I, too, once saw working from home as the solution to many problems.
So Does It Live Up to the Hype?
Everyone seems to find working from home attractive. However, experiencing it soon brings the realization that it’s not for everybody. Are you a disciplined master of time management comfortable with setting boundaries for yourself and committed enough to uphold them? Then remote working might be for you! It offers multiple benefits, among them:
- Less commuting.
- More time in the morning.
- Increased availability for children, especially when they’re sick or staying home from school or the kindergarten.
- The possibility of combining work, household chores and family duties.
- The latitude to create your own schedule according to personal productivity peaks.
- A general decrease in stress resulting from the above points.
But if you think you’ll get a free pass to lounging and watching shows all day, you’re dead wrong. Get too comfortable, and things will soon get dicey.
Absolute Freedom? No Thank You.
When I first started out at Agendrix, I discovered how flexible their scheduling is. Here, we can afford to work from home more or less regularly. Almost every situation can be accommodated. But be that as it may, working from home wasn’t really attractive to me from the start.
Why, you ask? Good question.
Flexible Schedules, of Course
I worked from home four days a week for more than a year. The remaining day was spent at the office. This was before Agendrix, mind you. At first, I thought I was perfectly happy with this arrangement, being a mother and working full-time. A flexible schedule and the possibility of working from home seemed like the ideal combination to increase family time.
I thought I could at last organize my schedule to make everyday life easier, and dispense with having to hurry in the morning or use my Saturdays for housework and groceries. But I was wrong.
I don’t think I’ll surprise anyone by saying there are more distractions at home than at work. It turned out every time I did “family” tasks during the day, I had to work “overtime” afterward. And when my kids were sick, I was lucky to get in 4 or 5 hours in a day.
After all, working from home doesn’t make the actual work any less important or demanding.
Working All the Time
Discipline is an enviable skill that apparently isn’t given to everyone equally. I obviously didn’t get much of it. I soon found out that absent any framework other than an online chat group and a few meetings and deadlines, I had trouble sticking to the schedules I made for myself.
One of the advantages of working from home for me was the possibility of working according to my own productivity peaks, earlier in the day.
But I still found myself working in the evenings after the kids went to sleep, as well as on the weekends, to finish my work and get all my working hours in. Conclusion: when I allowed myself this freedom, I always paid for it down the line.
Ultimately, I felt like I was working all the time.
Remote working, if it’s done from home, tends to blur the line between our work and personal lives.
The Need for Affiliation Is No Myth
According to Jacques Forest, “the three essential needs are—drumroll—the need for autonomy, i.e., feeling authentic and free, the ability to act according to one’s values and to have some latitude; the need for competence, i.e., feeling efficient and able to overcome challenges, and the need for social affiliation, which is defined by having warm and beneficial interpersonal relationships.”
Well, I can attest this last point, even if different people experience it to different degrees, is very real.
I can also tell you from experience that the feeling of being part of a team can be sorely missed.
Let’s face it: being super active on the group conversation as an outsider isn’t enough to bond with a team.
Throwing in a few jokes or participating in special activities isn’t enough to make you part of the group.
Of course, it may not be the same for teams where everyone works remotely, be it part-time or full-time. They likely form different types of bonds. But for teams where most people see each other daily, that’s just the way it is. Or so I thought.
Justifying the Quality of Your Work
When working from home, it’s sometimes more difficult to get things done, both in terms of quality and quantity. People sometimes even feel they have something to prove as a result. Team members who work together in person can be annoyed by not being able to see what their colleague does with their time.
Besides, “[a] study [conducted by three professors from Maastricht University] demonstrates beyond the shadow of a doubt that telework does not lend itself to all tasks. As soon as it becomes difficult to evaluate a remote employee’s efforts, it can become problematic.” Being a copywriter, I expect it can indeed be difficult to account for periods of brainstorming, reflection, research or reading, which are nonetheless necessary to creation.
Remote working has its advantages but, in my experience, they can quickly turn into liabilities if used incorrectly. Even not having to prepare as much in the morning or staying in one’s pajamas can quickly become less motivating.
Nevertheless, I believe that working from home, if undertaken with due diligence, can potentially make us more satisfied with our work environment. A conclusion of economics professor Nicholas Bloom, during a TedEd interview, is that one or two days working from home would be an ideal compromise. Maybe balance is the key here. You tell me.