A recent study revealed that a majority of people would give up certain perks—coffee, alcohol, and lunch breaks—to work from home. This marks the first time that any aspect of my lifestyle has inspired national envy, a disturbing sign for the country’s already wobbly future.
My decision to work from home was based on necessity more than corporate forward thinking or the desire to not hear about my coworkers’ weekends. The Great Recession led to nothing but a series of ego-destroying interviews for full-time writing and editing jobs. By summer 2009, I concluded that more opportunities existed in freelancing than participating in the battle royale time-suck that is the full-time job market.
Yes, the perks are nice. It is wonderful to have a 15-step commute from my bedroom to the office, and no casual day in the world beats working barefoot in shorts. But just as 19th-century immigrants believed America’s streets were paved with gold, slab rats fall in love with the idea of a domestic workplace while conveniently forgetting that they actually have to, um, work. Home isn’t a magical sanctuary. You can get berated in your boss’s office or sitting at the kitchen table. The location has changed but the job hasn’t. Yes, I’ve been asked if I watch television all day. And, no, I don’t wear sweatpants. Those things breed laziness.
If you decide to work from home, here’s what you’ll be missing.
1. Built-in Discipline
At the office, work starts at 9 a.m. Arrive late, and your boss dumps on you. Show up late too many times, and you may get penalized. Lunch is from 1 to 2 p.m. You are expected to look a certain way, behave a certain way.
You mock this structure, but you’ll crave it when you’re working on a project at 9:30 p.m. because you extended your lunch break by two hours to catch Larry Crowne. Establishing that discipline takes a long time. Three years later, I’m still working on it.
Oh, and Larry Crowne stunk. The great unwashed are supposed to take life advice from Tom Hanks?
2. Workplace Friends
Most of the time I work alone. The solitude does wonders for my productivity, but when a client is being a jerk, I don’t have a sounding board. If I want company during lunch, who’s going to imitate the client’s nasal tones while I demolish a fast-food monstrosity? It’s therapeutic to have someone around who can acknowledge the craziness while making you laugh about it. At my last magazine job, I met one of my best friends in the world. Now, I’m one false move from creating “colleagues” out of print cartridges and discarded pens.
3. Free Food
We have cake from Darcy’s birthday left over, come grab a slice! It’s bagel Monday! Since we’re working late, Eric says we can order subs! Here are the highlights of my fridge: a week-old piece of homemade pizza that’s harder than a convict’s heart, two bottles of Vintage seltzer, and half a tomato.
4. The Office Crush
A borderline illicit tingle makes work so much fun. Plus, if you have a skilled attorney on retainer and boast a wonderful relationship with your human resources department, it’s a great way to practice your flirting. Don’t forget to have the object of desire’s written consent.
See items 2 through 4. I know things have grown static when a run to Staples takes on the mystique of a trek to the Amazon.
6. It’s Easier to Leave Work at Work
I started my full-time freelancing career in an efficiency apartment. The work area, television and kitchen were in the same space, creating an incestuous amalgam of work and leisure that sounds like the outline of a crappy grad-school novel. Any delays were remedied by hours of bad television (why would anyone give Rachael Ray her own talk show?) or trips to the fridge (the tomato isn’t that bad). At night I’d see the computer and feel guilty, which led to a flurry of email writing and project updating.
When we looked at apartments, my wife insisted that I have an office. I don’t think it was an entirely altruistic gesture on her part.