Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Sick people in my office, and other work-at-home discoveries...

As it becomes more common for people to work at home, I wonder if there will be a revolutionizing effect at the office. I have been a freelance writer and editor for about 20 years. There are many reasons that I chose this work. The appeal of no pumps and no pantyhose was near the top. But the primary reason was to be home with my children and "do more work in less time." Efficiency and organization are part of my daily world, and I don't recommend this type of work environment for those easily distracted or disorganized.

Recently I talked to a colleague who used to work in corporate America and now works at home. The first thing she said was, "I have never been more productive."That was quickly followed up with, "I didn't realize how much time was wasted in meetings." It's clear that the meetings, lunched out, trips to the snack machine and the coffee pot are giant time-sucks. If corporations counted up minutes wasted getting ready for a meeting, finding the room, waiting for folks to assemble, and listening to that one guy who just won't shut up, perhaps meetings would be treated as wasted time much like the dreaded hours spent in traffic.

I often hear, "I am a better multi-tasker than I was before." I think that happened to me when my home office wasn't so quiet during certain times of day (or all summer). I learned to balance children, errands, and chores like a well-run machine. It was amazing how much more time I had when I discovered that Target Tuesday was so much quicker than Target Saturday. The grocery is pretty quiet at 7 am on a Monday. I was able to cut the errand time by half just going when other people were not. I will admit, it is tough to have a sick child and accomplish anything. However, there is nothing more important than a mommy or daddy snuggle when you don't feel well.

When some of these stay-at-home workers transition back to offices, I wonder if they will carry with them the lessons learned. Will employers even listen? Flexible hours can be much more productive than static hours. A good set of headphones is essential. Meetings should be infrequent and quick, possibly even requiring all to stand rather than sit. And sick people in the office are annoying, unlike the little sick ones at home who love you and just want a hug.

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