“Work from home.” Those three magical words have proven to be a siren call for jobs with flexible schedules or the freelance life. A recent study found that 43 percent of U.S. workers telecommute at least part of the time, and 3.9 million do it more than half the week. But take it from a working mom who has taken the leap: The lure of work-life balance has some unexpected consequences. What really goes on in the home office? Think of it as the human version of The Secret Life of Pets — without the raging parties.
- Pants are optional. Makeup, only during video calls. But really, not even then. I have a closet full of “work” clothes and shoes that will never see the light of day again. One recurring texting topic with a friend who works for a New Mexico law firm from her home in Texas is whether it’s worth unearthing some favorite outfits for school pickups — that is, if we’ve bothered showering by then.
- Even the biggest introverts will start talking to strangers at Whole Foods. I used to catch up with colleagues over morning coffee, talk on the phone all day when I wasn’t in meetings, and spend hours at working lunches. It was exhausting being “on” all the time. Now I wish the pizza delivery guy would stay and chat. In the four years since I stopped going into an office, I’ve become weirdly friendly with the random people I come across in the rare occasions I leave the house. Plus I’m never on mute on conference calls anymore.
- Freedom from office politics and endless meetings means more time for volunteering at your kids’ school and gossiping about the other PTA moms. Some things you can’t escape.
- All the precious time you used to ruefully waste on commuting you now ruefully waste on walking around your kitchen looking for snacks. You know, for “mental breaks.” It’s simply not possible to be productive every minute of the day, and being at home makes for more creative (read: food-centric) ways of procrastinating. If the Girl Scout cookies weren’t in the freezer at 10 a.m., they probably aren’t there at 10:32, but still. There are days when all I eat are a bag of tortilla chips, a spoonful of ice cream (okay, maybe four) straight from the carton, and the half of a corn dog that my son brought home from school the day before. And two cherries — hey, it’s not all junk!
- Your spouse is the most interesting person in the world. My husband goes to an office, so he’s interacting with the outside world in wondrous ways of which I have only the faintest, glimmering memories. I need him to tell me everything when he gets home: The rush of the elevator whizzing up the building! The glamour of the conference call! The excitement of small talk with the boss! Oh, and the pants! The pants!
Everyone needs a girlfriend!
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