The real deal about working from home: Pick your psychological poison

The real deal about working from home


Telecommuting, working from home, remote workforce –all terms that have gained immense popularity in the last few years.  There are presumably around 20 million to 30 million Americans who work from home at least once a week.  Many companies are allowing more of their employees to work out of the house in order to ostensibly help with work/life balance, cut carbon footprints, help employees cut back on transportation costs and provide a quiet environment in which to concentrate. Of course, working from home does not actually help with work/life balance if you truly work from home. Even if you sit around on the couch catching up on How to get away with Murder the work/life balance does not get fixed it just gets skewed in the other direction at company cost.  For many that may not be an issue to fret about.

However, more often than not I would argue that working from home means you will work from 6am to 6pm in actual clothes as opposed to pajamas. Yes, it would be nice to be able to work in pajamas but (1) that does not really help with the work/life balance problem that many individuals have nowadays and (2) pajamas are no longer an option when you have constant videoconferences. You still have to get up and put some clothes on. You might get away without showering. Hurray for small pleasures.

There are many articles out there on Forbes and the like that claim to give you tips on how to work productively at home. But think about it? Do you really want to take advice from Forbes on working from home? Doesn’t Forbes represent the “man” and will try to do anything to get you to work more. Right?  Listen to this. A Stanford University  study found that when employees of a Chinese travel agency were allowed to work from home, they were 13 percent more productive than when they worked in the building, ultimately saving the company $2,000 per person per year.  Remember what I said about 6am to 6pm.  I’m not joking. There is research out there backing up my assertion.

Interestingly, Yahoo tried to put a stop last year to their employees working from home.  Which goes against the grain. Then again, Yahoo is on its last legs, supposedly.  Who knows, maybe they know something we don’t.  Anyway, many of these articles providing advice on how to work from home will often start by saying one needs to set boundaries, make project lists, get a dog and listen to music.  Whatever.

Here are some truths:

  1. Lock the fridge. At times you will get so bored or stressed out by working hour upon hour that you will keep opening the cupboards and fridge and snack all day. Before you know it, the scale will be tipping a little harder.
  2. A dog would indeed be awesome. However, you will find yourself wanting to play with him and take him out for a walk or run in the park. Those are all ok, for sure, in my book. But don’t expect a dog to help you focus.
  3. No pajamas. I already noted that earlier. The thing with working from home is that you still need face time. If you do not show your face in some way, people will forget about you. They will feel they are being ignored by you. This all means that skype and various other forms of video conferencing are the norm now, even for last minute meetings.
  4. Voices start to grate. There are numerous teleconferences as I already mentioned. In a recent Harvard Business Review it was noted that in comparison with office colleagues, those working from home made 13.5% more calls. When working from home, you get on these calls and you start to notice how certain people’s voices drive you bonkers. They are too loud, too nasal, too slow, too fast or too much.
  5. Eye rolls start hurting and bleeding out into face-to-face interactions. Again, because of numerous teleconferences one engages in while telecommuting, there are many times when no one can see your facial reactions. As a result, you start allowing your eyes to roll more and more. After a while, it feels like your eyes are going to get stuck back there. Even worse, your eyes are so used to rolling that they continue to do so (even when you don’t want them to) out in public.
  6. You start to develop heliophobia -fear of the sun. Day in and day night you are at home staring at the outside world through your pretty home windows.  When you eventually step out the glaring sun is quite strong and likely to cause a headache.  Thus, you start developing an affinity for vampire and zombie television shows. You sit and watch the Originals, Vampire Diaries, The Walking Dead. and the Strain.  You have a love/hate relationship with the sun.  Of course, many people work in cubicles in the workplace and don’t catch any sunrays there either. I have a rather lovely view of the empire State Building but admittedly I barely look at it even when in the office due to meeting upon meeting. There is no win here.

There you have it. Work from home and eventually you become a cockeyed heliophobic with highly sensitized ears. Sounds kind of bad. Then again, that state of being might be preferable to having to interact with a bunch of idiots day in and day out in a tight space that you have to pay hundreds of dollars a month for to get to.  Pick your poison.

8 replies »

  1. You were right about making more phone calls and even last minute videoconferences, so working in pajamas was not even an option! I’d rather do this work from home than “… having to interact with a bunch of idiots day in and day out in a tight space that you have to pay hundreds of dollars a month for to get to.”
    At least when the 6am-6pm is done -it’s done! No commutes, either!


  2. I worked at home for more than 10 years and really, it was fine. We didn’t do face time (didn’t have the technology, be we were meeting averse anyhow). As long as I kept producing work, no one worried. They could see perfectly fine on the logs from the modem and servers when I was on and what I was doing. And they didn’t care WHEN I did it, only that it got done. It got done. Probably faster than it would have gotten done at the office, though at much stranger hours and I probably logged MORE work time than I did at the office. I got dressed because I always get dressed, but I didn’t have all those problems and no rules at all. I just got the job done.


  3. “Pick your poison” – I love that one, so true! Somehow, the grass is often greener on the other side, and yes, there are two sides to any coin, advantages and disadvantages. I’m curious how we’ll look at working from home in, say, 20-30 years from now.


  4. Great post. I’ve had a bit of experience working from home, and a lot of these points that you bring up ring so true for me. I think I was actually more productive working from home than I would have been commuting to a work place, as I saved time on driving and found I did not get distracted by other people, and I worked longer hours from home. I found that in order to be productive and ‘be in the work zone’ mentally, I had to get up and get dressed as if going out to work, and vegging around in pjs was not going to cut it. The work/home boundaries did get blurred quite a bit – friends and family would call me during the day, not understanding that working from home is not a holiday and that I don’t have time for a social chat, and my home space didn’t always feel like home. Ultimately all my bosses expected from me was to have got the work done, didn’t matter how long I spent on it or when I did it, but as long as it got done, that was all that mattered.


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