Working From Home: The Responsibility of Flexibility

I work from home. All day. Every day. Not in my pajamas, per se, but T-shirts and I have gotten pretty comfortable with one another. Now, I’ve done telecommuting/remote work in the past, but it’s always been in the role of consultant or sub-contractor. Things done on my schedule. And I’m a night owl, historically. Until FindLaw, I hadn’t really worked remotely on a full-time basis.

Of course, this is a topic of enthusiasm when I tell people I work from my house. “I would LOVE to work in my pajamas. You’re so lucky!” tends to be a common sentiment. If only it were that luxurious.

Believe me, the ability to work remotely is a huge benefit. Especially with so notable an organization. But the common assumption seems to be that working from home means your job is easier.

It’s not.

In fact, studies have shown that people who work from home generally carry a greater level of stress. The reality is that working remotely, usually from one’s home office, presents a number of challenges. Sure, we might not have the well-cited interruptions of co-workers stopping by our office or the like. But there are other interruptions – kids needing rides to and from school, dogs barking at lizards in the back yard, and cats knocking over dishes in the sink – to name a few.

Further, because our offices are doubtlessly entwined with our homes, access to our work is immediate. Without setting clear personal guidelines, it can call you. It can demand your presence and attention well after others have gone home for the day. For me, this is ok.

This is why I find myself checking and responding to emails at 7 a.m., though I don’t technically start until 8. This is why I write blog posts at 10 p.m. – something is on my mind, and by golly, I have an outlet! This is why I sometimes (too often?) find myself three cups of coffee deep and asking myself, Have I brushed my teeth today?

Based on my experience, especially when compared to others’ perceptions of my situation, working from home is more demanding – time scheduling, task prioritizing, setting and abiding by physical and emotional boundaries – than working in an office environment. In an office setting, there are pretty clear social mores, standard working hours, and office protocol that help differentiate work life from personal life.

It’s not that working remotely is harder, or easier – it’s different. And it’s not for everybody. It’s not for every organization, either. In order for this system to be effective, there has to be bilateral understanding of and dedication to addressing the challenges of this system, finding effective ways to collaborate and manage, to provide tools and systems that allow success remotely, and to complete quality work in a timely fashion.

The reality is that there is much responsibility, on both sides of the table, in nurturing a remote workforce. Even though the remote system with FindLaw is fairly new, it seems to be working well. And it wouldn’t surprise me if this model is adapted by other areas of the organization in the future.

For now, I think I’ll just go brush my teeth.

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