Since relocating from Pennsylvania to Florida in July of 2015, I’ve worked remotely for a Public Relations agency back in Philadelphia. Prior to having this experience, I had always envied my friends who had the flexibility to work from home. I thought they must have so much time to work out, to get the laundry done. I thought they probably ate so much healthier by being able to prepare their own meals, three times a day. I thought their work/life balance must be amazing. Honestly, I pictured them lounging around in their pajamas all day, eating bon-bons. I’ve found the reality of working from home to be quite different. While there are definite upsides, including hanging out with my dog (and now cat) all day, and no longer having to commute over an hour by train into Philly, there are a surprising number of downsides to my new lifestyle. So today I thought I’d share what it’s really like to work from home.
People don’t respect my time. Especially living far away in a vacation destination, I’ve had repeated issues with people proposing visits on weekdays, assuming that I’ll be able to hang out. I’ve had friends ask me to drive them to the airport in the middle of the day on a Thursday. My husband routinely leaves me lists of chores and errands that he assumes I can get done during working hours, and is frustrated when they don’t get done. When he asks me what my plans are for the day, I sometimes find myself wanting to scream back, “I have to work!! What do you think I’m doing?” The truth is that I am a full-time, salaried employee – my hours are no different than they were when I worked in a physical office.
My work/life balance actually got worse. And this seems to be the truth from everyone I know who works remotely. I’ve become so hypersensitive to people’s impressions of remote employees, that I feel the need to be available constantly. I worry when I’m walking the dog that I will miss an email, and my coworkers will think that I’m slacking off. Logically, I know that this is ridiculous. If I were physically in the office, I would be taking breaks to go grab coffee, I would be stopping at my friends’ desks to catch up, I would stay behind in meetings to chit chat. And because I don’t commute, I often find myself working later. I’m the person who sticks around to review deliverables from junior staff members, I take calls after hours, I respond to emails long after my coworkers have gone home. I feel a constant need to overcompensate for the fact that I’m not physically there, to prove that I am, in fact, doing work.
It’s isolating. I am one of those rare people who actually loves where she works. My PR agency is kind of like a big sorority, but without the cattiness and the hazing. There’s yoga in the office after work a few days a week, there are impromptu happy hours in the kitchen, and I’ve met some of my closest friends at work. This doesn’t sound like a bad thing, right? Well, it’s kind of a drawback when you don’t actually, physically work there. I don’t get to have the same bonding experiences with my team, and I took for granted how much I relied on being in the office for social interaction. Especially for me, because Andrew travels so often for work and works a lot of late nights, I really miss the camaraderie of the workplace. Days at a time can go by where the only personal contact I have is over the phone or the office Skype chat. As an added complication, I started working from home at a time when I had also just relocated to a completely new state, knowing no one. I had to come up with more creative ways to make friends, and now that I have friends, have to go out of my way to make plans to hang out vs. just seeing them in the office.
I snack constantly. This one may seem out of place, but it’s a real problem for me! I tend to eat when I’m bored, and having access to a full pantry of snacks at all times has become dangerous. I find myself walking upstairs into the kitchen just for something to do, and end up snacking every time I go in there. I try to no longer keep junk food in the house, instead stocking my pantry and fridge with things like fruit and nuts that can’t do too much damage to my diet.
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