Friday, January 25, 2019

On Working From Home

Today's post is vaguely inspired by that somewhat silly, much-criticized Wall Street Journal piece a few months ago, which recommended dressing up when working from home, with suggestions that were more formal than what some business-casual workplaces require (and included some very expensive pieces). Independently of that article, though, I was already curious about the subject of working from home, mainly about what everyone else thinks.

I suspect it might be a little bit like the question of whether one decides to hire cleaning help (particularly in circumstances when one has very little free time or energy for it, and would therefore greatly value the assistance, and is also lucky enough to be able to find room in the budget for that luxury). One would assume it's an extremely simple and straightforward question, and boring to boot. The answer may seem obvious, and, regardless, it's not necessarily a topic worth spending too much time or energy thinking about. Yet people might still have some very different personal perspectives about it, or preferences regarding it, nonetheless. 

What do you wear to work from home?

I suppose this is actually a two-part question: First, what do you actually wear? Second, do you think it helps with productivity to dress up more formally when working from home, whether because of the act of dressing up by itself and/or because, when done as a habit, it possibly adds some additional structure to work from home days? 

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As for what I actually wear, I wear the same things I wear the rest of the time I'm at home when there are no guests. I'm definitely the kind of person who can't wait to change out of my "outside clothes" as soon as I step in the door. At that time, I get straight into the clothes that I also wear to sleep. In winter, that's a pair of sweatpants (both of mine are Uniqlo, including the more recently purchased fleece-lined sweatpants that are on my "maybe give away" list because, alas, the size S is a little too fitted, and I like my sweatpants to have a more relaxed fit); a long, loose-fitting cotton tee (I wear these from H&M, and previously wore some long cotton-modal tees from Forever 21); and a sweatshirt (generally that ubiquitous Bobeau fleece wrap cardigan that's pretty much always on sale at Nordstrom).

Does anyone remember the anime and manga Kare Kano? I definitely related to the main character's approach to what to wear while at home.

As for whether I think dressing up helps with productivity, I'm generally inclined to thinking it's not helpful. Admittedly, I've never had the choice to be able to work from home frequently, and I don't really anticipate having that freedom anytime soon, so this question is largely a moot point, more an abstract thought experiment than anything else.

Still, back when I was a student, particularly during the final exam period (most law school grades depend on a single two to four hour exam for the entire semester's grade, and all exams take place over a period of approximately a week, starting sometime after classes have already ended), or on days when I'm working from home and need to be especially productive, getting dressed never really had any noticeable effect on my productivity. I like being able to roll out of bed and get straight to work, if needed, and generally wouldn't dress up if I was staying in all day because, well, lounge clothes are comfy. I'd get changed if I knew I had to drop by the library or pick up something at the grocery store or drugstore during the day, but that didn't seem to alter my productivity the rest of that day. Then again, this doesn't really give any insight into what it's like to work from home regularly or telecommute in the long term, so maybe I can't truly answer this second question for myself. 

What's your ideal amount of work from home flexibility? 

This is a slightly unrelated question, and maybe not a very useful one because, at the end of the day, not everyone really gets a full choice in the matter, particularly in some professions where it simply isn't practical. (I certainly don't anticipate having much flexibility to work from home too often in any future job.) But I'm still curious about what everyone thinks! My thoughts on this one have changed somewhat over time. 

Back when I first graduated law school, I felt strongly that one of the best things about my biglaw job, at least at my particular office (experiences can vary considerably depending on the firm, or one's practice group at a specific firm), was that there was a fair bit of work from home flexibility. It wasn't an infinite amount of freedom, one definitely couldn't make a frequently recurring habit of it, but one could easily work from home for a day or two once in a while to accommodate an errand at home or something like that. And there could also arise periods of time when things can be expected to be extremely slow at the office, or when one is spending all or most of their time working for a team that's based in another office, giving more freedom and flexibility on the work from home front. 

And back then, I was quite efficient when working from home, if I do say so myself. My most productive days ever at my first workplace were work from home days, it was the best way for me to power through a piece of significant writing (in part because it slightly reduced the likelihood of having my writing flow interrupted by a call or someone dropping by my office with something, though with call forwarding, people were still able to reach me easily on my work line if needed). I'd roll out of bed, be able to start working within a few minutes, would order delivery food for lunch, and could just stay focused all day long, and would hopefully be done before dinner. 

In my subsequent jobs, however (where there's generally been significantly less freedom to work from home, but it can be done on rare occasions to accommodate an errand that requires one's presence at home, say, or a doctor's appointment at an inconvenient time of day or location for getting back to the office after), I've found it difficult to get up to that same level of productivity. I don't know what's changed, because the nature of my work has remained largely the same. These days, I'm starting to feel strongly that my desk at the office is my most productive space, and it's very hard to attain the same level of productivity anywhere else, though I can manage it when I absolutely need to. It seems to be a mindset thing, but I'm not sure when or why my mindset for work from home changed so dramatically!

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