The recent influx of white fluffy stuff falling from the sky in the eastern United States has driven lots of people to stay in their homes. Call it what you will – Snowmageddon, Snoviathan, Snowtorious B.I.G. – there are folks like myself doing their utmost to be productive in places where familiar comforts quickly become distractions. There is, however, a distinction in my mind between working from home and working at home.
When one works from home, it’s a break in the usual office routine. Sure, you don’t have to worry about commuting outside of your home, nor do you need to concern yourself with adhering to the company’s dress code (if you get dressed at all), but there are still expectations from your superiors and deadlines that need to be met. All of the pressures of the office still exist. If you’re not doing something you necessarily love, it can actually be detrimental to work from home. There are chores left undone, upkeep responsibilities and more comforts than at the office, all of which become distractions. Indeed, in certain circumstances, washing dishes or mopping up leaks can feel like a welcome diversion from the usual office work.
At first glance, you might not see much of a difference when you work at home. By that, I mean you are employed in such a way that you have no office to go to regularly. Maybe you’re a freelancer, or maybe you’re employed in such a way that the location of the office is superfluous – if it exists at all! In these cases, you still have other things to do rather than work and there are still deadlines to meet. However, my suspicion is that there are two large factors that differentiate working at home from working from home.
1. You’re working at home on something that’s more your choice than not. Most people who are in a position of using a home office over the course of a regular work week have gotten to that point from the pursuit of a specific goal rather than a series of fortunate events. To put it another way…
2. Chances are you’re doing something you love every day and getting paid for it without leaving your house.
I know there are a lot of other factors that go into that sort of job: no pre-paid medical insurance (at least in the US), no paid vacations (you have to take work with you when you go elsewhere), the ever-present fear of bill collections in a lull between completing a project and getting paid because you don’t get a regular paycheck. I understand those things. It’s simply unfortunate, from my perspective, that these difficulties make working at home such an impractical choice for people who feel underappreciated or underpaid even when they do work normal hours attempting to live up to expectations they might never meet. Yes, working at home brings in a whole slew of headaches completely unrelated to working from home, but personally, I can’t help but be just a bit envious.
I’m going to stop depressing myself and get a mug of hot cocoa. Because one of the benefits of work involving home, be it at or from, is easy access to marshmallows.