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 cafΓ©.

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.

17 comments:

  1. Never quite understood the work from home thing until son started working. Why, only yesterday I asked him to bring down a dabba from the top shelf. I avoid talking to him or peeping in his room though. The conversation, if any is on WA.
    Guess, saving the harrowing commute is the best part. Hope you feel better soon.

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    1. DOes he snarl at you when you ask him to take down the dabbas :-)
      And yes, saving on the commute is the very best part.

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  2. Can't agree more. It works great for me but everyone must find their sweet balance. For you, working from a co-working space or an office space is definitely better. For those of us with families and a real problem with commute, WFH is a godsend.

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    1. As far as commute is concerned, WFH is awesome. I guess I do miss the human interaction bit and as you say co working space is a very good option. Will anyay, I need to be back at work soon.

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  3. The escape from the commute is a big plus point. But I can understand, it gets so lonely if there's no one at home. I start missing tea breaks and Lunch breaks and the work environment too πŸ˜€ Hope you get well soon. Till then you can shop for some awesome office wear πŸ˜€πŸ˜€

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    1. What an awesome idea. I shall now spend all the time I save on commute on office online shopping :-). Thanks for reading.

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  4. I hope your knee recovers soon and you are back to the long commute! Lovely post: you covered all possible pros and cons of working from home!

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  5. I feel what you may be missing is not human interaction with office colleagues but human interaction per se. Do make it a point to meet friends, neighbors, relatives etc in the evenings and on weekends. If a part of your day / week is spent in socialising outside of work duties, you are just fine.
    Hope the knee heals quickly and you can get out of the house more. And hope that's not to commute to the office, but to drive up to the neighbourhood Starbucks to catch up with a friend at say 4 pm or 11am or any other 'odd' time that the flexibility of WFH provides!

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    1. I think you are right. I don't particularly miss the snooty colleague or the noisy juniors. I Just miss human interaction. I hope what you says come true - That would be the ideal working environment :-)

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  6. Ruchira, laughing as I type my comment :) I have been there, done that...the toothbrush in mouth and spiked hair brings back memories from my stint as an entrepreneur working from home :) Hope you can walk back into your office soon and long to go back to your solitary workplace again. Have a great day.

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    1. Thanks so much for reading Sulekkha. Glad you enjoyed it. :-)

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  8. Well, your blog that was feeling ignored and unloved doesn't feel the same way!

    And I thought you were the girl who traveled to mountains and remote villages in search of solitude!

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  9. Sigh .. and look at me, unable to stand a week of working from home :-p

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  10. LOL!! Loved that image of you frantically putting on some clothes while pretending that your laptop camera is jammed!! I do concur that one needs some sort of human interaction and preferably not restricted to sarees or lunch menus (though those can be fun too!). I enjoy working from home once in a while when the house is quiet simply because I enjoy the alone time! But, otherwise, I am equally happy working in the office with colleagues who either interact or leave me alone, based on my workload!

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  11. Lol! Hilarious.hope you get well soon and can use your work clothes :) i have been working from home for the past two years now and can associate with everything.why i hardly need any new clothes now..since i have grown roots at home.but sigh..it has its advantages especially when i look at the Bangalore traffic.

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