Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Leave Me Alone!

Those of us who work from home are frequently the recipients of envious looks and comments. When friends bemoan their workday lot (“signal failure on the Central Line this morning, utter chaos, I was an hour late for work”, or “I have to buy another suit, the dry cleaner couldn’t get the stain out”) the best I have to offer is “I tripped over the cat on the way to my study.” It’s easy to feel somewhat, well, jammy, as I go to work in my jammies.

We tend to compensate by making much of the downside of working from home. You have to be disciplined, make sure you knuckle down to work instead of doing your tax return. (The fact that the work has to be done is generally a good motivator in that regard. I know that by the end of today I need to have written a blog, checked and updated two PowerPoint presentations, designed and submitted an advertisement and written to a counsellor. Given that my working day ends in 2 hours, I think the tax return may have to wait until this evening.)

Then there’s the isolation. No office gossip, no water-cooler moments, no shared lunch breaks, no one to consult with, moan at or have meetings with. I sit alone, apart from the cat, for five hours a day, just getting on with my work in peace. Actually, I love it that way. When the children were off school recently, I got increasingly irritated when they “popped in” to ask for the Argos catalogue, or to let me know that they were going to a friend’s house, or just for a hug. Each time I turned back to my computer after the distraction I found I had lost my train of thought. I like to be left in peace to work, it seems. After twelve years of working from home alone, I don’t think I could concentrate in an office setting with all the banter and distractions.

So actually, working from home is great. But it’s not for everyone. Some people need work friendships, colleagues’ photographs to look through, stationery cupboard liaisons, and new hairstyles to compliment. Others prefer to be shut away in an office, distracted only by the phone and the occasional client meeting. We are all different, but one common factor is that we will all work much more productively and effectively in the environment in which we are most comfortable. For you, it may mean dressing up in a power-suit and commuting to a modern, open-plan glass office. In my case, it involves sitting alone in my study in my Primark pyjamas.

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