Working From Home is Never Worth It
The inspiration for this article comes from Rosamund Lannin’s “Working From Home is Never Worth It ” over at the theBillFold.com.
I was an employee my whole career, working a mostly 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM job. No one even considered working from home during my career. At some jobs I walked to work, others I took public transportation or drove my car. I always left my home.
I was in public accounting for my first five years out of college and my life was defined by “tax season.” Lots of paid overtime during “tax season.” Lots of sitting around the “bullpen” in the summer, a baseball analogy where a lot of pitchers are hanging out waiting for their names to be called. I learned about the Holocaust that first summer when I picked up the book Treblinka someone had left in the “bullpen.” My eyes were opening.
Women who were not secretaries were a rarity in the workplace during much of my career. I was good at getting hired, not good at getting paid what I was worth or being assigned the work I was trained for. I was usually bored to tears and I still had to sit at my desk from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, 5 days a week.
I became addicted to my paycheck, which in many ways was good. I bought a house, paid my mortgage off in less than 15 years, sent my daughter to private schools and college, saved for retirement, took great vacations, and could afford everything. I became “risk averse” and confined my passion. I used to joke that I needed the big salary so I could afford my therapist – which wasn’t really a joke, a sort of half truth.
I kept getting fired. Employees must conform and I just wouldn’t conform. My last full time gig, I was a full time volunteer and the biggest donor and the Board still fired me. That cured me of “risk aversion” and freed me to pursue work I am passionate about.
Now that I have set the stage, let’s get back on topic – Why does Rosamund hate working at home and I love working at home? Why are we on opposite sides?
I see many shortcoming to Rosamund’s disdain to working at home, namely that her world is “Tech-Centric.” In 1982, John Naisbitt coined the term High Tech; High Touch in his book Megatrends. The Tech firms have mastered the High Tech piece, but not the High Touch. Tech firms practice “community engagement” i.e. relationships in the workplace, which is why Rosamund likes to work at the office and not with customers, which is why Rosamund becomes frustrated when she works at home and, essentially, becomes a tech customer and is forced to deal with tech’s issues that the rest of us deal with every day.
Rosamund likes/ wants/ needs to keep her work and home separate to protect her personal space. Tech companies have provided all the tools for folks to work 24/7, scheduling meetings around the globe around the clock. Slowly the expectation that you are available 24/7 seeps into the culture and the tech employee feels like a slacker for taking personal time.
My Routine from Home
I remember telling my fourth grade teacher on career day – “I want to be my own boss.” My day usually starts around 5:00 AM. Some days I take a shower and get dressed; other days I lay in bed thinking about the day ahead. I finally get up when Daphne (the dog) gets up and stretches. I open the door to the patio for Daphne. I make breakfast for us, usually bacon, eggs and spinach, and coffee for me.
I eat my breakfast at my desk, next to the kitchen. I have a mental list of who I want to connect to during the day and what I want to accomplish. I start work by checking my calendar and weeding through e-mail. I am rarely late and seldom miss an appointment. Most folks I know are 50% on time for appointments, at best. I have learned to “go with the flow.” If my plans go awry, a new door always opens.
Most days I work in my studio/office/home. Tommie, my dog walker, takes Chewy (his dog) and Daphne to the park. Joanne and I go to New Seasons and our Credit Union or she waters the garden and manages our recycling. Janessa organizes me – or at least tries. Donovan and I talk about my latest crazy idea and his latest crazy idea and the most amazing ideas emerge. And neighbors and folks walking by come to the door and ask – “What is this place?” My days are full.
I am producing the best work of my life, effortlessly and continuously. When I need a break, I turn around and make myself toast and peanut butter, empty the dishwasher, put in a load of laundry, take a nap or do something for myself.
By late afternoon, I am done with my work day. I check Facebook events that interested me and perhaps decide to attend one of the events. Or I head out to a local restaurant/bar for happy hour. Some of my best ideas come from conversations with folks I meet in bars.
When I am done, I am done. I am lucky that I am my own boss and I don’t have to compete with coworkers for who put in the most hours or most effort. I make my own rules and I’m able to separate my person life from my business life as I see fit.
My work/live balance is perfect! How did I get to this place?
Last October, I met Erica Thomas. Erica hangs a red neon “Artist-In-Residence” sign in her living room window. Erica’s “Artistic Practice” is her community, her neighborhood, her marriage, her relationships, the food that she cooks and eats, everything that she does.
Erica is the first person I have met to state her intention so clearly. For me, Erica’s “Artistic Practice” is evolving into “Community-Centric.” I recently read Vu Le of Rainier Valley Corporation’s article “How Donor-Centrism Perpetuates Inequity, and Why We Must Move Toward Community-Centric Fundraising” and what engaged me most is the realization that the current non-profit approach of asking for money from donors isn’t working. It forms a hunger games approach to raising capital for societal impact. I realize that the Standard Method vs Community Centric approach can apply to many facets of life and work, not just raising capital. Le’s Community-Centric approach is analogous to my work at the Emerson Street House and through Rooted Investing. I focus on improving my community, one conversation and project at a time.
Just like Le is challenging the non-profit industry, I want to weigh in on my personal favorite, the endowment and retirement savings – Wall Street-Centric vs Community-Centric investing. Look for a blog post soon as I have a lot to say about this topic.
What is Current-Centric in your world? What would Community-Centric look like in your world? What steps can you take to make this happen?I love working from home – DianeFreaney.com