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December 5, 2010

The Life of a Telecommuter

I work from home. I work weird hours; sometimes 30 minutes here and there, sometimes a few hours all in one go. It varies from day to day, and sometimes also week to week. I teach online, so besides the actual classes themselves, there’s also prep work and marking, just like any other type of teaching job.

Yes, my schedule is a little bit flexible, but it’s not as bendy as people think. A rash of “How nice, you barely have to work”-type comments lately have me spitting venom. I realized that regular commuters might not fully grasp what kind of issues and problems telecommuters face on a daily basis.

Teaching = Prep, marking, teaching

Just because I work from home does not mean I don’t work. I have 15 classes a week. Each class requires a plan, materials, and preparation. Each class has homework that needs marking and feedback. I mark a lot of essays – believe me, it’s not easy. It all takes time, just like other types of education jobs. I’m not complaining about it; if you don’t like prep and marking, don’t get into the education field. I’m not saying I don’t like it, but rather that non-educators tend to forget that we don’t all work 9-5 jobs.

Flexible ≠ Random

No, I can’t always drop everything and go out. I like shopping, and late-afternoon lunches, same as everyone else. But please don’t be put out when I tell you I’m busy – and please, please, don’t respond with, “But you’re HOME ALL DAY!” I know I’m home all day. How is where I work. It’s not like I’m sitting on the couch all day watching Jerry Springer. I work, just like you. If I have the time to join you, I will. If I don’t, I won’t. I do have a schedule to follow, whether it’s a prep/marking schedule or a teaching schedule.

Working From Home ≠ Freedom From Interruptions

True, I’m not distracted by colleagues popping by my desk, or too many meetings (hurray for teleconferencing, by the way!) but I do get my share of interruptions. I get telemarketers, wrong numbers, Jehova’s Witnesses, people popping in randomly because I work from home … my day is filled with ringing phones and emails that demand answers, just like yours. You have no idea how often the phone rings, while you’re working in your office tower.

No Parties While I’m Teaching

Yes, they are online students – emphasis on the “student” part. I’m conducting a class, and my students deserve a professional expereince. Low-level TV watching, reading, quiet conversation are all perfectly fine; loud videogames, loud people, or a lot of people contribute to background noises my students and I don’t appreciate. If I need to slip into the office for a class while having you over, I will ask you to please excuse me, and also ask you to keep it down while I’m working. Please don’t roll your eyes. I’m doing legitimate work, just like you. I don’t crash around in your workspace, so please don’t crash around in mine.

Telecommuting is Great – But Maybe Not For you!

I love telecommuting. I love not being bogged down in rush hour. I love saving money on transportation. Yes, I have a bit more time during the day for housework – it’s great! However, I’m not an easily-distracted person, so it’s a good fit for me. People who are easily distracted by the television or the phone, or who might go to bed instead of doing their work shouldn’t consider it. Working from home instead of in an office does not lessen your responsibilities to your company and clients.

Working from home is great, but it’s not as easy as a lot of people believe. The location is different, but (for most of us) the work ethic remains the same. Be kind to your telecommuting friends, and remember: they are working, just like you.

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1 Comment(s)

  1. Pamela | Dec 8, 2010 | Reply

    What a wonderful post! I work from home and it IS very difficult to get people to take that seriously. My schedule is a little more flexible than yours, but that just means I’m up half the night working when I wasn’t working during the day. The people who just make me grind my teeth are those who complain when I’m sleeping after working all night because I spent some of my work time with THEM! Those are also the same people who complain when I can’t just drop everything and run out the door with them. Sometimes my schedule is more flexible than others but I have deadlines every day.

    Thank you for a perfectly put article!

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