Work-at-Home Really Does Mean I’m Working

I’ve worked at home now for over 17 years. That’s a long time and you’d think by now that people that know me would understand I take it pretty seriously. I’ve been able to work at home through pregnancies, raising (and nursing) infants, school-age children events, illnesses, cross-country moves, you name it, we’ve made it work. I even worked, flat on my left-side in my bed, for the last two months of my pregnancy with my now 13-year-old son. (Note that this wouldn’t be possible without good employers and/or clients, people that realize that employees can actually be MORE productive when working at home.)

my desk today

Let’s back up a little bit. What do I mean when I say work at home? For me, it means I have a real job. I am employed, full-time, by another company and I am paid a full salary and benefits. (I also have my own business.) For others, working at home means as a freelancer or part-time or running their own company. The common factor in all of these definitions? It’s all work.  (And yes, I do that with the TV on a lot! Too quiet otherwise…)

When I tell people I work at home, I frequently hear “Oh, way cool! I wish I could do that!” Yes, it is cool and I’m SO glad I can do that. But let’s be real. The reason a lot of people tell me this is because they think that working at home means a relaxed work style, not just a relaxed dress code or the ability to work in jammies.

Folks, working at home is still WORK. I still report to someone, I still have a lot of business phone calls and meetings, and the deadlines? Still there. Honestly, there isn’t this huge difference that people frequently imply from ‘working at home.’ Yes, I don’t get up early to get dressed in a fancier outfit and then hop on the freeway to sit for two hours before I get to the office on a daily basis, but I still work regular hours. I still can’t take personal phone calls because I’m working on a time-sensitive project. I still can’t invite everyone in for coffee or volunteer at school or take care of your child just because I’m home.

I could tell stories of some of the things that people have said to me throughout the years. I’ll just say that I’ve had neighbors mad at me because I am not available to pick up their child five days a week, I can’t ‘run to the store’ so you can have your dinner ready sooner “because you work,” and I can’t sit at the dealership so you don’t have to wait for their shuttle to take you back to your job. I can’t “teach your wife how to do what I do” so she can “make a little extra money” anymore than you can teach your wife how to do your job at home. Working at home does not mean jobs that we just quickly learn; it still means many years of experience, skill, training, education, etc. And when you say that? It is offensive. And I’m not easily offended but when you imply that someone who works from home got there by luck or does something that just anyone can do…well, do you want that said about your work? I don’t think so. (I don’t want to digress, but I also don’t care for it when a friend tells me that at least I am not a stay-at-home mom because it’s hard work. Uhm, I’m a mom…I still have to do ALL you do and a job, so please don’t compare, the school still calls me when there’s an issue and I still have that laundry sitting in my machine waiting. We’re all moms, let that just be enough.)

My typical day is pretty much like what any other person with a job has. I get up, get dressed, put on the make-up, get the kids up and out the door on time, make sure the house is set up for the day, and go to my office. The only difference there is that my commute is up the stairs and doesn’t require a car ride. I work all day, use my lunch hour to get things done, and work again until the end of the day. Sounds pretty normal, right?

To  make working at home successful, I’ve had to implement a few rules.

  1. If I am typing, that means I am working. Since I don’t type a full eight hours a day, you can wait until I’m not typing to interrupt me. (This mainly applies to the kids.)
  2. If I am on the phone, no burping or yelling in the background and don’t talk to me OR pass me a note.
  3. If my office door is closed, don’t knock, it means I’m either on an important call or dealing with a very urgent project.
  4. If I use my lunch hour to go for a run, it’s because I have planned around that. It doesn’t mean that suddenly my schedule is open and I have free time to do something else. If I had a dollar for each time I’ve heard “Well, you just were on the phone laughing so you must not be that rushed, so you can xxxx…” Uhm, no. My schedule is planned every day, to the minute, and I LIKE it that way. It ensures that I’ll be done at the end of the day, work projects are all completed properly, and have time for family and fun.
  5. Don’t schedule things for my work days without talking with me first.
  6. Minimal guests during the work day: in other words, kids’ friends can come over sometimes but not for loud video game championships.
  7. I’m not here to do household chores. They will wait until outside of work hours. OR do it yourself! (That’s my favorite.)

I hate rules, and I hate having to be strict but I learned early on, if I don’t portray my work as seriously as anyone who works in an office, it’s not taken as seriously. Would you call your friend at her office to talk to her about what happened at the salon? Would you expect your friend to be late to work to carpool your kids because you don’t want to be late to your own work? Would you call a friend while she’s working to ask her opinion on which gym to join? All.True.Stories.


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