Friday, December 10, 2010

Working from Home Blows

I was going to call tonight's post "Wasting Time," until I realized that I'd already done one by that name.  So I chose the rather poetic title above.  It's more descriptive of my mindset, anyway.

I went to my new office today - for about an hour and a half.  Got some things done: set up a printer, sorted through some mail, cleaned the coffee pot, stashed miscellaneous stuff out of the way in the spare office.  Then I finished a chapter in the book I'm reading (Plague of Secrets by John Lescroart - love him) and went home.  You see, there is no phone in my office, and the "network" consists of a single wired Internet connection that my co-worker is using via a 25-foot Ethernet cable that stretches from our router to his office.  When I want to get any work done, I stay home, sit on my couch, and fire up my laptop. 

On Monday, two large boxes are scheduled to arrive at the office, containing wondrous gadgets that will connect my co-worker and me to the rest of the company and the wider world.  At that point I can finally start making a horrific daily 30-40 minute crosstown commute and putting in an honest-to-God 8-to-5 work day.  I can't wait.

I've never been entirely successful as a work-from-home person.  Even when I could log directly into my work computer from home and access all the resources I needed to do my job, it felt like a half-assed attempt at productivity to me.  Without the edge of fear that someone could walk in at any given moment and catch me reading, it never really seemed like Work.  It was just sitting around the house, occasionally interrupted by absentee overlords needing some thing or other done for them.  Like when your boss calls you during dinner, but all damn day long.

You see, I'm not what you might call self-directed.  No, that's not quite true.  I'm great at motivating myself to do things that I want to do, if that's not too tautological a statement.  If I see intrinsic value in a task - any task - then I can pretty easily get fired up about completing it, well and on time.  Like, say, putting up Christmas decorations, which I've been cracking on.  Or making chicken paramgiana for my family, which I did tonight because it sounded really good and is something I typically don't make.  I'm all about forging a direct link between effort and reward.  I get it.

But when it comes to that concept of "employment" - doing those things I have to do to get paid because I haven't figured out any better means of paying my mortgage - the intrinsic value becomes a little harder to ferret out.  I like managing an office, and I daresay I'm pretty good at it.  On the other hand, if my lottery numbers were pulled out of the drum tomorrow, making me independently wealthy, I don't think I'd keep working in an office just for love of e-mail and accounts payable.  I enjoy rising to the challenge of an employer's expectations and earning what I'm being paid; but I turn off the administrator switch when the work day is over.  It's not like writing this blog, which I will continue to do even if only four people read it and two of them clicked on it accidentally looking for a 12-step program.  When it comes to work, I'm like a slot-car racer - take me off the electrified track, and I'm not going to keep whizzing around just because it's what I'm meant to do. 

That's why working from home has been a challenge these past few weeks.  I can answer every e-mail, take every phone call, and read every media release that comes my way.  But my environment doesn't say "office," so my mindset is not "work."  Any place where I can lean over and pick up the TV remote is not going to be conducive to a feeling of accomplishment.  I love going into the office, even if all I'm doing is watering the plants and checking the mail, because those tasks signify "work."  If I didn't require contact with the outside world via phone and e-mail, I'd have been happy to just sit at my desk all day long, doing nothing.  I would have been At Work. 

I guess I believe that a job, even more than a thing you do, is a place you go.  And not going anywhere - or going only occasionally while waiting for the office to be fully set up - has been tough on me.  Even though I hate fighting traffic, and I have no particular love for the endless routine of get up - go to work - go home - repeat, I want and need to have a distinct modus operandi for earning my keep.  I know lots of people who can get on the wheel and just run, any time, anywhere.  Their office is in their head, and it goes with them wherever they go.  But that's not me.  I can work under almost any circumstances; I prefer those circumstances to be precisely defined.  Answering e-mails while watching Dr. Phil doesn't match my definition of a fulfilling environment.   

So with any luck, I'll very soon have a full-fledged office and be back to the daily grind.  I'm excited.  Being able to work from home for a while has been wonderful in many ways.  But honestly, if it gets any more wonderful, I may end up putting my foot through the TV.


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