For a while now, I’ve said that time is my most precious resource.
I have a young family, a stressful job, and more ambitions than I have the time I’d like to fully indulge in, so often I find myself watching the clock even more so than I do my checking account balance. I can always make more money (sort of!), but no matter how hard I try, there are still only so many hours in a day at my disposal.
So for the last four years – specifically since the day that Christopher was born – I’ve been a telecommuter, working out of my home office and only going in for meetings that couldn’t be handled over the phone … which let’s be honest, in this day and age were few and far between!
I found that working from home was a good fit for me because it kept me in close proximity if Sara needed any help with the boys during the day. She still handled most of their daily care, but if she needed a hand changing a particularly messy diaper or wanted to share something adorable that they were doing, I could take a short break and come help.
It also made it so much more convenient that she could run to the store or go pickup Christopher from school while the twins were napping because I was still in the house with them doing my work.
It was a great system that came crashing to an end recently when my employer announced that they were ending our telecommuting policy. No discussion, no exceptions – they just wanted everyone back in the office to facilitate collaborations, despite the fact that we’re a global company and most of the people who I collaborate with are located in other countries… 🙁
I’m not going to rant and rave about that because this isn’t the time or the place, but what I can say is that over the years I’ve definitely learned that office life really isn’t for me. At least not right now it isn’t – the fixed schedules aren’t conducive to my life with three young kids, the commute is a giant waste of precious time, and in the end I know that I’m personally far more productive working privately at home without all of the distractions that come from working in the same building as 500 other people.
Sometimes other workers have a negative opinion towards telecommuters because they think that they’re just sitting at home, goofing off all day long.
I know because for a while I was one of those people who hated hearing that somebody was working from home that day because often times it was tough to get a hold of them, and frankly there was probably a bit of jealousy in wishing that *I* was sitting at home on my couch with my laptop instead of stuck in a stuffy cubicle for 10 hours a day, slowly watching my life flash before my eyes, too!
But the thing that I realized once I started enjoying the comforts of telecommuting regularly for myself is this – just because someone is physically in the office doesn’t mean that they’re actually doing anything productive with their time.
You can screw around at the office just as easily as you can at home – wandering from one co-worker’s desk to another for just a few minutes of idle chat, meetings that are booked for far longer time than they actually require, aimless web surfing and social media browsing, or even just taking an hour for a task that should take any reasonable person five minutes … don’t let anyone claim credit for being busier than you are just because they did it wearing pants. 😉
So needless to say, my world is even a bit more chaotic than normal right now because I feel like my precious time is even more constrained than ever. Not being able to throw up a load of laundry or wash a few dishes to help reduce the pile in the sink on my lunch break is already starting to take its toll and tensions within the family are higher because we don’t see each other nearly as much as we used to.
In a way, it really makes me think about work and why it is that we work the way that we do because it doesn’t always have to be this way.
Some jobs, of course, require a physical presence – retail, dining, hospitality, shipping – but for jobs that put us sitting at desks for 50 hours a week and with so many online tools to allow people to work together from all corners of the globe, the reasons are few and far between why people should be tethered to one certain desk to put in their time and it’s hard to see how the positives could possibly outweigh the negatives when you consider how freeing it can be for an employee to have more control over how they spend their day.
Right now I’m struggling to adjust – I’ll get by, but I’m not really happy about it. The upside is that it’s forcing me to reconsider some things that I’ve let slide for far too long out of a sense of just being comfortable. I’ve got a few ideas for ways to change things up, and I’m getting to the point in my life where I’m less willing to take no for an answer – 2,400 hours a year is just too much time to spend discontent.
I suppose we’ll see what happens! 😉