Monday, June 14, 2010

I think about working from home

I am not Alain de Botton.  For starters, I am not the son of a billionaire banker.  I also do not have a gigantic head,  I am not Swiss, I did not go to Cambridge and - O pity that it is so! - I am not the multi-millionaire author of many books, each one more than the last making me shout (in the mental equivalent of stubbing your toe): "Oh cocking HELL! Why didn't I think of that?".  

I do, however, very much enjoy reading about the 'theory of work', which is something that Alain de Botton likes to write about if he needs enough money to buy a new house.   His latest book is called The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work. I bought it because I am an egomaniac and wanted to see if Alain (as I call him!!!) agreed with me.  Here is my list:

Free paperclips
Free coffee
Chatting and 'having a laugh' with Jackie in accounts
Playing Tetris for 3 hours a day and getting paid for it
Free computers, phones etc
Filling peoples' top drawers with the bits out of a hole punch
Free drink

Having to be in same place at same time every day
Having to pretend to give a shit what other people think
Taking orders from spanners
Making a polite face when you are thinking in your brain "shut up idiot"
Conference calls

Sadly, Alain's book doesn't include these kinds of lists, so I was unable to compare my opinion with his, and at 336 pages, it is far too long for me to read myself in order to extrapolate key information and/or opinions.  Because he is a scientist, used to seeing patterns in things and able to do dispassionate analysis, I therefore briefed my 'husband' - who is (as many of you know by now) a French-Canadian veterinary research histopathologist - to read it and do me a synopsis and some analysis.

Here is what he said:

"It's alright.  It's about you know, working and stuff... it's mostly a light read, with some interesting insights about you know ... working and stuff. He starts with very applied situations and characters that he meets, and writes about what they get from what they do, and from those literal concrete things he tries to draw insights. Are you making fun of me? I don't really appreciate your attitude."

I shall conclude from that that Alain does not like lists; otherwise, I am not sure what the book is about but that is OK, because I am very clear about my own opinion and I bet that if I met Alain de Botton, he would probably agree with me (because I am very good at debating, etc).

There is also a book called Rework which I really like because it is very short, and because the ideas at the heart of it are sensible. They are things like:

1. Taking notes is stupid because you remember what's important anyway.
2. Working late is stupid because you get tired and then are crap at work the next day.
3. Conference calls are preposterous, as are most meetings.
4. Usual stuff: don't be a dick, give people responsibility, be yourself, etc.
5. "Planning is guessing"
6. Having a real life outside work makes you less of a gigantic twat.

Apparently you can do qualifications in this stuff, call yourself an "Industrial Psychologist" and get paid $5,400 an hour for saying things like "Your employees are unhappy, therefore they are not loyal and they are unproductive!", or "If you lock your employees in a box, they will die", or "If your ego is too gigantic, your entire body will in time turn into cockroaches, and your workforce will spray you with distain".  It sounds a good sort of a job to me.

Anyway, all this thinking about the 'theory of work' has made me think about different theories of work.   I will definitely promise to write more things like this and then not do it and so here, for your edification, is the first in an occasional series (that I will probably not continue) called "Nonworkingmonkey's Theories Of Work", each one based on my proprietary analysis tool, "Having A Look At The Pros And Cons Before Drawing A Conclusion".

This is Number 1, and it is all about Working from Home.

Pros of Working from Home
  • Can make own lunch
  • Can work in pyjamas/dressing gown
  • Do not have to wash
  • Do not have to waste time travelling about the place
  • Can have telly breaks and naps without anyone judging you in a negative style
  • Not forced to 'interact' and/or pretend to like people for the simple reason that you are in their close physical proximity every day
  • Free tea/coffee (well, if not 'free' exactly, definitely under 20p per cup)
  • Not interrupted endlessly by idiotic questions and pointless chitchat
  • Can work 5am to lunchtime if you so wish then spend rest of afternoon smoking pipe and/or twirling fez

Cons of Working from Home
  • Danger of forgetting are in dressing gown with hair on end when answering Skype calls with automatic webcam connection
  • Biscuits
  • Desk being same as kitchen table, which makes getting ravioli in keyboard probable
Work from home if you can. It is really great.*

And on that note of searing insight, I wish you a happy and productive week. 

Pip pip!


* I asked my 'husband' what he thought the pro of working from home is. He said, "You don't have to get dressed".  "Are there any cons?", I asked. "No", said he. And because he is an eminent scientist with over 237 degrees from various universities etc, I believe he must be right. Coincidentally, having compared husbands with Lucy Pepper, eminent illustrator and animatrice, we are of the opinion that our husbands should probably have married each other. But that, as they say, is for another day. 


Thesaurus said...

Video conferencing when working from home is fraught with danger. A friend of mine was on Skype with an important client when her husband walked into the room behind her. He was naked at the time. She found this to be an embarrassing situation. Her husband found it to be an amusing situation. She has gone to Sweden for a month to recover from the shock of it all.


It is impossible for me to say anything, other than: that is one of the best comments ever left on this web-blog, ever. (Only beaten the mysterious Dave who left the words "I am gay!", and nothing else.) I bow to you, dear Thesaurus.

Waffle said...

I do both these things each week, the home and the office thing (but NOT FOR LONG, chiz chiz) so can contribute a little. I think you have the pros of homeworking covered, though I would add this one: "cuts down fucking annoying trips to Post Office since you are more likely to be home when the postman puts that card through your door saying you weren't in, meaning that if you have batlike hearing, you may be in time to chase him, indignantly down the street telling him you were in all the time".

Cons however:

Tendency to graze mindlessly all day on Côte d'Or salted almond chocolate until grotesquely fat.

Never seeing another human being and developing agoraphobia and eyeball scratching loneliness.

End up thinking it is perfectly normal to talk to domestic animals in a conversational manner about Israel/whether we need more bleach/the perennial disappointment of supporting Leeds Utd.

Can I also be Alain? I wish to be Writer in Residence at London Zoo.

Jane Sales said...

Thesaurus's comment reminds me of a much less funny occasion when I was "doing Skype" as we home-workers say. I wasn't naked, as naked is the black tie of underdressed and a bit too much for me to aspire to. I think I was wearing a pair of my husband's boxers, a T shirt proclaiming that I'm not American (in Russian, so witty) and my hair was in that state of "just got out of bed" that some people seem to pay so much to achieve at the hairdresser (but with more "foreign bodies").

The person I was doing on Skype in an audio-only manner then suggested that we should go to video. Being totally unprepared for this, I think I left him with the impression that seeing his ugly face was the last thing I'd want on a Thursday morning, whereas I was actually more concerned about my impact on his ability to eat lunch afterwards. How do you refuse the visual aspect of Skype politely?

Sarah said...

Have you read Bertrand Russell's 'In Praise of Idleness'? (Sample quote, "I want to say, in all seriousness, that a great deal of harm is being done in the modern world by belief in the virtuousness of work, and that the road to happiness and prosperity lies in an organized diminution of work.")

Megan said...

I am an Expert as I worked from home for... many many years. Waffle noted an important con (ie grazing) however the not-seeing-people isn't so difficult as you can set up real meetings with people you actually like (generally at lunch time) and suggest to the flaptwatists that email is a more efficient communication process.

A far more important con to recognize is that working from home turns your home into an office. And, if you're an idiot like me, it means you end up working practically all the time. Fortunately I liked my work AND I had small people around who would begin to mewl and scratch if they didn't have food poked at them now and then and weren't taken out for regular runs in parks chasing 'soccer' balls, but regardless I did end up working well past midnight several days a week. As I was an hourly biller (contract work! Is good!) this was very, very good for the pocket book but rather less nice for other things.

Oh! AND if people KNOW you work from home suddenly all of your time is available for them - is true. Clients call at any and all hours with questions and 'emergencies' and friends/acquaintances etc call whenever they feel like it to demand you do something as you have an open schedule. It is vital to bill the first heavily for anything outside normal work hours (write it into the contract and spell it out to the idiots as they WILL argue with it) and use caller id relentlessly for the second.

Krazy Kitty said...

Isn't your webcam broken when people sneakily suggest you go on video when you're not prepared? Mine always is. Funny how technology works.

Baron d'Ormesan said...

Excellent quote from Bertand Russell via Sarah.

Surely the main point about work, wherever it takes place, is that if it was meant to be fun they wouldn't have to pay you to do it. Personally, I have always resisted suggestions that I take work home since a) it would, as Megan points out, blur the line between home and the office; and b) I would get beer/gin/wine/jam on the proofs.

DameEmma said...

I agree with both Megan and Monkey. My solution? Rent a skeezy hole in a dodgy part of town to go to for to work. Alone. In a lemur-bedecked hoodie. Now that I have a fridge, it's the best of both worlds.

Lord Philth said...

My pros for working at home:
Nose picking and loud trumping, either singly or simultaneously, without being judged negatively.

Avoiding incompetents who are higher up the ladder than you, and are there because:
a) they gave a blowie to someone equally incompetent and also a "higher up";
b) they greatly exaggerated (read "lied through their back teeth about") their experience at an interview and had one of their mates give a reference; or
c) they bought their way in.

Music breaks
Dog walking breaks
Working efficiently and effectively in three three hour chunks

No shit, overpaid support staff who whine about their "lot". A lot.

Rumpy pumpy breaks.

Alex said...

Another "Pro" of working from home......

You can watch all the World Cup games, even those with a lunchtime kick-off!




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