Working From Home

Prepare yourself, I’m about to confess how big a suck I am.

Last week, I had to go into two different offices on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.  Thursday was the only day I didn’t have to hit an office.

Yes, I work from home most of the time.  I’m lucky enough to work for a very progressive company that embraces workstyles and flexibility.  Actually, I’ve got to say overall, the company I work for is pretty great.  My company puts its money where its mouth is when it comes to Corporate Social Responsibility, and strongly supports diversity in all its forms (and not just from a hiring practice, it’s built right into the company DNA).

On top of that, I work for one of Canada’s Top 100 Employers,

one of Canada’s 10 Most Admired Corporate Cultures

and the most philantropic company on the planet.

Yes, it’s easy to brag about my employer, and quite frankly, I agree with all of it.  It also makes it harder to do the writing thing on the side when you actually enjoy your day job…

So, when it comes to them saying, “Hey dude, feel like coming into the office a little less and saving money on gas and parking and lunches?” I’m ready to sign up quickly.  And I did.

It makes sense.  My boss is in Montreal.  His boss is in Burnaby.  And his boss is back in Toronto.  So we’re a pretty diverse team, location-wise.  And our team isn’t the exception.  So, really, when you’re dealing with your teammates over the phone most of the day, why do you need to truck yourself into the office to do so?

So, after about ten years of coming into the office five days a week, about eighteen months ago, I was given the opportunity to start working from home more.  I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it originally.  I mean, of course I wasn’t going to miss the roughly hour-long commute (one way) to the office, though it did cut dramatically into my audiobook progress!  I pounded through a lot of good books over the years.

But was I going to get any work done?

We didn’t have an office space for me to work out of at home.  So there were times when I worked at the dining room table, and times when I worked from the master bedroom, parked semi-comfortably on the bed.  My wife has worked from home fulltime for five years and one of the pain points was when she had a phone meeting and I did too.

Apparently I, uh, talk really loud.

Apparently that’s an issue.

So that’s when I’d hump the laptop and the phone up to the bedroom.  Soon, it got easier to just work from there.  It wasn’t the best solution, but for the once or twice a week I was doing it, it was doable.  And I was getting the work done.

Many people I talk to state they could never work from home, or that they had tried it and it just didn’t work.  Too many distractions.  Not enough work done.  And I agree, I think it takes a certain mindset to work from home.  But, simply for saving about $1000/year on parking alone, likely three times that on gas, and God knows how much on lunches, snacks, coworkers selling Girl Guide cookies, various office raffles and donation asks…I figure I’m a solid $5000 to the good.  That alone is motivation for me to find the discipline to ignore the distractions.

About a year ago, we decided to throw ourselves into a big pile of debt and finish our basement.  And in the process, we created a separate working office for my wife and myself, with a wall separating us.  I was able to pull out all my books that I’d had stored for years and finally get them back up on the walls.  Actually, three of the four walls.

I have a lot of books.

The good thing is, the books went up on the wall that separated the wife from me.  Some added soundproofing, as it were.  It was around the same time that my role changed significantly and I started working from home more like four days a week.  I found I enjoyed the job more, I was more relaxed, I was still productive…basically, all the things you’d want out of an employee.  And I still came into the office when needed, of course.  I just found that when I did that, that’s when I became less productive.

Coming into the office once a week, inevitably you get those that pass by your desk with the, “Oh!  You’re here!  I haven’t seen you in forever!” lines.  And there’s the protracted catch-up conversations, the “got time for a coffee?” requests…of which I’m as guilty as anyone…and the chance meetings in the halls and elevators.  None of these take a lot of time, but they do take time.  Get four or five of them happening each time and you’ve lost a solid hour or two of productive time.

So it’s better to stay home.  Out of sight, out of mind.

Now, my wife and I have adapted quite well.  We both tend to be on the phone a lot, so we’ve set up Windows Live Messenger to send each other messages.  Typically it’s the wife messaging me to be more quiet.

Apparently I, uh, still talk really loud.

Apparently all those books don’t soundproof as much as I anticipated.

Apparently that’s still an issue.

Now, my role has changed significantly again…well, okay, I took a different role with the company this time…so there’s a bit of a transition as I hand off my old role to others.  So, that involved going into the office a lot last week.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s a few upsides to heading into the office.  For instance, heading into downtown Toronto for me means taking the GO Train.  Now, that definitely isn’t an upside.  I despise public transit.  But I was able to get Monday, Wednesday and Friday’s blogs written on the train.

Of course, while writing them, I typically had someone sitting beside me pretending like they weren’t reading everything I was writing, but really they were.  Well, they were until I typed the following:

You wanna know something interesting about blogging?  Yes, it’s you getting yourself out to the world, putting your thoughts out there in public.  But it’s really frigging irritating to still be building them up, composing them, shaping them into the thoughts you want others to read, while some moron beside you on public transit sits and surreptitiously reads what you’re writing because they can’t be bothered to read the book plainly sitting in their lap.  I hate that, don’t you?

I could tell exactly when they hit that part.  They sniffed and turned to look pointedly out the window for the rest of the trip.  I smiled, cut the lines and pasted them into Notepad to save for a future blog because it didn’t really fit with the ones I was writing.  But I digress…

So yes, I was able to get some blog some.  I got to meet some coworkers I’d only talked over the phone with.  We accomplished a lot in the meetings I was involved in.  So, they were definitely a success.

But there were downsides.  It costs me $15/day to head downtown.  So that was $45 in GO passes I normally don’t spend.  Tuesday I drove to a different office.  Easily $20 in gas.  Another  $4 in parking (yes, I realize $ is ridiculously cheap for parking, don’t judge me).  Lunches, coffees, etc.  Probably $100 that I normally wouldn’t have spent.  I know, wah, wah, wah, shut up you whiner.  I told you right upfront I was a suck.  This is just me proving it.

But I guess my point is, we’re creatures of habit.  And my habit is now to consider rush hour or congested traffic as two or three pets blocking the stairs on the way to my office.  Being able to grab a coffee whenever I want, the way I want it (with chocolate milk and brown sugar…yeah, baby!).  Being able to get dinner started early.  Finishing work and not having to spawn upstream to get home again.

My habit is freedom and, ultimately, balance between work and home life.

Really, I work for a great company.

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4 thoughts on “Working From Home

  1. I 100% agree with you! Working from home was the best thing I ever did for myself and for my family. It definitely has its challenges but so worth it.

    Lol!! I can just see you writing that paragraph as the person next to you was reading along – you still make me laugh Tobin!

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