Working from home vs living at work

Before one of my recent business trips to Manchester, my eight-year-old son expressed concerns about my sleeping arrangements. It seems that, until my wife explained that I would be staying in a hotel overnight, he thought that I might have a comfy chair to sleep in, in the office!

Sometimes though, it does feel as though that might be the approach I need to take…

Ten or so years ago, working from home was an occasional event – and I could get done in 5 hours at home what took 8 in the office (no distractions), with the added advantage of no travel. Since 2005, I’ve officially been a “home-based worker” with varying degrees of working on customer sites and, in recent years, typically working from home most days with only a couple of days in the office each week.

This has some significant advantages (both to me and to my employer) – I’ve seen my kids grow up, never missed a school nativity play, or sports day etc. but it also re-calibrates the expectation of working at home. The new normal is to be in my home office for a full day – and then to probably go back again in the evening.  I don’t have a desk at the company office (I barely even use a hot desk), and modern communications mean that I’m contactable almost 24×7, if I choose to be (at least 12×5).

These last few weeks have reached a new level and this week was particularly bad.

On one day this week I had no breaks between dropping the kids at school and wall to wall conference calls.  I had to ask my wife to bring me toast and Marmite when it reached 11:00 and I hadn’t managed to get any breakfast, then to do the same for me with a sandwich at lunchtime (munched on mute whilst taking part in a call). At 15:30 I finally got off the phone (mobile phone battery severely depleted, my ear seriously warm) to deal with the day’s email – and it was the evening before I got around to doing something productive.

I’m slightly embarrassed to say that, on one day, I managed to go straight from bed (after working into the small hours the night before) to work, and back to bed again in the evening without having got dressed. I do feel sometimes as though I live at work, rather than work at home.

So, the next time someone is working at home, and you joke about skiving off, remember that the 9-5 has its advantages too…

This weekend, I’ll be continuing my drive to separate home and work IT (just as I do for telephony) in a quest to be able to switch off the laptop at evenings and weekends…

I can but dream…

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