Folks have a lot of pre-convinced notions about working from home. Many people think we can work from anywhere – which is mostly true, with some caveats.
Depending on the employee’s job and situation, many of us can’t just work from a coffee shop 5 days a week. We like our monitors (yeah, that’s plural, dual monitors are where it’s at), we like our comfortable chairs, and we like our reliable internet connection. It’s also super weird to sit in a coffee shop for 8 hours a day. What happens when you have to go to the bathroom? You’ve downed several cups of coffee by 12pm, trying to not be a total mooch, and then the urge strikes. Do you leave your laptop set up and hope no one tampers with your stuff? Do you pack up, abandoning the good spot you staked out at 7:30am, and hope it’s still there when you get back?
So many questions. Very few answers.
“Just come into town and work here for a few days, what’s the harm?”
Being a telecommuter in the summer presents its own set of challenges. Coffee shops aside, it is true that we can be fairly mobile workers. For example, I’ve set up camp in my in-law’s basement several times since my conversion to a work from home employee, and it works just fine. But there’s a certain level of guilt in those situations, and I feel I’m not alone in this.
It’s summertime, so many of us are taking trips to visit family/friends or (hopefully) going on vacation somewhere. The ability to be totally mobile sometimes makes me feel that maybe I don’t have to take full days off of work when traveling, and that can get me into dangerous situations. If I’m committed to working, and I’m clocked in, my work deserves my full attention. Yeah, I take breaks now and then, but so does everyone whether they work in an office environment or not. But when staying with family (or even friends) it’s hard not to feel guilty when they want to talk to you, or show you something, or just generally feel like you’re present. You are staying in their house under their hospitality after all. If it’s a weekday and they’ve taken off work since you’re in town, maybe you should do the same. It’s a lesson I’m still learning, but I’m getting better.
“Why don’t you work outside?”
Additionally, if you’re lucky enough to have a window in your home office (I’ve got a corner office, so I have TWO windows. What am I, a CEO?) it’s hard to stare out at the beautiful summer weather and not be out enjoying it. I felt the same way cooped up in my cubicle farm, but there was a certain feeling of solidarity with my co-workers. We had no choice! We’re in this together! We’re pale and we’re proud!!
But now that I work from home I could, in theory, sit outside on my laptop and get some work done. And I hope other folks who have a better set-up than me actually do this! At the moment, I don’t have a patio or outdoor furniture on which to feasibly plop down and enjoy the outdoors. Could I pack it up and do the whole coffee shop thing and utilize their outdoor patio? Yeah, probably. But then there’s the struggle of their wi-fi being strong outside, and then I have to use my VPN, and then I have to hope their patio tables are big enough for my laptop, and then I have to hope no one tries to call my office phone, and I really don’t want to set up call forwarding and so on and so forth and yadda yadda yadda. Am I overthinking it? Hahaha…of course I am. That’s what I do. Regardless, there is a certain amount of struggle in what seems like a simple thing to a non-work from homer.
“Why are you taking your work computer on vacation?”
On more than one occasion early in my tenure as a telecommuter, I’ve gone out of town on planned time off to a wedding or some other event, and not taken my work computer along with me. I thought, I’ve already taken these days off and I’ll only be off work for a day so why bother?
And then the car won’t start on Sunday. Or someone gets sick. Or there’s a ridiculous storm that left me completely grounded.
Life just happens that way, and I’d rather be someone who is overprepared than underprepared. So now I take my laptop every time I leave town. Even if I can’t feasibly work the next day, I can at least throw up and out-of-office reply and keep in touch with my manager. My current manager, by the way, is awesome and totally understanding when things happen – but not everyone’s manager is that cool.
Take the laptop. Avoid the headache.
Working from home offers many unique challenges, but we try to stay positive and focus on the wonderful benefits, too. During the summer my home office is filled with natural light from 7:30am to 5pm. I can open the windows and get some fresh air. I can (in theory) take the dog for a walk on my lunch break…but it’s usually way too hot for that.