Domestic chores too much like hard work
MARTIN VAN BEYNEN
Martin van Beynen
In the brave new interconnected world, we can work from anywhere, says the new wisdom.
For many of us, anywhere means home. After the earthquakes, many people in Christchurch were forced to work from their own homes, or those of their bosses, as whole businesses moved into residences and garages.
At The Press, where we squeezed into Portacoms for over a year, staff working from home helped ease the congestion in our new workplace.
Generally speaking, I like to go to work partly because it's not home, where large teenage kids tend to complicate things, and partly because it's quite good to have colleagues around.
I also like the idea of some sort of barrier between work life and home life although technology has knocked several large holes in that divide.
Recently due to health hiccups I have started working from home a couple of days a week and it has been a bit of a revelation.
The first great advantage is not needing to get ready for work and be presentable. You can slob around unshaven and unwashed in your dressing gown all day and no-one is the wiser.
You can bet most home workers will be resisting getting caller video on their cellphones.
The ability to go from bed and straight to work is a huge time saver. No mucking about with ablutions and ironing that shirt or polishing the shoes.
No complicated transport arrangements and no time wasted commuting and getting stuck in traffic jams. No worries about whether it will be flat white or a latte today. I reckon I save two hours a day at least thanks to the simplicities of working from home.
Choosing your own hours is also a blessing. The work can be done in bursts over the 16 hours of waking time unless you sleep in, which someone as disciplined as me would, of course, never do.
It is the same discipline which prevents me from having an afternoon nap after a good lunch.
The isolation also engenders the pleasurable feeling you are actually running your own business - the business of you - without any of the attendant risks.
You can sit in your office and get a sense this splendid corporation called you could go on to brighter and bigger things.
But working from home has its pitfalls. An absence from the workplace, I suspect, means you are out of sight and also out of mind, and therefore likely to miss out on opportunities derived from being in your boss' line of vision.
You also miss out on the office gossip and politics, which makes life less interesting but also saves a lot of time. Running yourself like a little corporation from home might also not be conducive to domestic harmony.
Mrs VB also works from home, the same as mine, and soon got into the habit of simply barging into my office for various reasons. I had to impose a firm rule she must make an appointment to see me.
"Aren't you guys meant to have an open door policy?" she protested, demonstrating how some corporate folderol has a habit of leaching into the domestic scene.
I also had to stamp on some inappropriate behaviour in the home workplace. Mrs VB was inclined to a bit of playful canoodling, but I soon put a stop to that, reminding her of our workplace harassment policy.
I did want to be fair, however, and have always been conscious of the lack of senior roles for women in the workplace.
I was surprised then to find Mrs VB was most unimpressed, even offended, when I suggested she might like to do some filing for me and, if that went well, some tidying and cleaning of my office.
I think she was thinking more of a fellow directorship but everyone must start somewhere.
Given her attitude, I'm not surprised women hold so few positions of seniority in our country's boardrooms.
Working from home with your busy spouse can also leave you vulnerable to a raft of requests which start with the phrase: "Can you just do . . . while I'm away."
Before you know it you are clearing up the previous night's dishes, hanging up the washing and putting on the tea while the spouse is swanning off somewhere.
Rest assured, I soon put the kibosh on that. I had to make it very plain I wasn't working from home to make her life easier and that my higher responsibilities were to my employer.
Mrs VB respects frankness and firmness and now I hang out the washing and do the dishes when I'm on my break time.
Still these are just teething problems and we will come to a new balance as these sorts of issues are resolved. Some strict domestic protocols will need to be in place.
- The Press