It can be either, depending on you.
The first time I worked from home, it started as a dream that rapidly became a nightmare.
I was editing a quarterly magazine for a non-profit association that moved to another state and gave me the option of telecommuting.
I had worked for the company for 4 years at the time, gradually climbing the ladder. I loved the people and the work. I also loved being at home with my 8-year-old daughter. I thought working from home would bring all those loved things together for me. I could use the same hours of each day to work and spend time with my girl.
How wrong I was! I failed miserably.
I didn't work steadily, as I had in the office (8 hours of work in 8 hours of day). Instead, some days I did much less (1 or 2 hours of work in 8 hours of day). Why? My brain was accustomed to going somewhere else to work. Instead of going to a separate office, I was sitting in a chair at a table at the foot of my bed. It was the same chair I sat in to surf the internet, to watch cat videos, to read social media posts, to read books and write letters. The stuff that would be considered "goofing off" if I did it in an office.
The office imposed limitations on what I could/should do while sitting in my office chair at my office desk. I no longer shared physical space with my peers and supervisor, all working shoulder-to-shoulder to make progress each day. When the office went away, so did their expectations and camaraderie ... or at least my perceptions of them.
When the office limitations went away, suddenly possibilities seemed unlimited! It felt great!
Time stretched for months between quarterly magazine deadlines. What's an hour or three of Internet surfing when you have 3 months before the next magazine comes out? Indeed, what's a day or two when you have weeks and months?
Then, as deadlines drew closer, I would realize I was far behind. I would panic and work day and night in marathon spurts full of stress and self-recrimination. “I should know better! Why did I let that happen again?”
I always felt guilty. When I spent time with my daughter, I felt guilty that I wasn’t working. When I worked, I felt guilty that my daughter was neglected. Sometimes I felt so bad that I avoided both work and spending time with my daughter. Instead, I comforted myself with Yahoo Groups bulletin boards and cute guys on Match.com.
Slowly, I became aware that working at home was not working for me. I did not want to admit defeat, I believed "failure" to be a dirty word. But finally the nagging realization became too much. I was so relieved when I finally called my boss and explained that I was not doing what they needed. I took a lay-off and found a more traditional on-site office job.
After that failure, I thought that I never wanted to work from home again. I spent the next 15 years telling people so.
But in the last couple years things have shifted. My daughter and I are older and we both have chronic health problems. Alot of my coworkers work remotely — from home or from offices in other states. Even when I go into the office, I use distance communication tools like e-mail, Slack, and WebEx.
Driving half an hour to get to an office building where I do the exact same thing I could do anywhere else seems wasteful. For all of those reasons, I now find myself working from home again.
What did I learn from my first failure? How will those learnings improve my ability to work at home well?
I believe that my failure was because of my mindset. I allowed external factors to determine my activities. To get in my “work” mindset, I needed to be away from home. My work mindset was … “Do as you’re directed by your boss. Do it as quickly as possible. Perform, achieve, get praise.” I really am a praise junky. I like to be liked, especially by authority figures.
My home mindset was, take care of Summer, then rest, relax, and get ready to go to work again.
I could not bring the two mindsets together into my living space.
But here I am again, faced with just that task.
I believe it’s going to take some experimenting. Continuous learnings ... small experiments, feedback, and adjustment. I believe this is the way to figure out how to work at home better than I did before.
The alternative? Keep doing what I did before. Long stretches of guilt and anxiety punctuated by marathon works sessions fueled by deadline terror.
I also believe that my experiments and learnings can help others. You can learn from my failure. You can grab onto the handle of the findings from my experiments. You can plug my hacks into your work-at-home sockets and fire up your productivity. And then you can come back for more.
Welcome to prolific in pajamas!