[Listen to an audio version of this blog here.]
The outlet under my desk looks like it's screaming at me. "I'm tired," it's saying. There are no less than 6 chords plugged into that outlet at all times: my laptop, the monitor, my cell phone charger, GPS watch charger, charger for Bluetooth headset and headphones, charger for Bluetooth speaker, charger for the charging bank for my phone, wireless cell phone charger that, ironically, requires a charge, charger for my camera battery, my vibrator, the cordless vacuum, the toaster, the toaster oven. I'm only kind of kidding.
I work from the second bedroom, which is a relatively new concept for me as I've lived most of my life with one (or none) bedrooms. When the pandemic first struck, I was living with a roommate. We both suddenly had to work from home, holing up in our respective bedrooms and trying, with some difficulty, to remain productive. I put my laptop on top of my dresser and spent over a year working two feet away from my bed. My bathroom was eight feet away, my kitchen was ten. I realized, like many of us did, that I didn't need to commute to an office to get my job done. My roommate, on the other hand, wallowed in her room eating chocolate cake by the fistful and drinking rosé by the pint glass.
Later, I moved into a studio and continued working from home, sans roommate. I didn't have to listen to another person making breakfast, or coughing, or talking, or flushing the toilet. All I really had to contend with were the occasional gardeners leaf blowing the sidewalk outside my window and mowing the 4 square feet of lawn where every dog in the neighborhood defecated.
Some people missed being around their coworkers when we all started working for home, but I didn't. At the time, I only worked with a few people I actually liked anyway. Some people bemoaned their inability to stay focused on their job while sitting in their homes, which I never fully understood. If anything, I was more focused because nobody was interrupting me, stopping by my office to gossip, intercepting me on my way to the bathroom, commenting on what I brought for lunch. When I'm at work, I like to work. Get my job done and get on with it.
There is something to be said about collaborating with peers, learning from each other, etc., but none of us are collaborating 100 percent of the time. Besides, it's 2023. I can (theoretically) video chat with someone in Hong Kong, have a virtual meeting with a colleague in New York, and visit a local customer, all in one day. Now that I occasionally travel for work, I get my fill of coworker time and get to do my day-to-day work with relative autonomy. If I'm not doing my job, it won't exactly be a secret.
I'm not here to make a case for or against working from home, but one reality does need to be addressed and that is, many people are not capable of at-home productivity. There are plenty of people who won't do much work anywhere they happen to be, and plenty of people whose home environment may not exactly be conducive to productivity, and plenty of people for whom the "is working from home or the office better?" debate never mattered, since it's quite difficult to perform heart surgery or clean a back molar from the comfort of your own kitchen table.
But, if a company can swing being remote, they can save up to $11,000 per employee, according to Dave Rietsema, Founder and CEO of Matchr.com. I've personally saved plenty of money on gas, car maintenance, and business clothes alone, not to mention the birthdays, wedding showers, and baby showers we all "pitched in" for. Baby/bridal showers are a blog for another day, but the last person I need to spend money on is Angie from Accounting, who I've barely spoken to ever, and whose child or marriage is none of my blessed business.
The benefits of working from home are sundry: I save money on commuting, clothes, lunches out, etc, but I also save time. I can sleep in later and have more time to exercise, which in turn, increases productivity. I have more flexibility over my schedule; if I need to see my doctor, I don't need to ask a soul. I simply block off time on my calendar and start an hour or two early. I can customize my office space to suit my comfortability, and my address is no longer tethered to my workplace. I can live wherever, so long as I have a solid internet connection. Best of all though, I feel empowered to do my job, because that's what I was hired to do. I would work whether or not someone was watching me do it.
But, when the days get long, there is no one to talk to, no water cooler to gather around, no pithy office gossip that is at once fascinating and terribly childish. So instead of chit-chatting with coworkers I don't like, I chat with myself, who I also don't like. "You're such a good sales-person," I tell myself when a meeting goes well. Or, "That didn't go so well, did it sport?" when my cold call falls flat. When I tire of talking to myself, I talk to my cat, "Why don't you make yourself useful and fetch those pens you pushed under the couch?" And if all else fails, I talk to my trusty outlet, "Take a load off," I say, unplugging one of my dozens of chords. "You've had a long day."