diamond geezer

 Tuesday, July 02, 2013

I worked from home yesterday.

No really. I didn't "work from home", I worked from home. There was actually stuff to do, and I actually did it. More fool me?

I didn't work from home all day. I had some work to do in the local area in the morning, which was nice, and meant I could sleep in a little bit later than usual. That's always one of the perks of working from home, the removal of commute, and the subsequent increase in me-time.

I logged in and checked my work email over breakfast. I never normally do that, I just munch my Shreddies and check the internet. But because I was working from home I thought I'd better check in first before I went off and was unavailable elsewhere. It never used to be like this. Time was when you could only read email at work, within certain carefully delimited times. Now there's the capability, even the expectation, that employees can check their email and respond at any time. Got a Blackberry from work, mate? More fool you.

I spent the morning working in the field with stakeholders. I didn't call them that, obviously, I try not to use the jargon. And I didn't break off at any time to check my work email using my phone. I could have done, there were breaks in the workflow and potentially urgent emails queueing up. But I like to live in the old world, where the people I come to see get my full attention, and everyone back in the office can jolly well wait.

On the way back home at lunchtime I stopped off at the supermarket. Normally I get lunch in the canteen at work, which is dead convenient, but only uses up half an hour of my day. I often wonder if workplace food outlets are simply a cunning way of tying employees to their desks for longer, reducing the number of visits needed to "the outside world" and increasing productivity. Yesterday, what with buying my food and cooking it and eating it I think I actually had a proper lunch hour. Working from home can have proper advantages.

When I logged back in to check my email, I discovered that the world hadn't fallen in. This was a relief, because it could have done, but wasn't entirely a surprise. I got on and dealt with low level administrative tasks, firing off replies and documents like I'd normally do at work, except I was at home. I smiled because here I was sat on my sofa in a t-shirt, rather than being stuck at my office desk in a tie. Same outcome, less dressing up, for the win.

At home I could have the radio on, or play some music, without the entire office turning round in disapproval and going ssssssh. At home I could leave the washing machine running, twice, without having to wait until the evening. At home I could nip off and make a cup of tea without fear that someone would have nicked the last of the milk out of the fridge. And at home I could sit with the window open and enjoy a summer's afternoon, rather than be stuck in some air-conditioned hermetically-sealed bunker. This latter advantage only works because it's not winter, obviously, else it's rather nice to have work paying for eight hours heating.

And then the fizzing grenade email arrived. A request from somebody very important, miles away, who'd just discovered my boss was on leave so handed their bombshell down to me. I swore, which is a useful by-product of being at home, then turned to discuss the issue with colleagues, except they weren't there. The virtual "connected office" sounds like a great idea, but in truth it means people trying to organise complex stuff at distance via email, rather than having a quick chat and sorting things out fast.

I batted back an email, waited, made a cup of tea, batted back the reply, and eventually discovered what the nub of the issue was. A request from on high to meet a suddenly urgent deadline with documentation I didn't have and couldn't easily access. Yeah, cheers. I faffed around with some virtual network tool our IT department are proud of, digging twice as slowly through the files as I could have done in the office, and eventually cobbled together something convincing-looking and adequate. That shut them up, thankfully.

I kept my email connection open longer than I normally would. Normally I log off, shut down my laptop and walk out of the office as a pointed statement that I'm stopping work for the day. At home that mass farewell's not possible, short of sending a creepy email to everyone, so nobody knows if you're still there or not. I should have switched off at the time I usually leave, but I left my computer on in case something else arrived later, to show willing. Nothing arrived that couldn't have waited until tomorrow morning. I am such a mug sometimes.

I'm not working from home today. I have to iron a shirt, and shave properly, and cram into a metal tube along with hundreds of other commuters, and sit at an ergonomically-designed desk for eight hours, and keep my shoes on, and get given extra things to do because I'm there in person, and stay on task, and not check Twitter occasionally, and spend extra cash on lunch, and eat a proper meal, and talk to friends, and engage in banter, and work together on something, and actually it may not be that bad after all. But see you back here next week.


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