Everyone seems to be in love with the idea of working from home. The thought normally conjures pleasant mental images of a warm laptop resting on the lackadaisical lap of pajama bottoms, papers strewn about your memory foam mattress turned makeshift desk, and warm feelings of working in an intimately familiar environment that is entirely your own. Best of all, one is excused from the mores of office culture and all that entails. No demanding attendance policy, no domineering supervisors breathing down your neck, and no dress code to deter you from wearing your favorite dino-print snuggie that you have been told is somehow “inappropriate” for a business setting. Working from home must be the magnum opus of working conditions of the modern age, right? WRONG.
Working from home is a modern novelty that is like taking a vacation to Antarctica; an interesting proposal but really just a cold, isolated, and life-draining experience. This is not my opinion (it is), this is scientifically proven fact (it’s not). Many of the perceived benefits mentioned so far of working from home are wolves in sheep’s clothing.
First of all, having to go into a workplace demands a certain level of hygiene and appearance standards. It requires one to shower semi-regularly, and have the decency to wear clean clothes that look respectable in the daylight, and not have roadkill breath. I can easily go weeks without making a major effort to be presentable and I cannot be the only one out there. My appearance quickly deteriorates and I can commonly be noted by features such as Dijon mustard stained white tank top, hair greasy from both natural oils and foreign contaminates, crusty cotton pajama pants unchanged in months, and foul odors from the body and mouth that can only be described as profane and blasphemous to human decency. Going to an office has a way of forcing a few positive behaviors like grooming and personal maintenance so as to not be offensive to those around you.
Another aspect of at-home work that I have trouble with is the actual ability to get work done outside of an office. It is a constant uphill battle against a legion of distractions when I am at home. This should be no surprise because home is the place I go every day for the express purpose of being distracted from the outside world. Something that should have taken an hour stretches into three because my cat jumped on the keyboard and demanded to be played with, or my favorite episode of the infomercial channel is on and I need to devote 45 minutes to looking at designer rhinestone-encrusted grocery bags, or so on and so on. The distractions detract from work and the work distracts you from being properly distracted.
The biggest misnomer about working from home is the idea that the ability to work anywhere and at any time will streamline work and give people time back, when in reality the opposite is probably true. When cell phones and email became ubiquitous, it made personal and professional messaging instantaneous and easy. Modern messaging is far easier and quicker than writing letters to individuals or having to meet in person, but this has just caused a massive spike in communication rather than a streamlined version of it. People spend more time than ever keeping up with social media and the various digital forms of communication, and there is no reason to think the same would not happen given the same ease of access to work.
By removing standard working hours and dissolving designated workplaces, we open the floodgates of opportunity to a 24/7 schedule anywhere with Wi-Fi. That supervisor you disdain for constant micromanaging that was confined to the office for a few hours a day now has a personal invitation into your home at all hours with a constant light rain of pedantic issues. There is something I like to keep sacred about my time at home. It is my one bedroom castle that I can take refuge at the end of the day, and I would prefer to keep work responsibilities outside of it.
There are some people and positions that are much better suited for remote and at-home work, but that does not mean we should rush to burn down the office parks now that we have the ability to do so. For many the traditional office offers a place to focus, get out of the house, and keep work separate from the rest of our time.
Connect with Brad Hunt on LinkedIn