Working at home, as many people do and many others fantasize about doing, has all the advantages of being able to spend time with the family. It also has disadvantages, such as spending more time with the family. Think toddlers invading the workplace.
The TV ad showing a work-at-home woman typing on a computer in her pajamas, getting all that work done without taking a morning shower, suggests only one thing: she lives alone.
Another ad shows an executive type working in his office, telling an intercom, “Can you come in, I’m ready to wrap it up for the day.” In walks what appears to be his 3-year-old daughter, whom he picks up and carries into the family room. So lovely. My question is: How does he keep “Lilly-bean” from invading his space when he’s in the middle of a conference call?
I’ve trained my 2-year-old granddaughter, Amy, to knock before entering. I think this works because she still has difficulty opening the door. But once inside my “office” there’s no getting her out. I say, “Not now, Honey, Gram is on the phone.” She says, “I just want to show you something.” She cannot hear “Not now” no matter how many times I say it, or how firmly. When she begins to shriek so loudly the interviewee can hear it over the phone, I must forcibly evict her, kicking and screaming, find her mother or father or whoever is supposed to be in charge at that moment, then race back to the phone hoping my telephone source has not hung up. Not exactly the business atmosphere I was hoping for.
Sometimes Amy’s mother is on her phone and Amy has already tried unsuccessfully to get her attention. I understand the frustration, but haven’t been able to set priorities. Does a splinter in the foot qualify as an emergency? Does a proud announcement that, “I went poop on the potty,” require immediate praise and recognition?
Fortunately, Amy goes to pre-school three days a week. Her older brother, Devon, is out of school for the summer. He went to camp for two weeks, but since then has decided that as long as I’m home working, he should be able to stay home too. I agreed as long as he didn’t interrupt my work. Then I discovered that, unattended, he was watching really disgusting stuff on MTV. I’m not into censorship, but 10-year-olds need at least some explanation as to what constitutes tacky behavior. Pass the V-chip.
Working at home can beat the heck out of a noisy cubicle in the newsroom. But the pitfalls are huge. Call Waiting is one. In the office, the second call is shunted to the voice mail. On my home machine, it beeps to distraction, and if unanswered disappears into the ether. I know better than to put my source on hold for what turns out to be a telemarketer. And being on the National Do Not Call List is no guarantee you won’t get beeped by someone in India selling you privacy protection for your Visa account.
After one fast-talking marketer interrupted a business call, I was mistakenly signed up for Privacy Assist, provided by Intersections, Inc. They billed my credit card. I protested. I was told Privacy Assist was not affiliated with MBNA and I should call them directly. They refused to have the charges removed from my account saying I had to call MBNA directly, which I had already done. After no less than 10 calls, their charges have not disappeared from my statement and they’re still sending me quarterly credit updates. Like I need these guys to tell me my credit is still excellent.
And then there are the repair persons. Electricians, plumbers, cable guys all swear they will arrive between 12 p.m. and 5 p.m. I think if I said smoke was coming out of the switch breaker, they’d still say between 12 p.m. and 5 p.m. Thanks guys, but that won’t cut it.
I finally got a local plumber to say he would be there at 8 a.m. At nine, I phoned and was told he was running late. I said I had to go to the post office. He said I had plenty of time. At 11, I called to make sure I hadn’t missed him. He was still running late. I said I had scheduled a conference call at 2 p.m. and I wouldn’t be able to help him until 2:30.
At two minutes before 2, his office called and said he was on his way. I said “No Way!” That was three days ago, I haven’t heard back.
Still, working in one’s own little space can be great, if you don’t fall prey to your own distractions. On the hottest day of the year so far, I went out early to turn on the garden soakers. My hose had a blowout and soaked me instead. I resisted the impulse to drive to the hardware store for another. At least I didn’t have to change clothes and drive 80 miles to get to work on time.
Now if I can only figure out a way to keep on schedule that allows for the nice distractions-extracting splinters from toddler’s feet-and eliminates the Indian telemarketers.