Don’t get me wrong, friend. I know I’m insanely lucky. Working from home is the Holy Grail of the office drone, and I know I’m inviting your enmity by knocking it. It’s like if Paris Hilton listed her top complaints about being Paris Hilton: it’s her prerogative, but you still wouldn’t mind trading places for a day.
I am working from home temporarily since getting whupped by an illness in the fall, and it truly is all that they say. It’s also a lot of things they don’t say. Here are a few:
1. I miss meetings. OMG. Did I just write that? I admit it: I am a meeting junkie. I adore meetings. I love sitting in the dim, windowless conference room at TIME and listening to people way smarter than me talk about stuff I don’t really understand. It makes me feel like I’m part of something important. Sometimes I even say something, though this is usually a bad idea. I save my yapping for smaller meetings, which I love even more, because I get to sit in even greater proximity to people way smarter than me. Sometimes I bring nuts, though this is usually a bad idea.
2. I’m kind of forgetting my bosses’ faces. I mean, not really. Their faces are on TV and in the magazine a lot, after all. But after a few months away, I’m sure they’re forgetting mine, which matters far more. When management types talk about face time, they mean the time you spend hanging around the company kitchen at dinner time on closing nights, so the boss can see you juggling your tray of tetrazzini and make a mental note: Cullen’s working late again–great! When you take your tray of tetrazzini to your home office, the only person making a mental note is your husband, and it sounds more like: Cullen’s working late again. Great.
3. I don’t know any office gossip. I used to be a source, an office Deep Throat, a you-didn’t-hear-this-from-me blabbermouth. My tales were usually inconsequential garbage involving two-bit characters unworthy of mention in Gawker. But office gossip isn’t about the quality of the information; it’s about the quality of the interaction (thank you, I’m now your source for armchair office psychology). It’s about the time spent with your colleagues, trading news and insights on how to navigate the office, who’s working on what project, where we’re going on vacation, why the raises are smaller this year. These conversations keep a worker grounded, involved and engaged in the workplace, and are simply impossible to replicate via e-mail. I know. I’ve tried. (There’s also no such thing as home-office gossip. I know. I’ve tried.)
4. I spend a lot more time with my kid. A lot. This is not a bad thing. Of course. But here I reach out to the other working parents of toddlers, although a grand total of maybe two of you are reading this, because we are of a demographic that has not one spare minute in the day or an extra drop of energy to waste on–what’s it called–right, a blog. If you had that spare minute, you’d spend it reading Olivia 12 times or mixing bananas with broccoli or sculpting Play-Doh penguins (in blue, Mommy, no, no, blue, bluuuuue!). I’ll tell you what. I often have that spare minute, now that I work upstairs. And I suspect she’s beginning to take me for granted. I suspect my absence would make her heart grow fonder. Today she sobbed for 10 minutes after I extracted a booger. There were tears of joy when the babysitter arrived, which was a little unseemly, for my part.
5. There is dog hair on everything. Laminated folders, my new Canon fax/printer/copier, the crevice between the “j” and the “k” on my keyboard, my mug of jasmine tea: every single surface in my home office has been infiltrated by the short, coarse hairs of my basset hound. He used to lie at my feet as I worked, which sounds adorable, but his frequent scatching and the resulting clouds of fur and dander would make me apoplectic with rage. Plus, he farts. It’s been weeks since he’s been up here, but just now I picked a dog hair out of the inside of my stapler.
Look. I’m not an idiot. It’s bitterly cold, and I haven’t had to step outside except for an early-morning gym run. It’s a deadline day, and I’m not dropping under my desk every time an assignment editor walks by. It’s 5:30 p.m., and no one is summoning me to a meeting at which I will have to pretend to have an opinion about a photo essay of President Ford’s funeral as I inwardly sweat the bus schedule.
Working from home is great. But if you’re in the Port Authority one morning and you see someone yodeling and doing cartwheels, that would be me, on my first day back at the office.
(Friends who work from home: tell us what you love and don’t love about it and we’ll publish them here.)