04/10/2016 09:48 BST | Updated 05/10/2017 06:12 BST

The Realities Of Working From Home


To some, "working from home" sounds idyllic or perhaps just plain cushy. No more commuting to work, no more dressing in clothes you wouldn't normally be seen dead in, no more chained to your desk till lunch time, no more irritating colleagues and most importantly, no more distractions.

Well, most of us work-at-homers can probably tell you, it ain't like that. As this 2015 post shows, the jury is out as to whether we really are more productive. Here are a few possible reasons-

Deliveries - your spouse forgets to tell you (till the night before) that a very important parcel is due the next day. The window of delivery? Oooh, 8am-1pm, or 1pm till 6pm. Fantastic, 'cause of course you have no kids to get to school, no errands (read "food buying") to run, no Post Office visit to make, no important phone calls scheduled. Nothing like that. Though you'd love not to have to leave the house, the reality is you sometimes have to. (Hint - a missed delivery of crucial parcel usually teaches the spouse to arrange to have stuff sent to work thereafter.)

Workmen - ditto hanging around for workmen to show up. Like deliveries, they give a ridiculously large window and then arrive hours late. If they have to come more than once, they start showing up at whatever-the-heck o'clock because they know you're "always in".

Being asked to do stuff - word gets round very quickly that you're at home, which often also translates to watching other people's children, for a little while, in an emergency, a one-time only thing. Thank you so much. Similarly, when the school is looking for volunteers, working from home, for some reason, also seems to mean "doesn't have much to do".

Technical problems - when you work in an office, there's usually someone around to fix the technical stuff (unless that's your actual job). At home - it's up to you and nothing gets done till the problem is fixed. And sometimes it can take hours out of your day.

Me, this morning -

  • Attempt to open a file, which is stored on our home server. (Don't ask me why we have a home server, and don't mention Hillary Clinton.)
  • Laptop isn't "talking" to the server, so can't access the file.
  • Switch server off, wait five minutes, clean up kitchen, switch server back on.
  • Still nothing.
  • Power down laptop, switch off server. Feed dog. Switch both back on.
  • Can see server on "Devices" but can't connect.
  • Restart laptop. Eat apple while letting it "warm up".
  • Still can't get to document.
  • Hit upon fabulous idea of finding the last e-mail I attached it to, download document to my laptop.
  • Voila. (Now all I need to remember is that I'm now making changes on my laptop version.)

And then there are the self-induced distractions, also known as "faffing".

The TV - Given what's going on where I am (Presidential election), I tune in once in a while and end up glued to the train wreck unfolding before me. How can one concentrate on anything else? I promise myself I'll just have it on in the background, but then find myself ranting on Twitter or Facebook instead of actually working.

Social Media - The double-edged sword of work-from-home life. Sitting in front of a computer for hours on end necessitates breaks, at least for me. These breaks can come in the form of a physical break (like working out or vacuuming) or a twenty minute chat on Facebook. The problem is, that once you switch over to your chosen rabbit hole, you can be there for hours.

Hobbies - For some it's photography, baking or playing an instrument; for me it's crafts, be it knitting, sewing, or making recycled "stuff". There's always a project on the go and it's always there, tempting me and with it's unfinished-ness. If there's a deadline involved for the project, all the more reason to sign off and get crafting.

Chores - Not that chores are really self-induced, but I don't seem to be able to walk from one room to another without noticing something that needs to be wiped or hung up. What starts off as one small gesture can very quickly morph into an industrial cleaning exercise, which takes up the rest of the afternoon and involves rubber gloves and strong detergent.

Binge-watching - Although I sometimes allow myself a break to watch a Netflix or Amazon episode, I can hardly ever leave it at one. The little circle thingy that announces the next one starting in twenty seconds is just too tempting and boy, do they know how to produce a good cliff-hanger.

(A shorter version of this post first appeared at Expat Mum. Jan 22, 2015).