn't necessarily what keeps a person disciplined. I know plenty of people who work on-site who spend about six hours a day talking to their colleagues and about one hour actually working. Also, there's that minute detail people seem to forget that if my work doesn't get done, I'll be fired, just like anyone else whose work doesn't get done. And then I'd have to find another job, which isn't something I particularly want to have to do.

The better question for me is, "Do you really have the discipline to keep your house from falling down all around you while you never step away from your computer?" You see, I hate taking care of my house, but I love my work. I'm a very fortunate person. I love my boss, and I love my job. I've been told that the boss is the key thing when it comes to work, that if a person loves his/her boss, he/she will love the job. Not true. I've been doubly fortunate in my life to have had some really good bosses all along, but once a job gets deadly dull, I could be reporting to Johnny Depp, and it wouldn't matter (not that I know whether or not he'd be a particularly good boss, but who'd be paying attention to such things, if she got to work with him all day?). So, I'm waiting to see if I can keep myself from working 19 hours a day (I refuse to use the hideous "24/7," because I hate that kind of hotshot lingo -- the sort of thing Tom Cruise would say if he were my boss).

The answer to that question thus far is: "I haven't a clue." Stay tuned to see how it does or doesn't evolve.


mandarine said...

Lots of people worry that telecommuting may cause interference between work and home. Well, to me, this is precisely the point. My mother was (is still) a teacher and had a weekly 15 hours of work at her college, and probably 50 more hours at home. Yet she could climb down from her ivory tower of endless book-annotating, assignment grading or whatever it is that busy teachers do, and cook us dinner or tell us bedtime stories or fix a leaking tap or practice the piano or soothe a bruise, and them climb back up again.
It was roughly the same with my father.

Therefore I believe that if one is going to be very busy with one's work, one had better telecommute to at least see one's house and spouse and kids at some point in the day. I cannot say whether my parents would have been less busy with they work had they not worked from home, but I can say I have never had the feeling that their work kept them away from us. They were always there -- for all I know, they could have been watching TV, gardening, reading newspapers or glueing matchsticks, I would have made no difference (to us kids).

Emily Barton said...

I think I need to do a whole new post on this topic now that I've been telecommuting for the good part of a year.

mandarine said...

Looking forward to it.