working from home

night time leaves

Remember when working at home, or 'telecommuting,' was seriously considered as a prospect for the white-collar Western world? Remember when pundits had visions of people in their well-appointed home offices in a state of industrious relaxation, enjoying their days as they gardened, worked, relaxed, worked, pleasured their partners, worked, watched a movie with the kids, worked, slept, worked? Oh what a glorious future it would soon be when everyone stayed home to dissolve the boundaries between personal and professional, in the process transforming downtown city cores into empty shells of civic life occupied by rotting towers of industry.

If only.

By now it should be pretty obvious that the cheerleaders of telecommuting and the Office-in-Every-Bungalow America missed out on the fact that most white-collar work is a social enterprise, with people making decisions by wandering the floor and talking with different people. Workplaces that severely restrict face-to-face interaction tend to be tyrannical sweatshops, which makes me wonder about the 'freedom' that telecommuting promised. It's more like comfortable isolation.

Nonetheless, there are days when nothing is more satisfying than doing all your business from home. As necessary as human contact may be for the soul, sometimes you need solitude for your brain. You don't always need the guy who knocks gently on your door as a prelude to dumping the responsibility for some insanely dull but complex problem on your desk. You don't always want to explain, for the hundredth time, that even though your office door is right by the printer, it doesn't mean you know how to print off envelopes (Remember when I used to travel the world for a living? Sheesh). Sometimes you do what I did today: you stay the fuck home and keep everyone at email's length.

The chief advantage of working from home is so obvious that it pains me to mention it, but it's a rare workplace that lets you show up in a codpiece and clown makeup. At home, you have no one to horrify but your pets, your roommate, or your family. And those people just don't count. At any rate, they should be used to your codpiece by now.

I've heard that natty dressing and proper ablutions will put your mind in work mode, but I don't believe it. I pushed a ream of paper today, ironed out an interjurisdictional news release, booked ad space on billboards, trained a new employee and basically managed the shop in a Mr. Wong shirt and some snappy boxer briefs.

The other great advantage is the ability to take a shower whenever you want. Theoretically, you could go take a shower in the middle of a conference call and no one would even notice. And it wouldn't make a damn bit of difference, as long as you got back on for the thirty-second recap at the end of the call that neatly summarizes the previous ninety minutes. Ninety minutes. You could have taken a shower and watched Death Proof, but instead you get an awkward conversation with disembodied voices trying to talk over each other, resulting in little shards of voice flying all over cyberspace.

Then there's the whole thing where you can get up from your chair and go have sex in the middle of drafting a memo or signing off on correspondence. If you don't feel like getting up to have sex, you can stay seated. You can call someone over to have the sex with you, or you can just have it by yourself. If masturbation doesn't feel shameful enough, you can bust out a pan flute and play along with Yanni. Who cares? Whom besides yourself are you pleasing? You're not at work.

You're just working.