7 reasons you don't want to work from home
|Trying to work from home while the kiddo enjoys a day off from school.|
What does that mean? Well, the "experts" tell me I grew up with little unstructured time and helicopter parents who carted me off to my many extracurricular activities. (This, by the way, couldn't be further from the truth. My parents were hippies who didn't think occupying every waking moment was necessary.) The experts also say I enjoy working within a diverse team and communicating via text and email rather than over the phone or even face-to-face. They say I'm tech savvy and am constantly connected to the world. They say I need constant feedback (praise, really). They say I need a healthy work-life balance. That I value flexibility in my career.
OK, I'd say a lot of my characteristics align with those of the typical millennial, but that last one--the one about work-life balance and flexibility--really hit the nail on the head.
I'm a writer and editor in the veterinary industry. For about 5 years, and until 7 months ago, I worked for a nonprofit veterinary association. I loved my job. Loved. But, no job is perfect. And, the outspoken and entitled millennial in me made my many suggestions for improving the policies, employee morale, and general workplace vibe known to middle and upper management frequently. One of the imperfections there was a lack of a flexible working policy. With many employees who could easily do their jobs from home, and many who wanted the option to do so, the association was in desperate need of a policy stating their position regarding telecommuting.
That policy never came.
I live in Denver, where the population is booming. During my 5 years at the association, I noticed my commute getting longer and longer. Some days, it would take me an hour to get to work and an hour to get home. That meant that there were many weeks I was spending nearly 10 hours just driving to and from work. That's 10 hours away from my family. Ten hours not working, not cooking dinner, not watching soccer practice, not doing laundry. I was throwing time away.
So, when I was offered an opportunity to work from home as a writer for a veterinary marketing agency I couldn't say no. The company, a family owned agency located about an hour outside Chicago in Northwest Indiana, had been helping veterinarians with marketing for more than 20 years. I had worked directly with this company through my position with the veterinary nonprofit association. I knew one of the owners, and I really liked him. I'd be working from home. Full time. I thought I had hit the jackpot.
I rushed out to furnish my home office and canceled my son's after-school care. I scheduled an appointment with my dentist for a Thursday at 11 a.m. I took my son to school via bicycle. I walked the dog during my lunch breaks. I cooked fresh, healthy dinners during the time I would have usually been driving home from work. I was able to sign for packages when the postman rang the doorbell. My friends were envious. My family seemed content.
But, from the very beginning, I knew something was missing. Yes, the flexibility of my remote position meant far less stress for me and my family, but I wasn't happy. I desperately missed the camaraderie I had with my colleagues. I missed knowing my colleagues. I missed meetings. I missed random, unscheduled creative brainstorming sessions. I missed lunches out, complaining about this project or that new rule or that we hadn't been able to wear jeans for the past 2 weeks. I missed being freezing at my desk every day, regardless of the temperature outside. I missed people walking up to my desk and completely interrupting my work flow or train of thought. I even missed driving my car. Working from home was not all I had imagined it would be.
It's hard working from home full time. Here's why:
- You're completely, utterly, miserably alone. I'm an extrovert. I need interaction with other human beings. "Why don't you go out to lunch with friends?" "There's a great shared working space for people who work from home in the neighborhood!" Yes. I know. I've tried these things. It is not the same as having colleagues, all working toward the same goal, in the cubicles surrounding you. No more taking a quick break from work to chat about who died last night on "The Walking Dead" or shouting a question over a cubicle wall about a work project.
- Email sucks. Speaking of shouting over a cubicle wall...working from home means you can't do that. Like, ever. Hey, colleagues in another state: Respond to an email! Ignoring my email, which happens to be the main form of communication I'm able to use to reach you, is essentially like ignoring me if I asked you a question to your face in the office. Just take a minute and reply to my email. Don't leave me sitting here wondering if you're busy, out of the office, mad at me, throwing up in the bathroom... You get my point.
- Forget socializing with your colleagues. I see my colleagues post photos on Facebook of their after-work or weekend gatherings. They like each other; they really like each other. Awww, that's sweet. (That's my sarcasm font, in case you couldn't tell.) In all seriousness, though, I have FOMO (that's fear of missing out, in case you didn't know). And, I'm forever missing out on getting to know these people I call colleagues. I don't know them. They don't know me. In fact, I think they might hate me a little bit.
- Flexibility = forever working. Sure, I can go to the dentist on Thursday at 11 a.m., but that means I'm sitting at my work computer in my home office at 9 or 10 p.m. trying to complete my to-do list for the day after the kid goes to bed. Some days, I don't even turn off my computer before going to bed. My work day knows no boundaries.
- You're home. And everyone knows it. "Hey, Sarah... do you think you could watch my baby for a couple hours this afternoon while I go to the doctor?" "Oh, hey: The house appraiser is coming tomorrow at 9 a.m. You'll be here, right?" "Mom! Can I have a friend over after school tomorrow? You're home to watch us!" Yes. I'll be home. I'm home every day. But the weird thing about this whole work-from-home thing is that I actually have to...I don't know...WORK! No, I cannot run your errands or watch your kids or entertain the cable guy. I'm. Working.
- You're ugly. No, seriously. Working from home means you no longer have anyone to impress (except maybe the cable guy). Some days, I consider it a victory when I've changed from my pajamas to my work sweats. Makeup? Yeah, right. Shower? Occasionally. The silver lining? You'll save lots of money on clothes. Makeup. Shampoo.
- You exhaust your friends and family. Today I went to lunch with a friend. I think I talked about 500 mph and barely let her speak. It's becoming a common occurrence: I don't have anyone to chat with all day long, so the minute I find myself in the company of someone who might seem willing to listen to me, I completely overdo it and make that person never want to hang out with me again. My husband takes the brunt of this just about every day when he arrives home from work. Fortunately, he can't get rid of me easily.
I know, I know. I sound like a true millennial now. One of those spoiled brats who got a trophy just for participating and now wants my cake and wants to eat it, too. I'm complaining about something so many people would love to have. And perhaps it's ideal for some... Those introverts who don't need regular contact with the outside world. For me, it's a struggle.
Am I saying I want to go back to commuting 10 hours every week? No. Definitely not. But, I am saying (in true millennial fashion) that I want the flexibility to go to an office from time to time. I want to get to know my colleagues and feel like I'm part of the team. That's impossible to do when you live in Denver and your office is in Chicago.
What's the solution? I don't know. For now, I remain a prisoner to my lonely home office, hoping my company will move their headquarters to Denver or hire a second person here so, together, we can be the "west" office for the agency. Until then, please comment here so I have someone to chat with. Please?