Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Home Work

Today I have what I hope is just a nasty bout of allergies, and in conjunction with the fact that I had people over for dinner last night and have a ton of home-based crap I didn't get done over the weekend, this led me to opt to work from home for the day.  As you can see, I'm quite busy at it.

Telecommuting, if I'm not mistaken, is a uniquely modern concept.  It's part of that big, double-edged sword of technological connection.  Many companies offer as a perk the option of telecommuting, either on a regular basis or as an occasional option.  My fiance's company offers the option to regularly telecommute one day a week -- any day of the employee's choosing.  His understanding is that the unwritten rule of this place is that they're open to more frequent telecommuting as long as the employee in question is getting his or her work done, which strikes me as an eminently reasonable approach.

Now, I know I certainly prefer working from home -- but does it actually make me more productive?  I mean, I've pretty much admitted I intend to use at least part of the day for doing at-home projects.  Is this legitimate?  Am I "cheating" by not taking a day off from work when, if we're being honest, work isn't getting a full day of productivity from me?

On the other hand, am I being fair to myself?  In my line of work -- and I imagine many others -- my worklife doesn't really self-limit to "office hours."  I work weekends and evenings when the work requires it.  I'm attached at the brain stem to my iPhone, which in turn has a connection to my work email (and, my employer has my cell phone number, a piece of information that is thankfully not abused).  Even when I'm "off," I'm never really off -- not in the traditional sense.  So if a piece of me is always at work, is it so unreasonable for me to occasionally detach from work ever so slightly, even if it's during "work hours"?

My generation in particular is struggling with this question, I think.  On the one hand, we resent the 24/7 nature of modern work life.  On the other, we relish the flexibility it grants our schedules.  No longer must we put off all personal projects until the weekends.  If I need to take a four-hour lunch to get my finances in order for tax season, no one bats an eye.  If my hairdresser is booked solid for the weekend and I REALLY need my bangs trimmed for an event on Saturday, I just leave work a few hours early, no biggie.  But the flip side of this is that I never sleep quite as soundly as I might.  My time is never completely my own.  Sometimes it is more mine and sometimes it is more my employer's.  But I rarely if ever feel that it's completely mine.  There's always something hanging over my head -- some unfinished project that I could be working on if I were more motivated.  Some legal theory I could be cooking up if I were more dedicated.

And I think... I don't like it.  I wouldn't like being cooped up in an office 50 hours a week either -- but I don't like this.  I don't know if it's a human thing to need a clearer delineation between work and life, or if it's a me thing.  Or if maybe it's even that I simply don't like my job enough.  But I admit, I do wonder where we're heading as a society when someone is an outlier -- and oddball, even -- if she doesn't have the demands of others constantly encroaching on her personal life.  As though she's not very important if she isn't constantly needed.  I'm not that old, but I'm pretty sure things used to be, well, almost the opposite.

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