Working at Home Didn't Work

If you know me, you'd think I would thrive working at home -- alone. I thought so, too. When organizational changes at my job left me without a desk on site in Fort Collins, I was excited about setting up my home office again.

My commute was 32 steps. Coffee was always available, as were snacks, cuddles with the cat, and music or TV as loud and as often as I wanted it. I would call in to early morning meetings from my bed. And my work schedule was flexible -- I could work whenever, wherever I wanted.

It was good.

For a while.

But even for an introvert like me, working home alone every day can be, well, lonely. Every morning my husband and the kids would get up, get ready, and go off to live their lives outside of our house. I just stayed there, moving from room to room, maybe catching some time on the deck when the weather was nice.

At first I'd go work in coffee shops occasionally, but the coffee was expensive and the wifi unreliable. So I stopped doing that altogether. My roaming space during the day kept shrinking.

Work and Home Merge/Productivity Everywhere Drops

My house and my work space were one in the same. I didn't restrict myself to my desk, and my "office" didn't have a door, so work was always there. Waiting. Beckoning.

When I had time between meetings or deadlines, I'd do some chores, but then I'd think to myself, "Hey, if I were at work in an office, I wouldn't be doing laundry right now!" and feel resentment about doing house-work and work-work. So I didn't do much housework. Even during non-work times.

Think about all those little tasks you get done at work between the big tasks.
  • A meeting ends 15 minutes early? Bonus time for finishing that PowerPoint deck. Chat with colleagues and bounce around some new ideas.
  • Meeting cancelled? Pick up where you left off on another project. Grab coffee with colleagues.

When working at home, those "gap" times can be productive, but not always for work.
  • A meeting ends 15 minutes early? Shower time! 
  • Meeting cancelled? Better find the cat and give him some love. 

Social Interaction

It didn't take long for the social isolation of working at home to set in. From 2011-2014 I worked with a great team of fun people at work. We ate lunch together most days (either in the cafeteria or at a restaurant), we collaborated on projects, had daily mini-meetings, learned about each other's families and non-work lives. We obsessed and binge-watched the same TV shows, read some of the same books, shared the latest funny cat videos, and gave each other hell over sports rivalries. Every once in a while, we would head out after work for a drink or two and just hang out as friends.

People really do chat at the water cooler...

It was every day. It was easy. I could be completely passive about making social plans (the truly scary part for me) and still have a ton of social interaction.

When I started working at home full-time, suddenly my entire social life was something I had to actively plan and invite other people to join me. Unless it's s a concert, I'm seriously awful at that.

Seriously bad.

So I'm Back

Our team reorganized again, and one of my managers is in Fort Collins. The first thing I said when I got the word was, "Can I have a desk again?"

My manager in Oregon seemed surprised. Why would anyone want to be tied to a cubicle when she didn't have to? I didn't enumerate all the reasons above, I just said I missed it.

Holy moly has it been great. I originally though I'd only come in three days a week, but I've been coming on site every day. No one else on the aisle works at home regularly, so we're all in the same boat. I'm sure some parts of it will get old after a while, but so far, here are my

Top 5 Things to Love About Working On Site

5. Driving away from my house every morning, freshly showered, dressed nice and with a touch of makeup on my face.

4. Walking to get coffee that's half-a-building away but still free.

3. Leaving my work laptop locked in my desk at night. Work stays at work.

2. Being invited out to lunch (and knowing enough about nerd-things to be topical and funny, even when my companions are all 20-30 something year-old men.)

1. Serendipitous social interactions:
  • Talking about the Patriots by the coffee. 
  • Gathering in someone's cube to watch a hilarious video.
  • Overhearing conversations where I know the answer.
  • A friendly nod and smile from a complete stranger in he hallway.
  • Nerf gun wars.

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