We’re going to take a trip back, today…way back, to before the Internet. I know, its a scary thought, but it wasn’t too long ago that the idea of the “Information Age” conjured up images of the Jetsons and moon colonies. Well, my car still doesn’t fly, and I still don’t have my own personal robot. We do, though, have cell phones, wireless internet access, ipods, and digital everything-you-can-think-of. Out of all of this has come the ultimate catch-22 — the elusive telecommuting arrangement.
Leave it to Beaver and More…
Back in our figurative internet prehistory, the Mr. came home after a long day at work, where the Mrs. was waiting for him with the kids. (ok, maybe it wasn’t so simple, but this is a hypothetical argument here) Most importantly, he left his work at the front door with his shoes and coat. Dinner wasn’t the time to worry about the big presentation, or the annoying coworker. It was time for family; maybe a martini or a sports game on the radio.
Here we are, circa 2009. I’m not sure about you all, but my home is nothing like that scenario. Mr. Homeownerhelper and I both have our own home offices, and I telecommute one day a week. In addition, I also have the blog and a side restaurant job, which I have a nasty little habit of bringing home with me. Its a stretch for me to make a home-cooked meal, and although I try to every night, I do it rather begrudgingly and would certainly prefer a restaurant. So, how, with all of our newfound connectivity, can we possibly maintain a work-home boundary?
This is something that I’ve had a hard time with, but have been trying to balance the scales. For telecommuters such as myself, I find that the single most important way to create that boundary is to work in my home office. My laptop usually hangs out in the living room, but if I attempt to work in there, I find myself hanging out as well. So, the most important thing is to move the laptop into the office first thing. I hear a lot of stories at my restaurant job from people who telecommute, often working in their pajamas or even in bed. This is a FAIL. Getting dressed first thing and working in a dedicated space is important not only because it results (in my opinion) in a higher quality of work, but also creates the boundary for yourself. You don’t want to be dragging the office all around your house with you, do you?
If you don’t have a dedicated office, at least try to make a corner of a room a place for work. You don’t need to have a whole room to do this!
What about the job search?
Same goes for the job search…you don’t have to have a job already for work to consume your life. After all, these days, finding a job is in and of itself a full time job, and the same principles apply. Create a dedicated place, designate a “job search hours,” and don’t beat yourself up about the search outside of those hours. At best, you may end up pushing yourself a little harder if you do, but at worst, you could end up feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, and disenchanted with the whole process.
But can we ever really change?
I don’t think that, barring some immense change in the way we function as workers (and humans, too), that we will ever wholly be able to seperate work from home. After all, they are both fundamental parts of our lives. Although easier said than done, Its ok to take a little time and live for yourself, and not your paycheck.
What about for non telecommuters? When something really irks or excites me at work, its nearly impossible to not talk about it, at least for me. So, how about having a dedicated “work-talk” time, maybe for a few minutes at the end or beginning of each night? This way, its not building up, but its also not consuming everything, either. Also, keeping a journal could work. When all else fails, a little exercise always does the trick.