Working from home should not involve doing the dishes

Someone told me about a post on LinkedIn about working from home, describing how the author had already done the dishes, cleaned half the house, and was chilling at the laptop with their cat. Probably on a sofa, too.

Not only is this not working, it is very damaging to people actually working from home. It puts remote work in a very bad position: like it has to be explained, tracked, asked for, like it’s a perk, a reward for your good behaviour.

It’s not.

What is remote work?

Remote work is, for some of us, the best way to focus and be productive.1

Any kind of work is time-bound, and takes place in a workplace, be it on-site, home office, or co-working2. Just as work should happen during regular work hours3, work should happen at a place that is designated for that, and only used for that.

In my case, work hours are roughly the same as my team’s, and workplace is an area in a separate corner of my home. I only go there to work, and that’s the only place I work from. I go to the workstation, not the other way round. This way, there is a physical separation of work and non-work, which is essential to a healthy work/life balance.

Both me and my partner work full time remote. Each of us has their own, separate office. There is no trespassing4. We usually meet for lunch, but there is no washing up — we have an explicit rule that no dishwashing happens during work hours. Also no laundry, no hoovering, nothing of the sort. Errands can be run during the lunch break, if they fit in the hour. This is no different from working in an office.

So where is all the extra time, where are all the benefits?

Well, for me, it is time, energy and freedom.

  • Time: My commute is 30 seconds now. In London, it was a not so terrible 40 minutes, but if we add that up, it’s almost an hour and a half a day!
  • Energy: The emotional drain of spending time with something so utterly useless as commute, the cognitive load of interruptions at work, and being confined to a city where I had difficulties to really relax used to exhaust me. Now, I have some usable brain power left after I finish my day.
  • Freedom: On a low level, I am free of non-essential interruptions. On a higher level, I can live wherever, as long as I can manage to match HQ office hours.

For me, these are the true benefits of working remotely.

When someone tries to popularise working from home by posting cozy pictures or talking about how much non-work they get done during the work day, they hurt the credibility of the setup by suggesting that work becomes secondary even during work hours. Please stop doing this and don’t ruin it for the rest of us.


Notes


  1. I wish I could give an actual number, say, how many pomodoros per day I finish on average, but to be completely honest, any typical day at the office I could hardly even finish one 25-minute session without being interrupted.

  2. Although I doubt that any good work can be done sharing half a desk with a stranger and people coming and going with their artisan coffees all day.

  3. By regular work hours, I don’t mean 9 to 5 — I mean whatever works for employee and company, is mutually agreed on, and fits a routine.

  4. We take this one pretty seriously. Because we are polite and would always answer a knock on the door, there is no knocking on each-other’s door. If A wants to speak to B, the only way is to send a message: “Could you step into my office when you have some time, please?”