Sep 20, 2017

The work from home Chronicles

I hurt my knee a month back and instead of limping to work every morning, I decided to work from home. I saw it as a respite from the never ending commute and traffic and had lovely visions of myself simply rolling out of bed, padding over to my desk in pajamas and starting work. I was so kicked by the fact that my journey to work would be reduced to 1 minute from I hour.

No more power dressing, no need to iron all those formal clothes, hell no need to even comb my hair if I didn’t feel like it. No more standing in line at the office microwave to heat my packed lunch, no more tepid coffee from the office dispensing machine.

No one to see you if you are checking your mails with the toothbrush still in your mouth or if you are watching Mr. Bean videos on the side as you type serious mails to your team.

Life was going to be so good.

The reality my friends is something totally different.

Within a week I was so bored and desperate for company, I was holding imaginary conversations with my plants. I was so used to getting up, getting dressed and being out of the house that I just couldn’t handle the change. I didn’t know I would crave so much for what I always thought of as a mechanical life.

You sigh with deep longing when you look at your work clothes, all those neatly ironed trousers and formal shirts, ethnic kurtas hanging neatly in your cupboard and wonder if you will ever wear them again. You read articles about dressing up well even when you are working from home but somehow getting dressed in good clothes and then going nowhere seems to make you even sadder.

You miss the buzz that an office gives you, the in and out of colleagues from your cubicle, the constant chatter. The silence and peace that you longed for so long now just depresses you. You know you are in serious trouble when you even start missing those snotty juniors who you were always admonishing for making too much noise.

Getting up and making tea and eating all those healthy snacks by yourself is not as much fun as you thought it would be. It was so much better to walk to the cafeteria and share your food with colleagues and enjoy the chat sessions around the water cooler you till now thought of as banal and a waste of time.

When you are working from home, you end up working more because you are never really out of office. In office, Lunch or tea breaks and even loo breaks mean being away from your desk, chatting with people for a while. Now unless you learn to strictly set time away from the laptop, you will end up spending all your time there, even eating in front of it.

You also realize that Conference calls are the bane of your existence.

It’s amazing but with uncanny precision, just when you have gone off mute and started to speak the damn street dog will start barking just outside your window and a zillion cars will honk together – You are not really supposed to blow your car horn inside a residential colony but then which self-respecting delhi-ite follows rules!

Meanwhile, your manager and team mates are sitting in one conference room, right next to each other, with the speaker phone on just for you and you are using every muscle in your body to try and hear what they are saying. The connection is so bad, the only way you can hear them is if they shout right into the phone which obviously they don’t so finally you just resign yourself to laughing when every-one is laughing and then saying “I have no questions, Thank you” in the end while desperately hoping that nothing substantial has been discussed in the call.

I can never forget that one fateful morning when I attended an important client call in my night shirt with my hair standing up in tufts and suddenly in the middle of the call the client wanted it to turn it into a video call instead of a telephonic one. I set a world record for changing clothes, combing my hair and dabbing on some makeup that day, all the while pretending that there was something wrong with the laptop camera.

Since you are at home all the time, your family kind of forgets that you work. You might be busy making an important presentation or struggling with formulas in an Excel sheet and your mother will disturb you just then because she can’t figure out how to make a whatsapp call, wants dabbas taken down from high shelves, wants to know what to get cooked for lunch or if she can wear this saree when she goes out today.

You in turn will shout at them all the time to lower the TV volume, not to talk loudly, not to call people over, walk on tip toes and not even breathe if they can help it.

Work from home has its good moments too. You can take quick breaks and walk around the garden, check FB or twitter without your colleagues peeping over your shoulder, even brew yourself some coffee while on mute during meetings. If you are working on assignments that require no support from others, you can pretty much tweak your work hours to your convenience or sneak out for a few hours to work from a café.

Work from home is a wonderful concept. Specially for people who have kids to take care of or even those of us who want a little bit of flexibility and time for ourselves in our lives. Believe me not having to commute everyday does take away a lot of stress and adds a whole lot of time to your day. And largely uninterrupted work hours do wonders to your productivity and creativity.

Having said that, I have realized I am the kind of person who needs to be up and out of the house and interact with others to a certain extent. An ideal situation for me would be a work from home once or twice a week when I can work according to my own schedules and avoid the commute.

In my opinion, work from home works very well for free lancers and self-employed people but not always for people who are employed full time in one organization and need to connect with the rest of the employees a lot. Unless that organization has a widely accepted culture of work from home, and I honestly think that’s still lacking in India, You just end up making a lot of effort to stay connected and network.

I guess, I will go back to working full time from office sooner or later, but till then let me make the most of it by writing mundane blog posts and teaching my plants how to speak Japanese.


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