As a ‘work from home’ dad I think I face different challenges than a lot of the normal commuting 9 to 5er’s out there. There are two sides to every coin, and this situation is no different. On the plus side – I get to see a lot more of my children. I’m around in the morning, and around to help at bedtime. So many parents have no choice but to spend long hours working away from their families, and while I do spend many hours at work, I’m never far from my girls… and I don’t have to miss much. There are obviously practical upsides as well – times throughout the day when I can assist with a diaper, or help carry a stroller back into the house. I have no commute. I can work in shorts and a t-shirt. Upside.
On the other hand – my work is never over. I carry a smartphone, and have two laptops in my office. I’m always connected, and my west coast employer is always ringing, day and night. With the time zone difference, and a truly global client base, the sales people I support are just ramping up around 4pm EST… so my day skews later in activity. This is nice for morning errands, but not so nice for 10pm conference calls with Australia. If you work in an ‘office’, you can leave that office and sometimes even put work out of your mind. My office is down the hall from my bedroom, so I never really ‘leave’… and my flexible hours lead to working at ALL hours… early in the morning, late at night.
The other challenge is isolation. When you ‘go’ to work, you get up, commute, visit an office location, and interact with other people throughout your day and your travel. When you work from home you don’t. It’s that simple. Outside of conference calls (which I’m on all day), you don’t actually see other people besides your wife and children unless you leave the house. I often have to force myself to leave the house from time to time to avoid the ‘stir crazies’. Walking the dog doesn’t really count in my book.
Over the years I’ve found that isolation is the hardest aspect to working from home. Finding social outlets can be a challenge, as typical options for men involve work and sports. My work colleagues are generally thousands of miles away, and I’m a New York sports fan living just outside Boston. Which results in two recurring jokes – Yes yes, I know. Arod sucks. (for my Boston friends)… and no, I haven’t become a Red Sox fan yet… (for my New York friends). Years after my move that’s still so very funny. Guys are not afraid to go the well with insulting sports humor… or any insulting humor for that matter. Finding hobbies and outlets (like boardgaming dorkiness) becomes mandatory for the work-at-home dad, at least in my experience. I enjoy a good Poker night from time to time as well. It’s an excellent excuse to have a glass of 12 year old whiskey, if you’re winning or losing.
I’ve now been telecommuting for over seven years, and I’m not really sure how I’d deal with going back to office hours and mandatory ‘face time’ scenarios. I enjoy my freedom too much. I hear people say that they couldn’t handle being at home with it’s built in distractions. As a work-a-holic I don’t really have that problem. If anything I was less productive in an office environment, between the wasted commuting time and the office socializing time. I’m a telecommuting Dad-E now, and when I’m not talking tech on the phone, or walking the dog, I’ll most likely be making silly faces at one of my little girls. What’s that? No, I’m not a Red Sox fan yet, but thanks for asking.