Today is national work from home day. Homeworking is not for everyone. Some people find it hard to motivate themselves to get into work mode when they are surrounded by home comforts. They get easily distracted by the washing, pets, a buzzing insect. I’m not one of them. The kittens can be flying through the air and I can still maintain total concentration and I’d much rather work than do the washing. I’ve also grown highly skilled at flattening buzzing insects, just as my ability to find small objects that the children have lost at around 8.45am has now become so honed that I could win an Olympics medal if it were ever to become a competitive sport.
A survey out this week sought to put the dampeners on the current pre-Olympics zeal for homeworking. It spoke of the hidden surprises of homeworking. Apparently this includes the fact that you use more electricity if you are at home due to having to heat and light your house during the day. If you are self-employed you can, of course, claim back a portion of this. However, if you are an employee you are not quite in the same position. One of the pros for employers of homeworking is that it reduces their overheads. The con for employees is that it increases theirs.
However, it’s swings and roundabouts really because you save elsewhere, for instance, on commuting costs. And what you don’t save in money, you save in time, which is invaluable as a parent.
The survey suggests sitting in natural light with the window open to cut down on lighting bills, but of course this increases the need for heating or for boiling the kettle for a hot water bottle. Another apparent drawback of homeworking is that the house is messier and you do more washing up. This one puzzled me. Is that because you as a homeworker mess the house up more or is it just that you perceive the house to be messier if you stay in it for longer? In my case, there is obviously more mess around the computer area, but it is fairly contained and I prefer to label it creative chaos. The rest of the house remains as was since I hardly ever step into it while I am working. Or is it because children might be around more at the end of the day if someone is working from home, particularly if they work for themselves and don’t pay childcare? Children are able to create mess just by walking through a room. This latter argument would also explain the extra washing up. The upside is that you are there when the kids come home from school and are not half killing yourself trying to get home in time to pick them up. I well remember the stress of arriving at the train station to find every train home was delayed as the nursery clock was ticking into overtime.
Of course, there are drawbacks to everything in life. I miss just having a laugh with colleagues. You don’t tend to talk to colleagues when you work from home except for some specific work-related thing. It kind of doesn’t make sense to pick up the phone to have a chat about the latest developments in the euro saga. I guess that’s what social media is about, but it’s just not the same as real conversation somehow. The answer is to get the best of both worlds by working remotely and also arranging to meet colleagues or social media friends in person. This week, for instance, I went to an Anywhere Working tweet up and met up with people who I have only ever met before online. It makes a difference.
Then there’s the cheese on toast. At least when I was in an office, I didn’t eat cheese on toast for every lunch. Plus it’s generally burnt as I put it under the grill and get engrossed in some email. And I didn’t get called by someone pretending to be from Office Windows every day. Theoretically I could use the time I save on commuting to go running, but until around 2pm I am still recovering from the bedlam that is the school run, a workout routine all in its own right.
But I wouldn’t really have it any other way now. I’ve got used to it and the pluses far outweigh the minuses. I recall on several occasions ringing my partner up after dropping off three children in different places – school, nursery and childminder – parking the car and rushing down the road and up the stairs to the train platform only to find the train had departed 15 seconds earlier. “This is going to kill me,” I said. Better to be eating burnt cheese on toast every day, I figure.