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Reblogged:Recipes Don't Cook Themselves

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Or: No Boundaries, No Work from Home

From the New York Post comes a cautionary tale about working from home whose title includes "Recipe for Disaster." Here's the first paragraph:
We've all fantasized about working from home. Rolling out of bed midmorning and beginning work still dressed in pajamas, avoiding those sickeningly perky co-workers the moment you walk into the building, getting paid while you go about your social life while sneakily working on your phone.
Surely the author is joking. But you might wonder about that after the second paragraph. I sure did.
As irresistible as all those things are, for me the biggest drawcard when I started working from home was being able to continue looking after my young son (and avoid childcare fees) while earning a much-needed income. Unfortunately though, "the dream" didn't last long as the line between personal and professional life quickly went from blurred to non-existent. [bold added]
You should be imagining this, but without the treats -- rather than this, but without the laptop. (Image via Pixabay.)
I thought: You must have been out of your mind.

I work from home. I also have a four year old son and a six year old daughter, and the idea of getting actual work done while watching them is borderline ridiculous. (I managed to surprise myself by doing this a couple of days last week, but I wouldn't put myself or them through this on a regular basis: He is normally in daycare.) Below at least about five or six, kids need help and attention too often and too unpredictably to allow one to concentrate. And even at six, you can't expect much quantity or quality of work time. Katie Jones does a good job covering the unpleasant mixture of failure (from not getting the job done) and guilt (from ignoring kids) that comes with attempting to do both jobs at once.

And that attempt came from the fundamental failure she correctly identifies at the end of her piece: not setting firm boundaries between her work life and her family life. Because kids are only starting to learn boundaries at best, they will be the first to make the problem of setting boundaries evident. And notice that Jones also tried to pretend not to be home when people came knocking. Other adults can be a problem if you allow them to be, because even if you don't hold the misconceptions Jones displays in her first paragraph, they often will. (This is my biggest pet peeve, but it comes with the territory.) You need to be able to politely and quickly let them know that you're working, and be willing to enforce that. Everything else, too: Wake up early enough to get started. Change clothes. Get out of the house or work from a special part of the house (that you avoid otherwise). Remember that "flexibility" isn't a fantasy, but a two-way street. You can run errands during the day? Great: You can save lots of time by avoiding crowds, but you have to find a way to get your job done at another time. You can plan vacations more easily? Yeah, but you won't be earning while you're gone. Everything has trade-offs, and it will be a disaster unless you banish magical thinking from your choices. This means learning about trade-offs as you go, so you can better anticipate them in the future. If you do these things, and only if you do these things, can you start to understand and use the vaunted "flexibility" everyone fantasizes about when they imagine how great working at home can be.

I think that the first thing anyone considering the prospect of working from home should do is ask two related questions: (1) How good at setting boundaries am I? And (2) Why do I want to work from home? If you aren't disciplined about setting boundaries, or your answers seem to involve mostly wanting to escape from setting boundaries at work (or worse, you think it's like a vacation), you might consider working on that problem -- at work -- for a while and then reassess.

-- CAV

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