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Living with an Office worker

Why Living With An Office Worker Has Made Me Grateful To Be Working From Home

As a freelance copywriter, I’ve been working from home for about six years and during that time, I’ve wavered between loving it and wondering if working in an office would be more enjoyable. However, since living with my partner for the last two years, our after-work story sharing has made me more and more appreciative for the peace, autonomy and control that I’m granted by working from a home office. While his days in the office are filled with issues and stress, I’m able to side-step most of these problems, letting me finish my days on a high.

Many people I speak to think that working from home must be an almost impossible task; the thought of having to be self-motivated and disciplined appears to strike terror into the hearts of many professionals. While I acknowledge that it certainly took some getting used to, when you weigh up the pros and cons, you soon see a huge disparity between the perceived tribulations of home working and the very real ones of office life.

The office climate

When I say ‘office climate’, I mean this both literally and metaphorically. I remember my partner coming home one evening and telling me about an ongoing debate/argument regarding the air conditioning system at work. As a manager, it was his task to try and find a comfortable average that would keep everyone happy – not easy when your staff are behaving like spoilt children and demonstrating no willingness to compromise. Things got so bad that colleagues stopped speaking to each other entirely, choosing to go through others when they needed to communicate – causing awkwardness in the office and productivity issues to boot.

There’s also the ‘cold shoulder’ treatment and frosty atmosphere that can be all too inherent in offices where relationships and dynamics do not always run smoothly. Office politics can make an otherwise enjoyable job a soul-destroying experience, sucking the joy out of your day – just ask my boyfriend, or indeed many of my office working friends. Even if problems aren’t made explicit, tension can bubble away under the surface until something acts as a catalyst for confrontation, often with catastrophic results that can send shockwaves throughout the whole business.

Cold Shoulder in the office

Cold Shoulder in the office

I love that I don’t have to face these problems – work is hard enough, without the additional stress of managing potentially difficult relationships every day. I’m not saying every office is like this, but I don’t know of a single office worker who hasn’t had some experience of office bitching or bullying. I can turn the heating up and down at a whim, open or close a window without seeking permission and choose to keep colleagues at arm’s length if this makes our interactions easier to deal with.

Choosing your environment

In addition to those tricky temperature and temperament issues, when you work with others you also have other environmental factors to contend with. If I fancy a cup of tea, I can get one without taking orders for the rest of the office. I can cater for myself and I also don’t have to work around or clean up anyone else’s mess. I can eat my lunch at my desk, or work in a mess without disapproving looks – not that I do, but the point is, I could if I wanted to.

Nobody stands over my shoulder when I work, I don’t have to listen to gossip, bickering and banal conversations and I can keep the radio off and concentrate solely on the task in hand – which is my preferred way of working. My partner, on the other hand, has literally hours wasted during his every working week due to constant interruptions, noisy distractions and people making pointless comparisons over workloads or moaning about someone stealing their yoghurt/specialist tea/happiness. Whereas I can choose exactly the conditions in which I work, he is bound by constant compromises and challenges to his sanity. I’m not exaggerating either – he often arrives home looking (and feeling) like a man on the edge.

While I understand the common perception that working from home is difficult, even if I do sometimes lose focus, it’s much easier to get back on track and tick things off my list when I’m not facing regular disturbances from others. I don’t go to work to socialise – I have a perfectly good set of friends and a lovely family for that. If I want to communicate with other human beings during the day, I can email or phone someone, chat on Twitter or invite an associate to join me in my office for a day to break up the occasional feeling of isolation – but it’s all on my terms, which is beautiful. My distractions are always invited; I can even ignore the phone because I’m ‘in a meeting’ so that I can concentrate on an important piece of work if I want and nobody is going to pull a face or complain. Maybe it’s because I’m a control freak – or maybe I just like working from home because I can make the best decisions for me and my business without fear of retribution or disapproval. In honesty, it’s probably a little bit of both.

Management and systems

My boyfriend is very good at his job and his biggest complaint is not being able to “just get on with it”. Because he manages people, he has to manage their different personalities, their workloads, the systems and processes that govern the office and the red tape that his managers put into place. I mange people too – I outsource to other writers and rely on them to deliver quality work according to my requests. However, where my better half faces constant questions from people who often already know the answer if only they’d engage their brain for a moment, or are just wasting time as a procrastination tool, my remote workers are much more autonomous and independent. They think twice before sending that email or calling with a query, and usually that second thought means that they answer the question themselves – without any need to take up any of my time.

This autonomy of remote working also means that I work harder for my boss (whichever client I am focusing on at the time), because they’re not on hand at any given moment to tell me what to do. This means I think more clearly and work much more productively – if you asked my partner if he could say the same for his colleagues, you’d be waiting a while before he stopped laughing.

Working in an office also leaves your precious filing system vulnerable to others; your refined organisational approach can be compromised by slapdash work, cutting corners or another’s ‘helpful’ idea that they can make it work much better (they generally can’t).  Interference is the bane of any well oiled system – a case of ‘too many cooks’ can cause complete havoc and a nervous breakdown for the person who is supposed to be in charge.

Not only that, you have to navigate your way around a sea of bureaucracy and regulations if you want to do anything. My boyfriend was telling me only last week that if he wanted to buy a lamp for his desk, it would take him weeks before he would be given the go ahead. A full work station assessment would have to be conducted and all sorts of health and safety matters would need to be covered. I’m not saying that safety isn’t important, but in a highly pressurised work environment, who really has the time to spend ticking boxes instead of being trusted to be a mature, responsible adult? Conversely, I can do whatever I like in that department – actually, in any. Oh how I love the freedom that working from home gives me!

Trading places

With all the above said, working at home can be an insular and anti-social experience – sometimes I don’t actually leave the house for days. On the flip side, my man spends approximately 4 and half hours a week commuting to and from an office that he hates working in, with people he’d much rather never speak to. In that time, I can earn way more than he spends on said commuting efforts and I can open my office door to anyone I like at any time – and the like part of that statement is really important!

Trading Jobs

Fancy a Trade? Louise doesn’t!

I don’t have to clock on and off to prove myself to the higher echelons and I don’t have to become strung out and anxious to prove that I’m working hard enough to my peers. If I feel poorly and need a late start, I can take as much flexi time as I want – and I can book a holiday without checking who else may want that half-term or summer week off. If the sun’s shining, I can take my work outside and write in the garden. If my mum wants to pop in for a brew at lunchtime, I can take a break and invite her in.

In short, I feel 100% grateful to have the independence and relaxed surroundings that my home office gives me. Would I swap it for the stability and pension offered by a 9 – 5 job in an office? Would I trade places for a week in a reputedly ‘nice’ office to see how it might fit?

No, not in a million years. For me, working from home has far too many benefits to consider giving it up and having seen the alternative through the tired eyes of my man, I can wholeheartedly say that I wouldn’t trade places for anything.

Image Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/87213564@N00/268863645

About the author

Ryan Gibson

Hey! I'm a 28 year old digital marketing guy residing in Leeds, England. My skill is in search marketing and I have gathered over 6 years experience of working on large multilingual campaigns for a number of FTSE 250 Organisations. After accepting a role with a business based in Singapore I began questioning traditional business practice and employee retention. This blog GenerationY.com was therefore born with focus on Y in the workplace. A millennial child at heart I aim to provide a voice for the 'misunderstood' generation and my goal is simply to change perception and corporate mind set on work/life attitudes; inspiring companies and individuals to seek change.

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