I have been with companies where remote working was the norm. At first I was lousy at it – made all the classic mistakes: working in pajamas 12 hours straight, used the lunch time to do the laundry and all the rest not-tos in the book.
Over the years I became better at it and when the pandemic started I was determined to do everything right. And I truly believe I improved (at least I never start my laptop in bed anymore).
Still, there are five luxury problems that I will never overcome; five things I failed to tame and still hate as much as I hate my sins:
1. I never wear ‘real’ shoes
In the beginning of the pandemic, I had decided that I will be the role model of a home employee: face make-up, jewelry, office clothes (upper AND lower body – no TV presenter outfit) and, most importantly, I thought this was a unique opportunity to make the most out of my fancy shoes: you know, the ones you love to buy but can never wear because they are killing you? Those!
At home all day, you can kick them off whenever without any shame, the perfect opportunity to enjoy them AND feel dressed-up, I thought!
But… nope. One year later, no matter how hard I try, I cannot make myself wear any type of real shoes at home, fancy or not. I end up barefoot; or in socks; or in slippers… all sorts of home acceptable footwear, but no real, walking, street shoes.
And day after day this makes me feel like I have given up, a bit institutionalized, a bit like a retired character in a movie…. (but obviously not enough to force myself to change it)
2. I live with my colleagues (and my family lives at the office)
I am privileged to have a separate office room in the house. And I have reduced to the minimum the use of video in the calls. And I rarely have any negative interactions. Still…
I cannot shake off the feeling that the faces, the voices, the mood of all these people that are just business acquaintances invade my personal space, my home territory – the place where I was safe and protected from the business life.
And at the same time, the opposite happens. And it also disturbs me: my family can hear if I had a bad meeting, an intense interaction, or even a very lazy morning…
The freedom of having a life independently of the home one is lost.
3. I don’t spend any time with my colleagues
And while by now all my colleagues have seen my screen background, real and fake, met my dog, know my home wifi status and other small intimate details, we are more apart than ever.
No funny chat by the coffee machine, no joking about things we are supposed or not supposed to joke about, no ‘by the way’ I had this idea, found out this trick, what do you think I should do with this problem…
Ok, we try online, we really do… but let’s not fool ourselves: IT’S NOT THE SAME.
4. My neighborhood is not a business center
Because, OK, let’s say that you have a nice, optimised set-up. And you are super disciplined and work as you should and love working from home and everything.
What about the neighbors? Don’t they have a life too? People have restoration works, listen to music, have babies who cry… they still live in their homes and produce human noise normal for environments meant to live in and not to work.
To give you an example – our building must be featured in some secret guide book with the best places to skate in a city. What it feels like an army of people skate and jump and knock the skates on the stone floor outside our building for ten hours per day, while we are trying to work… and the sound doesn’t disappear no matter what I do. And neither do they…
5. The normal phone is still alive!
At my home, we still have a normal phone (yes, old school, I know). Partly because we’ve always had it, partly because it is a package with the internet connection, we never really thought of cancelling it.
But now? Now I want to rip it off and throw it out of the window (with some luck it could also hit the skaters), as it always starts ringing -and never stops- in the worst possible moments.
And noone else is going to answer it to save you from the noise. Because it is probably telemarketing. Or a survey. Or -even worse- grandma who does not understand the work from home notion and insists on having a chat, a coffee, help with the groceries – at the exact same moment that you want to project your best possible business self…
And OK, I realise that there are bigger problems in the world. But… life is the small things. Right?
Read also: How do we really feel working from home