Friday, February 15, 2013

Working From Home -- The Good, The Bad, The Cartoon Theme Songs

At the beginning of this year, I changed jobs within my company. I'm still in software, but with a different group of software folks. It's new. It's exciting. It came with a laptop.

It has been over ten years since I last had a work laptop and any expectation that I could work from home, at least occasionally. I feel like I'm a bit behind the times, but catching up fast. And I kinda like it.

The Good:

I've had a part-time schedule for years (4 days a week) so I can help deal with the craziness of kids. But even with that, it was still hard to squeeze in enough hours sometimes. With this new job, I have gained flexibility to go with my part-time schedule.

After less than two weeks at my new position, my kids had a day off school and I had a teleconference to attend. I found myself sitting in my home office on my laptop with a headset plugged into my cell phone while the kids watched a movie right above me.  It worked pretty well.

Working from home lets me squeeze in an extra 2-3 hours on a school half-day or a day with some other interruption, without having to spend a little over an hour round-trip in the car going to work.  That commute isn't too bad, unless you compare it to such a short amount of work.

The Bad

You know how tempting it is to surf the web if you have downtime? Well, from home I have access to the web on my personal laptop, my Kindle, my phone. There's a TV. There's laundry.  Having a dedicated office space helps. My space doesn't have a door, but nor is it the kitchen table where I have to look at last night's dirty dishes. Did I mention my personal laptop? It totally lives on the same desk where I set up my work laptop...

Sometimes its just too quiet in here. It helps that my work teammates are just an IM away (and since many of them actually work from different cities and/or occasionally from home, IM'ing is a normal method of communication). But still, sometimes I wish the cats would answer me with words.

Having access to a fully stocked pantry and a fully functional kitchen can lead to much fresher, tastier lunches than what I can fit into a lunchbox and nuke at work. It also leads to snacking.  Lots of snacking. No quarters required. Frankly, this could be good or bad.

The Cartoon Theme Songs

With my youngest home sick for three days this week, hubby and I took turns staying home with him.  By day three, he had basically no fever and just a persistent cough. And way too much energy. Happily, he can now run the TV remote. Unhappily, his show of coice is Sponge Bob.  Or Dora. Or Max and Ruby. Or Umi Zoomi. 

Oh the noise.

There is something surreal about attempting to concentrate on work while Dora is singing about the Colores Lindos in the next room.

The Rest

Everyone likes to joke about working in their PJs. I suppose I could, but I feel the need to get dressed in the morning. Helps me wake up.  I could totally see the benefits of working a few morning hours in my exercise clothes, squeezing in a Zumba class, and then showering and heading back to the keyboard. Not that I've managed to do that, yet.

Did I mention that in the previous eight or so years I probably attended one telecon total? I have been used to working directly face-to-face with people, or else not at all. For all that working at home can lead to isolation, I was probably more isolated working with a limited group of people in a single location than I am sitting in my home office with a headset and Webex.

I can see how this type of working environment could easily lead to a manager or employer abusing their people's work expectations. So far, I don't see any of that. I'm working with a group of people who are spread out geographically, who habitually flex their hours around family, and who seem to be given the trust and independence to get their job done without undue pressure from above or the dreaded micro-management (which would totally kill any benefits of working from home on a disjointed schedule).

Gosh I hope it stays that way. Because I can totally get used to this.

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