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Grass is Always Greener Outside the Fence

As I walked in the crowded room, some familiar and some new faces, I knew what was coming in my plate. In the midst of introductions and exchange of pleasantries, the usual questions popped up, "What do you do?", "Where do you work?" I mumbled my response, well-practice by now. The anticipated exclamations followed. "Ooh! You're so lucky to be working from home", "How cool! You can look after your little girl while you work." Some looks of envy and some that seem to say "Loser! Maybe she is having one of those Internet based home business thing going on."

I've been getting these remarks since I started working from home in 2005. It is a sensitive subject for me and it still infuriates me hearing such comments.

I curled my fingers into a fist digging my nails deep into my palm. Almost simultaneously, I gnawed into my lower lip sucking in a boorish remark. Hiding my intense feelings on the subject, I smiled weakly and shrugged my shoulders as I muttered, "It's ok".

When I see people beaming at the perspective of working from home, I feel like kicking my own butt. I can almost hear what's going on in their mind. "She is so lucky not to sit in the traffic for hours.", "She must be getting up late at her own leisure and working whenever she wants to.", "She wouldn't have to deal with any schedules or deadlines.", "She will be pretty much doing what she wants. She has an easy life.", "She must be getting loads of time to play with her kid and manage her housework.", "She must be sitting around in front of the computer in her pajamas or sitting relaxed in her bed or sofa."


Believe it or not, working from home is definitely not the coolest, or the easiest. It involves a lot more determination and dedication. It is a challenge greater than any sucked up project! When I initially started working from home, there were times when I was almost rude and vindictive to ward off friends who thought I was free to chat over the phone or msn or free to visit simply because I was working out of home. Now they know better! I wonder from where people get the notion that work from home is a piece of cake. I mainly attribute it to the mushrooming freelancing sites, which seem to claim that all you need to work from home is a telephone and a computer and you can earn more than a regular job by putting in half as much effort and time. (Maybe it's true for freelancers but people who are full-time regular employees working from home don't fit the bill.)

The only two points I agree with about work from home are dodging traffic and getting to wear your pj's in the daytime. When you are working 24/7 from your home, you tend to take this liberty. You don't look forward to dressing up because there is no one to comment on your new dress and there is no one to judge you based on your appearance. (Which makes you think twice before you buy a new dress; when will you wear it?). Many times, you let your eyebrows grow into bushes and avoid waxing your legs. Grrrr... Simply put, you start neglecting yourself.

Working from home does not mean I can avoid schedules and deadlines. Rather I have to work hard to meet them. Working in a different time zone from my team, I sometimes do not get the work before my midday, which means I end up working that much longer.

To avoid some of the encumbrances of working from home, like frequent interruptions, I settle myself in my office behind closed doors and get out from my room only during the lunchtime and in the evening after my babysitter leaves. To get an office like feel, I have a full fledged office set up at home with a huge library, three laptops, one desktop, telephone, VoIP and Internet, printer, scanner, and the frills... (computer tables, leather chairs, whiteboards). I'm even planning to get a filter coffee machine for the office to remind me of the days when the fresh aroma of the coffee greeted you on entering the office. The sad part is I'll have to do it myself!

No matter how smart home office you set up, by the end of the day you long for some sane human company; someone with whom you can discuss your project, client calls, team, work pressure, or even conduct personal chit chat. Sometimes you simply long for getting out and even going to the Publix (a supermarket chain in Southern US states) for buying bread and milk seems like picnic. Other times you just seem to almost afraid of getting out. You get more and more into your cocoon, like a turtle who gets inside its shell on seeing danger or an ostrich who puts its head into the sand and thinks it is safe.

Working from home can be isolating. I remember when I just started working from home sometimes I used to just sit and cry at my plight. I realized I had started speaking to myself and my laptop. There are things that I still miss like informal coffee breaks, watercooler chats, Friday lunch outs (Being a light eater, I rarely used to go out for lunch. But now when I don't have the option of going out with team, I miss it!), regular and adhoc meetings, or even the sight of receptionist at the front desk. All these provide avenues to connect and interact with people and know your team better. Now I feel cut off from the world. I have to make extra efforts just to keep abreast with what's happening in the industry or otherwise in the world.

The main drawback of working from home is trying to set a time limit to when to stop working. You keep getting these little urges to check your emails or reply back even if you get an email in the middle of the night. You forget to distinguish between your office and home time because you live as well as work in your office. If you are a workaholic like me, it automatically leads to overtime and you find it tough to disengage from your laptop and call it a day!

I am not totally against working from home. I am grateful to linger a little longer in bed than to rush out early morning to brave the cold and I feel lucky not having to iron my clothes every day. But sometimes I think the commute time provides you a nice distraction from work and gives you a chance to enjoy music. When working from home, you seem to forget what it was like getting to listen to the morning talk shows and do not seem to find the courage to set aside some time just to listen to the news or the music. In other words, slowly you become outdated! Also, while working from home is welcome once or twice a week, working totally out of home slowly gets on to your nerves.

More and more companies today are favoring work from home, a trend that was hard to envision a decade back, primarily to save on the infrastructure and other related costs. With the advancement of technology and availability of applications that allow you to connect in a jiffy, the number of people who work from home is steadily increasing. However, it's not everyone's cup of tea. You have to be mentally strong to take on this challenge and ready to forgo some of the pleasant distractions in life. If you can only work in a group or a team or need to be constantly reminded of your deadlines, then probably you're not the right candidate for it.

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