The workplace: Working from home

For too long, work etiquette has dictated that we slouch in dull grey offices under fluorescent lighting with the same people for blocks of eight or more hours a day.

working from homeThanks to technology’s rapid growth, however, offices may soon be a thing of the past as more and more New Zealanders become futuristic-sounding ‘teleworkers’.

Almost a quarter of a million of New Zealanders are working from home, according to the 2013 Census, and in a study commissioned by AUT, The Trans-Tasman Telework Survey, nearly three quarters of teleworkers said working from home had a “favourable influence” on their overall job attitude.

Before I ditched my office job four months ago I thought being my own boss would be awesome. I could choose when to wake up, how many snack breaks I could have, where I would work and what I could wear. A few weeks later, reality dawned: I was the worst boss ever.

When the clock strikes 2AM and you’re frantically writing an article to make up for all the hours spent binge-watching My Kitchen Rules, you start to miss the fear your former manager would instil into you if you missed a deadline.

Being prepared to minimise any browser window at the sound of a higher-up’s footsteps did far more for my productivity than the revolutionary idea that power-naps would kick-start my creative process (spoiler: they don’t).

Yet the appeal of working from home remains alluring - if not slightly romantic. You can ditch the micro-manager; the office politics, the co-worker going on about what happened at Friday night drinks.

No more endless meetings, training sessions on how to use a social media platform that’s been around for a decade, supermarket-bought-cake ceremonies or fire drills that sap your will to live.

Being socially awkward is my default setting but in working from home, I’ve found even the most introverted person will start craving human interaction. Aside from the odd Skype interview, the only person-to-person contact you may have all day is with the local barista and they don’t have time to listen to your insight on the latest episode of Making a Murderer.

Your partner’s working. Your friends have jobs too. Before you know it you’re a bit too active on Twitter and Facebook and conversations with people you bump into on the street go for ten minutes too long.
While you get to set your own hours - what freedom! - you never clock out. Especially if you’re self-employed. Clients (or managers) take advantage of that, emailing or calling at hours they wouldn’t dare to with an office worker. Things get worse if you work where you sleep.

Every moment feels like a moment you should be working. Eventually this leads into a blurred claustrophobic alternate reality where your office and bedroom and kitchen and love life all melt into one horror-box that you can never, ever escape from.

Regardless of the claustrophobic horror-box, since I made the move to work from home my happiness has significantly increased (while my income has significantly dropped).

Being able to choose what work I do and when I do it is not only hugely fulfilling but a massive relief on my anxiety.

In a country where thousands of mentally ill people face unemployment because of their inability to work a conventional 9-5 office job, I look forward to seeing what a future of home-based employment can offer. 

By Jess McAllen