Saturday, April 07, 2007

Telecommuting: One Year (and a Bit) On

On Thursday, I had a couple of meetings with people from my sister company, where I used to work, so I decided to spend the day working from that office. Doing so made me very aware of thoughts and questions I have pertaining to telecommuting, which I have now been doing from my home for just over a year (to be exact, I moved home on April 1, 2006). These thoughts and questions have decided they belong somewhere other than inside my head where no one can see or hear them. They’ve been pounding on my skull, reminding me that I once created a blog that was supposed to be all about them. They were supposed to have a special home where they could reside and not be overcrowded by worries and sudden cravings and depressing thoughts, all of whom seem to think they own the inside of my head. So, I’m letting the telecommuting thoughts free this morning, and let me tell you, they are some very happy campers, as they line up, ready to take the plunge from brain to computer screen. Here’s what they have to say:

1) Please, please, please don’t ever make me go back to working in an office again. The 45-minute-turned-one-hour-for-some-mysterious-reason commute with all those idiots on the road, tailgating me and trying to get ahead of me (why? So they could hurry up and get to their places of employment, which I’m sure 90% of them complain about being so awful?) left me in anything but the relaxed state I’m used to being in these days when I sit down at my computer in the morning. I didn’t get my morning walk. Listening to NPR while those same tailgaters are coming dangerously close to head-on collisions in their eagerness to get around me in no-passing zones is not the same as listening to NPR while making coffee and getting breakfast together. For that matter, drinking coffee from a travel mug is not the same as drinking coffee from my favorite flowered mug.

2) How does anyone ever get anything done in an office? Did I really used to be able to tune out all those conversations going on around me, along with the ringing telephones and the urges to look up every time someone walked by?

3) Why didn’t I go broke when I worked at an office? At the moment, I don’t tend to leave the house unless I have to. Thus, I’m not tempted by those things on the “outside” nearly as often as I was when I had to leave the house every single day and drive to a place that’s dangerously close to a Barnes and Noble (the closest super bookstore to my home is a 25-minute drive away). Granted, on Thursday, my former boss took me to lunch, so I wasn’t tempted to forego the perfectly good lunch I’d packed in order to run out and get some sushi (something I was prone to do back in the day), but B & N was calling my name when I hit some traffic trying to get home and decided it might be a good idea to just wait for the traffic to subside. After all, I’ve been meaning to pick up a new moleskin notebook. Of course, once through the door, I had to pick up a book as well (Ella Minnow Pea, for those of you who are curious, a book I’d forgotten I wanted to read until I found it just staring me right in the face, asking to come home with me). Oh, I also had to go to the drugstore to buy a sympathy card for a friend. While there, being a good capitalist, I decided I’d better get some Easter candy before it’s all gone, because, after all, I’m sure all the Cadbury Cream Eggs in all the stores around here are going to sell out by Easter.

4) Telecommuting is something best done when husbands are not home all day ostensibly job hunting, but really wanting your undivided attention, or at least wanting your help with mailing things, writing letters and essays, and finding the leftover soup in the fridge. But, I’m beginning to realize, he’s less of a nuisance than all that noise in the office was. Still, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’m looking forward to the day when he’s gainfully employed in a non-telecommuting position. Of course, then everyone can look forward to hearing me, The President of The Grass-Is-Always-Greener Society, complaining about how a pastor’s wife should really just call herself a widow.

5) I love my “celebrity” status when I do visit the office (either my old one or my new one). These are people who would probably all be whining about me and sick to death of me if they had to see me everyday, but instead, I get greeted with warmth and affection whenever I’m around. It’s like the long-distance relationship in which two lovers never see each others’ faults, because they’re always on their best behavior when they do get together.

6) That being said, this long-distance lover still wishes she could hang out more with her colleagues. I always have such a great time when I do.

7) My early fears of not being able to balance work and home life in an effective way have proven to have been completely unfounded. I suspect this is because I so enjoy what I do, I’m not tempted to avoid work and become a daytime-TV addict who never changes out of her pajamas. What I’ve discovered is that I also value my personal life enough to be thrilled to have more of it now that I don’t have to commute to work and work on other peoples’ schedules instead of my own. That’s not to say I don’t have the occasional day in which I’m still at work at 9:00 p.m., but I also have the occasional day in which I’m really not very productive at all (things which happened even when I wasn’t telecommuting).

8) I’m more of a loner than I ever thought. I love the solitude telecommuting gives me. Now, if I need or want to interact with others, I have to schedule those interactions, which gives me more control over them, and more time to prepare for them.

9) I still hate telephone meetings. I much prefer face-to-face meetings, even when it means a long drive. But I want to have my meeting and immediately leave the premises.

10) I still have no idea how to convince others that working from home does not mean “available in ways others aren’t.” I hope I figure out this one before I officially become “the pastor’s wife.”

There you have it: proof that I sometimes still use this blog as a forum for talking about telecommuting.


mandarine said...

I've had my yearly interview on friday, but could definitely not get round to asking outright about telecommuting. The closest I got was when I was asked if I'd gladly consider a position in Britain or Germany (a systematic question I've answered no to for the past ten years), I said I'd do it only if I could telecommute ;-)

Amanda said...

As much as I love him I find it a real struggle at home and when my husband is home. I'm usually quite thrilled when he has to go back to work.

I don't know whether this would work for you but it kind of does for me. I'm pretty vague about my movements if I'm trying to protect my work time. Too people likely to want to visit me at home I strongly imply I spend much of time at my work and vice versa. I also never answer my home phone during the day. It might seem dishonest but I think its a matter of survival.

Ian said...

I've never had a long commute to work, but I do comute about an hour everyday to school. Travel mugs, I've decided, are designed to dribble coffee down the front of your shirt on the day you are giving a presentation. This exact thing happened to me on Thursday. And its hard identify with the spokesperson from Amnesty International on NPR when you want to violate some human rights against your fellow highway travelers.

Emily Barton said...

Mandarine, let's figure out a way to help you pluck up the courage. I'm sure you've earned the right to work from home.

Ms. Make Tea, "struggle" is the perfect word, and endless amounts of love seems to be useless in the face of it. Thanks for the tips on keeping others at bay.

Ian, you're absolutely right. That's exactly how travel mugs have been designed, the same way jelly dougnuts have been designed to leak permanent jelly stain onto your clothes.

Anne Camille said...

Emily, I'm always amused by the title of your blog. I think I am because I assume that my staff who telecommute some days are really sitting around blogging or doing something else non-productive on my dime. But in reality, I think that is because it is my fear that is what I would do if I worked at home all the time!

I've started working at home occassionally, because I find that with fewer interruptions, I can accomplish more. I don't think that I could be effective in my job if I was never in the office, but it is has worked out well enough that I think I may work from home on a regular basis a few days a week. Because I travel frequently, some are getting use to my not being onsite 5 days a week. I am discovering things very much like what you have written about.

I started to write much more about your points, but realized my comment was almost as long as your post. I'll just leave it at set firm boundaries, know your goals and objectives for each work day and don't be afraid to tell people kindly that you are working -- most will get the message and understand. This will be a challenge for you if preacher-husband finds a job that requires relocation (not to mention the expectations some people have about preachers' wives involvement in parish life). But, it isn't an insurmountable problem.

Keep blogging about all the things you do. It's all interesting.

Emily Barton said...

Cam, it's the lack of interruptions that's the key. I can accomplish so, so much more in 7.5 hours at home than I was ever able to do in the office, and I happily manage to keep to a schedule most days. I should have put that in this post. I've discovered that a HUGE part of job satisfacation is feeling you're actually getting things done and accomplishing what you want, feelings I have more often since moving home.

And don't worry, I'll keep posting on everything that feels a need to wander around out here in the blogosphere.

Rebecca H. said...

I'm so glad this has worked out for you! It sounds like a great arrangement. One of the things I like about being a teacher is being able to keep relatively short hours in the office and do a lot of my work at home -- so I know exactly what you mean by working better without the office distractions.

Marissa Dupont said...

I do wish that I could see you more often in the office! As for myself, there's no way my cats would allow me to get more than a couple hours of work done in a day if I were to stay home, and I've become quite good at being totally oblivious to people walking by me. Plus at our office it never really gets loud. Except, perhaps after important announcements are made. :D

Emily Barton said...

Dorr, you've got sort of an ideal situation: some time every week on-site and sometime off-site.

Marissa, I've heard cats can be worse than husbands when it comes to vying for attention. Wish I saw more of you, too, but then I might become obsessed with letterboxing :-)!

Anonymous said...

You know the best thing about you telecommunting? It means you write this blog. Enough said.

Emily Barton said...

Litlove, and I will keep it up telecommuting or not as long as I keep getting comments like that!