You know those ubiquitous memes floating around, the ones that centre on an occupation and then include different images depicting “What my friends think I do”, “What society thinks I do”, etc.? The final panel is always the reality—“What I actually do”. They’re meant to be funny, but they also do a great job of highlighting an outsider’s perception of a particular job versus the reality. I’m not sure if anyone’s created one of those for people who work from home yet. If there isn’t one, there should be.
In anticipation of writing this blog post, I sent out a Tweet asking, “What’s one question you’d ask someone who works from home?” One of the replies I received was “I’d ask them what day of the week it is.” The implication being that working from home is totally unstructured and disorganized. I’m sure this person was being more than a little sarcastic, but there is definitely still a stigma attached to working from home. I know, boo hoo, but let me finish.
Bottom line: The expectations of working from home are the same as any other job. If you don’t get the work done, you’ll be replaced by someone who can. There are deadlines to be met, meetings to attend. (Sure, you can attend video conference calls naked from the waist down if you want—as you long as you don’t have to get up during the call!) The difference is that there’s less of a preoccupation on how the work gets done.
I’ve been working from home for the last three years. I’ll admit, there are certainly pros and cons. It can get lonely. I miss being around a team of people for 8 hours a day, every weekday. (I love my cat, but even she, adorable as she is, can’t replace human interaction.) I especially miss the social aspect of it. Lunch hours with co-workers, dinners, movies. My colleagues are dispersed around the world, making this utterly impossible. But when I do get to see them in person, once a quarter, we make the most of it and really enjoy our time together. But conversely, maybe the old adage is true: distance does make the heart grow fonder.
But the pros, for me, definitely outweigh the cons. I love blasting Beyonce, and then turning her off when I need complete silence. I like the flexibility of structuring my days to suit the way I want to live. Working from home also allowed me to fulfill one of my biggest goals in life, to move to London, which I did last year. I’d always had this thing for London, despite never having been before. So I took advantage of the visa offered to Canadians between the ages of 18 and 30, found a great flat in Notting Hill overlooking a tranquil garden yet steps away from bustling, vibrant Portobello Road, packed up my things, and off I went. I made Starbucks my office, and despite being less than ideal for conference calls, I made it work. (More importantly, my patient colleagues tolerated it. See why I love them?)
Working from home isn’t the right fit for everyone. Maybe it won’t work for me forever, but it suits me right now. I love that more and more traditional organizations are allowing their team members to flirt with the idea of working from home, even if it’s just one or two days a week, giving them the freedom to tailor the unique and individual lifestyle they want for themselves, while still getting the work done. And as long as the work is getting done—and done well—what else really matters?