After months of travel, it’s beginning to sink in that I work at home full time now. Patterns and trends are emerging, and they are mostly positive.
First, I’m on nobody’s clock but my own. If I had a bad night of sleep, I don’t have to show up at 9 am pretending that I’m hitting on all eight cylinders. I work according to my circadian rhythm, which means there’s a slump right after lunch which is best used for walking, puttering, or doing admin work. The post lunch slump is a universal human characteristic (with some individual variation), but I defy you to find the traditional US employer who acknowledges it.
Second, my work environment is set up to accommodate me and what I do for a living. When I hit the end of a scene, I can walk a thousand steps on the tread desk, play a couple games of hearts while I do, and then get back to work. That’s a ten minute break that feels like a break, and yet, is good for me and my productivity. Out in the big world, many employers will penalize people for “idling,” (Amazon’s term, as if we are engines rather than people) or even taking too long to use the jakes.
Third, I am set up to be at my most productive. I do better creative work in play clothes, not courtroom attire. Comfy socks are a must for me, and I do not like to fuss with my hair, ever. At the law office, I was always compromising between “you are judged for your appearance, counselor,” and, “I’m just as qualified in flats as I am in heels.”
Fourth, the balance of meaningful and unmeaningful tasks has shifted toward the more meaningful. The taxpayer’s coin should never be wasted, but all those time sheets I filled out were virtually un-auditable. I could put any old thing down I pleased (in theory), so the exercise was one of appearing accountable while in fact not being accountable. That strikes me as not only stupid but misleading.
At home, the work I do supports me and my loved ones, and–I hope–it makes my readers happy. That’s really meaningful in a direct, immediate way. It’s not busy work dumped on me to keep the whole food chain looking more honest than it is.
Fifth, I have much more control over who is in my day. I’ll just leave that one there…
What strikes me about these gains is that they used to be normal. Most of us worked at or near home until the industrial revolution. We didn’t jump in the car to battle traffic so we could spend most of our waking hours far from loved ones, working by a rulebook we did not help write. What we think is normal now–working away from home, following the rules in the employee handbook, accommodating somebody else’s clock, thermostat, dress code, and calendar–isn’t set up to get the best out of us.
And for most of my working life, I questioned none of this. I was just grateful to be able to pay my bills and sleep in on a rare Saturday. I can see now I wasn’t as smart, productive, happy, or efficient as I could have been.
But I’m happier now. How have you bent the rules, colored outside the lines, or applied creativity to make the work-life work for you? If you are retired or working at home, are you happier? To one commenter, I’ll send a signed copy of My One and Only Duke (which launches TUESDAY!!!!).