The work-from-home debrief

We don’t have a firm move-back date yet, but it’s looking like the library staff may start moving back into Crumb sometime this week.  Therefore, I’m going to start thinking about this summer’s experience.  With bullet points.  I’m that kind of girl.

Pros:

  • Focus.  I have been able to focus on projects with superior efficiency, because I’m sitting in a corner, alone, with my computer and files, with no one stopping at my office door, no one needing me to “just look at this with me”, no one calling and asking if I can “take a minute to come down and …”, no alluring “want to meet me for lunch” offers, etcetera.  I’m not sure I would have made nearly as much progress on certain projects — periodicals evaluations, allocation formulas, binding revisions, LibGuides implementation — if I hadn’t had these big blocks of uninterrupted time.
  • Fewer meetings.  We’ve all been out of our normal spaces and routines, and so we called fewer meetings, and did more by email and IM.  Hallelujah.  Watch my productivity skyrocket.  See above re: projects.
  • General flexibility.  The view from homeWant tea and toast at 10?  No problem.  Want to get right to work when I wake up, because I have an idea?  No problem.  Want to shower at noon?  No problem.  Want to eat lunch at my desk at 2, but make personal phone calls at 11?  No problem.  Want to work til 3, then get back to it at 6 for an hour?  No problem.  This kind of freedom makes it easy to be dedicated, because that dedication isn’t at the sacrifice of personal comfort and independence.  It’s a gorgeous balance the suits my personality to a T.
  • Perspective.  Working at home makes me see both what’s good and what’s bad about working from my office.  It’s a balance of benefits and drawbacks, on both sides, and sometimes you have to step away from the norm in order to see it.  I hadn’t thought about that, but it’s true.
  • A sense of vacation.  Even though I’ve been working hard, and gotten a lot of work done, I feel like I had a break.  I haven’t been in my office in two months, and I’ve only been inside the library twice in that time.  The daily routine has faded away, along with most of the stressors and frustrations I associate with hit.  It’s been replaced by a newer, looser routine, and as a result these past two months have felt a bit like a vacation.  So I’m unusually excited to get back into the swing of the semester’s routine, and that can only be a good thing — the semester’s start is a hard time, and I’ll need all the energy I can muster!

Cons:

  • Supplies.  I have run out of paper clips and file folders.  This may sound small, but trust me, cumulatively, it’s big.
  • Space.  My work tableI don’t have a big worktable.  I miss my worktable.  I cannot organize paper without a table on which to pile it.  I have a new appreciation for my worktable.
  • Storage.  I actually miss my filing cabinets.  I generally think of filing cabinets as big black holes — one dumps things into them, and they never come out again.  But I have this pile of stuff that needs to be kept, and the big pile on the corner of my desk is probably not the best place for it… and I miss my filing cabinets.  Who ever would have thought it?
  • Workspace.  My grandfather’s battered old typing desk and the super-pretty big oak desk chair I rescued from my great-aunt’s garage are not what one might call “ergonomic” or even “comfortable” for an 8 hour workday.  On campus, I have a large desk with laptop stand, a decent office chair, several filing cabinets, a credenza for in-progress filing, a work table, a squashy armchair, and bookcases. At home I have a craft room with a sofa and a small desk.  One might see why this isn’t working perfectly.
  • Contact.  I have to schedule time into my week to go to campus to talk to people, even about the little stuff.  Need a form signed? I have to remember to bring it with me to campus and track down the signer.  Need to ask one quick question, and the person’s not answering their phone? Have to leave a message and remember to follow-up in person.  Want to show a draft or an idea to someone?  Have to remember to track them down.  It’s a very different interaction pattern than I’m accustomed to, and it’s been a challenge.
  • Distractions.  It’s very difficult to say “No, I can’t go look at that rental house” or “No, I don’t have time to go out to lunch” or “I can’t fold laundry right now” when my day is flexibly planned.  In some respects, this has been a chaotic personal summer, with lots of obligations and changes and issues to be resolved, and the flexibility of my work schedule has been a blessing.  The downside is that when I let myself become distracted by the fact that my husband’s watching the Daily Show at 8:30 am and I want to watch it too, I get a later start, and so I finish my day later.  I have had a long-standing habit of making sure i work only 40 hour weeks during the summer months, since my days get longer and crazier in the semesters.  When my workday doesn’t start until 10, because I got distracted at home and didn’t have to be to campus at a set time, I work later.  Which defeats the purpose of shortening my days.

Considering that the majority of my Cons are about physical spaces and facilities rather than about the experience of working from home, I’d say this summer was as successful as it could have been, given our construction challenges.  And I’ll be excited to get back into my office.

4 thoughts on “The work-from-home debrief

  1. heather

    When I’m back to full-time I’m hoping to work from home 1 day a week for exactly the reasons you listed in the Pros column. Not having to drive in one day a week will feel like a nice break, and it’ll give me the chance to do things that are hard to do working in a public services environment. Because even when I’m “off the desk,” I’m not off the desk.

    I also like to work Saturdays at least once a month (try to do once every 3 weeks) for the same reason.

  2. Jenica

    I think the thing I forgot under “contact” is also “community” — I love having lunch with my husband, but it’s not the same as having lunch (or coffee, or a chat in the hall) with colleagues. I do miss that, and think it’s a valuable part of our everyday work environment.

    But I agree with Heather — even when you’re “off”, you’re not “off” if you’re in the building. So the home (or anywhere that’s “else”) has possibilities…

  3. Bobbi Newman

    I work from home 8 hours a week, which means I have to go into the office only 4 days a week. I’ve said I get more done in 5 hours from home than I do in 8 hours in the office. I think I could only go in 2 or 3 days a week. I’d need to be there at least 2 for meeting and face to face time.

    Don’t forget the benefits to the environment when you don’t commute to work.

    I mentioned working from home when I did the Day in the Life of Project and I know there was a lot of interest in but my director asked me to not talk about it in detail.

    Thank you for sharing this!

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