Yes, I Really Am Working Right Now

19 Comments

In addition to writing for Web Worker Daily and working as a technology industry analyst, I’m a mother of three, a wife, a homeowner, and human companion to my dog Sally. I’m lucky to be able to work from home. If a kid gets sick and can’t go to school, if an appliance needs servicing, if Sally needs petting, if my husband works from home and wants to engage in water cooler chat by the kitchen sink: I’m here to handle it.

On the other hand, sometimes it seems like no one thinks I’m really working. My husband has been known to make finger quotes when he asks me, “are you going to go work now?” My neighbors look a bit skeptical when they ask how my career is progressing. I feel sheepish when contractors working on the house see me obsessively checking my news reader; they probably think I’m just an Internet addict with nothing better to do.

Amy Dunkin of Business Week describes how working from home doesn’t always look to the outside world like real work, leading to real difficulties in actually getting our work done:

Years ago, when her now 17-year-old daughter Hilary was a young child and Jill had switched from an outside-the-home journalism job to an inside-the-home writing job, she complained to me about well-meaning friends who called her in the middle of the day to chat. They apparently assumed that because she was home, she could simply drop whatever she was doing to talk to them. As if she had no work to do, no schedules to follow, no deadlines to meet.

I thought about this the other day as I was frying up potato latkes with another mother for a Chanukah party in my son’s class. This full-time working mom runs a consulting business out of her home. Yet because she’s around during the workday, she’s constantly taking on volunteer projects that I, as a full-time working mom, would never offer–or agree–to do.

I’d never trade my work-wherever-I-want setup for an office job unless I had to: the pleasures and profits of web work are just too great. And I don’t really care whether other people think I’m working or not. Still, it can be interesting to see how other people think of our work lives, and as in the cases described by Amy above, there can be a real impact to our productivity if others don’t take our work seriously.

Do you find other people take your web work seriously? Do you ever run into any problems with people assuming you’re available for volunteer or community work or daytime favors because you don’t work a nine-to-five office job?

19 Comments

Nancy Sutherland

I have been working from home for over 20 years now. My children always volunteered me for every possible thing because they didn’t understand that I was “working”. Now that they are grown, I cherish all the time that I had to spend with them, even as teenagers. Coming home to a mother working is better than an empty home so many of their friends came over with them.
Today, I believe that WAHMs get even more respect because of the internet. It’s so worth it. Enjoy every moment!

Geoff Dodd

Anne, I’m equally an Internet Addict and no, I don’t think many people generally take web work seriously unless they’ve been a commissioned rep or built a web site or three. They think we’re “playing computer” while we think we’ve just revolutionized business communications ‘at the speed of thought.’ We have, haven’t we?

Evan

I’ve been working from home as a software developer now for over two years and have worked out most of the kinks. My wife works part-time and those days she works the kids are in school/care for the whole day – which gives me a couple of good alone days a week. (I always try and keep these days free of site visits.)

Other aspects though have been problematic though. My wife’s computer is in the same office as mine (it just isn’t convenient or politically viable to have it anywhere else) and so the kids will often come in and out when they want her as well as when they want me, which adds to the disruption. My wife has also had to learn that she can’t just ask me something or mention something to me while I’m working because I either don’t hear it or take it in (even if I reply), or it interrupts concentration. We’ve worked out a system where we save these sort of things for set times like when one of us is going out, or arrive home, or breaks. I’m also allowed to say, “Can you go deal with that in another room” without spousal reprisals if I’m finding something too disruptive (such as tantrums or the declaration “I’m hungry” for the 14th time in an hour).

Just setting some of those little “procedures” in place can make all the difference between harmony (or a reasonable facsimile) and going absolutely bat-shit.

On the whole I’ve found most of my friends and colleagues don’t minimise my work because it is mostly from home. While they will still ring during the day if they need to talk to me, they are usually brief and sometimes even apologetic.

I don’t know why this is the case, but it could be due to:
– Differing attitudes in Australia (or at least Melbourne outer suburbs) to other places.
– Many of my friends are blue-collar rather than white-collar and are use to the concept of running a business out of home (even if they are not working at home most of the time, such as tradespeople who are always going to customer sites) rather than office based 9-5 jobs.

They even understand how the negative factors like interruptions, isolation and motivation can be an issue.

But, as long as I have high-speed Internet, a good office chair, air-conditioning, and haven’t come across an exciting permanent role that is within 15 minutes of home, I’m sticking with it!

I also have a couple of friends who are home-based IT developers who live not too far away, so whenever one of us is getting too batty (or the power goes off because the local transformer died again) we pack up the laptop and high-tail it over.

Heather

I am desperately trying to find a way to work from home. I am a dental hygienist so unfortuantely I can’t do that from home. I was just wondering what you guys did? I would love some info. Thanks.

brownboy

Its so true. I have been working from home since 2002. I still get the comments from others as if I have it so easy, or if I really do any work. Sometime people are really curious to findout how much I make ect, which makes me really uncomfortable, because I don’t like to tell them that I make more in a month than what they do in a year. Because they all have degrees and work at high paying jobs them self.

I think one way to tackle it is, have them try what you are doing from home or have them comeby sit with you for a day when you are working :)

jillmfoster

Feeling (and respecting) your pain. I’m a newbie in the home office/studio world for about 5 months now. And sometimes it’s all I can do to fend off the bon-bon-eating jokes. Best Wishes!

mel

I work at home and I find I get stir crazy. When I quit for the day all I can think about is getting out of my home office. People think working from home is a luxury. Sometimes it’s pure hell! I eat lunch alone and can’t socialize until someone gets home(talking to customers doesn’t count).

Having said that…..travelling 45 minutes to the office sucks. I’ll choose this hell over that one any day.

glorifiedsec

What a great website, and despite me being on the ‘other side of the pond’ (the U.K.), I know exactly what you mean.

I’m also a working mother. I provide my business support services as a consultant and web based, so I’m not tied to the house. I’m often required to work in an office (two or sometimes three days per week), but my work of course continues when I get home (straight onto the PC to check for emails, voicemails, faxes and action any work that I get via the web).

This all has to be managed around two very active children (one at full time school, the other at part time nursery), and supporting my self employed husband who although brilliant at what he does (interior and exterior decorating) naturally needs me to support the admin side of his business.

Before I decided to go it alone, I tried the ‘work-life-balance’ option offered to me by my employers. It was always tricky, and never sat comfortably.

It’s always a bone of contention with colleagues who do not have children and feel aggrieved that you’re getting ‘all the benefits’. The effect of this on you is that you may have sour grapes to deal with. Secondly, you feel that you have put in 200% so that people can see that you are ‘really’ working. Of course you end up exhausted and constantly chasing your tail. Finally, is the working arrangement really as flexible as you need it? Often not. Here in the UK, many organisations will allow you to work part of the week and/or any combination of days – but often what you need are school hours so that you can drop the kids off and pick them up again. My son’s school starts at 9:00am and finishes at 3:15pm. If I commute into the City of London, that would mean me starting work at 10:00am and needing to leave at say 2:00 or 2:30pm. Of course, no organisation will allow you to do this.

Working this way is still a challenge, but it is truly flexible. I don’t miss a single thing in my children’s school life, and that make this all worthwile.

Debbie

I’ve experienced the best of both worlds since I’ve been working at home for over 10 years now, both as an independent contractor & as a remote worker.

The experience that comes to mind with this post is one where after about a month on a new job, I got pulled into a meeting – or inquisition by my managers… they were questioning my efforts and wondering what, if anything I had accomplished and were prepared to put me on a 30 day probation.

I guess they had missed the several emails I sent updating them on my tasks, asking for input, awaiting next steps, etc. etc.

My absence in the downtown office gave them the “out of sight out of mind” persective and led them to believe that I wasn’t working at all. In actuality, I had been so efficient in my work that I was ahead of schedule. They were slightly taken aback when I said, “Well, here is this, this and that, and I am waiting on you for that, that and those.”

Managers might THINK they are open to telecommuting and try to support it whole heartedly, but some will still hold the impression that if you aren’t at work, you aren’t working.

(This story has a bit of an ironic slant to it too… I was working for a government transportation department!) :)

Robyn Tippins

To begin with, I didn’t even take my work time seriously. But, once the money started becoming substantial, we had to make arrangements to become more business-like in the hours I kept. I still find myself cutting work for a day and hanging with the kids/hubby only to find myself up at 1am making up the day (like right now). But, like you said, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

However, my mom still thinks it’s ok to call during the day. My solution is to check the caller ID and only answer work calls I am expecting, calls from kids’ schools, and any calls from the hubby. Even mom gets the shaft during the workday because otherwise I’d be talking to her every four hours (as that is how often she calls LOL).

Dolly

For some reason people seem to think that if I work at home, I have no right to be tired. Because obviously, a 7 to 7 working day with some obligatory housewifery in the lunch hour can’t possibly be *tiring*.

Amie Gillingham

Overall, I feel I’ve been taken less seriously as a work at home mother (WAHM) than my husband, who also works from home. Family think they can drop by any time, or I can schlep people around, or that what I do is some slight little hobbyist thing that’s “very nice, dear.” And I think a lot of those attitudes changed when I became a mother and people saw me as a mother first and as a woman with a career second, if at all. Nevermind that my husband and I started our web company 3 years before having the first of our two children and have always worked from home on this venture.

The ironic thing being now that I work for myself and from home I work infinitely more now than I ever did when I was on someone else’s payroll. Then again, I love what I do, love the freedom it affords, and wouldn’t trade my WAHM status for anything. I am glad that telecommuting in general has become more common and that I don’t have to work in a vacuum. The internet affords me some pretty cool “office” mates.

Jeb

I understand your situation. I work from home and get calls all the time asking if I can pick somebody up from the airport or play golf in the middle of the day. Or my mother or mother in law will call our home phone and ask if we want to come for dinner in a week and a half. I DON’T KNOW. I am working.

Duane Browm

I just started working from home this year and everyone thinks I’m free because I’m not in the traditional office environment. Everyone calls me during the day to chat and do things for them. I may work from home, but I’ve work to do and it’s very real.

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