Early in the week I wrote an update on my time in Barcelona and the new job I’ve had since April. I mentioned that I spent a lot of time working from home so I thought I would delve a little more into what I actually do at home and some of the myths that assistants might have about working remotely from their manager.

When I first started out as a team administrator back in 2003 despite having a (massively bulky) laptop I rarely worked from home. I didn’t have a blackberry… actually I didn’t have a mobile phone that accepted emails or had the internet so it wasn’t easy to stay connected. Occasionally if I was sick, which at 21 mainly meant hungover, I would work from home rather than take the hit on my sickness record. This meant starting up my home computer from 1997, connecting it to my dial-up internet and attempting to log onto the torturously slow remote email system. All in all not a very affective day at work! I guess I saw working from home as either skiving off or something the grown-up managers did with their superior equipment!

A few years later as an Account Manager and with vastly improved technology I really came to appreciate the benefits of working from home. I looked after Committees made up of the association’s members so I didn’t need to be in the office because they were not. I only needed to be there to attend Committee meetings so I worked from home quite a bit and I used to get so much done! The job itself was very demanding and I would usually get to the office around 7.30am so that I could get through two hours work before the rest of my colleagues arrived. When I worked from home my alarm did not go off at stupid o’clock and I didn’t have to share a train with the other  bleary eyed commuters. Those working from home days were brilliant!

My first full time one on one PA role changed my happy working from home routine. Nobody liked me working from home. My boss seemed a little panic stricken when I first suggested it, my colleagues didn’t understand why a PA would work from home and everyone asked who would look after the office?! Obviously when I did work from home the office didn’t stop functioning and it certainly didn’t burn down but there was a disconnect which I wasn’t too keen on. What was my boss up to while I was at home, who was wondering into their office and most importantly why were they fiddling with their own calendar! So I didn’t work from home much and when I did it was mainly because the boss was travelling which didn’t go down too well with some of my colleagues. They seemed to think I was out enjoying myself when in fact I was at home trying to catch up on all the stuff I had been neglecting while my boss was in the office!

Now I work mostly from home and I set my own hours which is really another way of saying I have total freedom over how much I work, how much time I spend worry about how much I work and how much time I spend in my flat rather than outside enjoying the glorious Barcelona sunshine. I also work remotely from my manager which brings it own draw backs but is also brilliant. I should also draw your attention to where I am when I say I’m working from home. My ‘office’ is currently my kitchen table which is actually situated in the kitchen… so my company consists of the ridiculously loud refrigerator and the oven, which I think hates me because it hardly ever gets used.

So all in all I’ve had quite a few experiences of working from home as an assistant. Here are some pros and cons I’ve learnt along the way:

Pro: On my goodness it is nice to get through a day without being asked where the photocopy paper is, how to format a sentence in Word and what is the time in some far flung country. No distractions from colleagues or general office stuff is lovely!

Con: There are so many other distractions at home that take your concentrations away…Ooooooh I’ll just catch up on some TV over lunch or I”ll just start cleaning the kitchen while I think about my next blog and then boom 4 hours have past and you’ve done nothing other than watch TV and clean the kitchen.

Pro: Your timetable is your own at home, you can decide on when to start your day, when to finish and when you need a break. You can work at your own pace and concentrate on the work that you need to get done on that day. Having that flexibility really does have a lot of advantages.

Con: You can be stuck at home all day on your own. There is no interaction with other colleagues and as I said you have no idea what is going on with your boss. If you do work from home it is absolutely vital that you have a good plan in place that keeps you and the boss connected and able to communicate remotely.

Pro: You can literally look however you want. No make-up, no hair styling… no clothes. Just remember this may also be a con when you realise you are started to look like you have been dragged through a hedge backwards!

Con: You can find that you are spending all of your time working and that you have no structure or routine. I have always found I get more work done while at home but that is probably because I start working as soon as I wake up and continue to work through the evening where as I would start work when I got to the office and would have a very definite finishing point particularly if I had plans in the evening.

Pro: Too often assistants are chained to their desks so it is a nice change to be able to choose your own working environment. You can work from your kitchen table, your bed, your sofa, your spare room – really anywhere that has wifi and takes your fancy. You can also listen to music, which I really like.

Con: Your employer and your colleagues probably don’t know what you are up too and may think that you aren’t getting much work done. Although the flexibility of working from home is awesome you do have to ensure you are producing work and being as productive as you would be at the office. You still need to make sure your boss has the same amount of support as they would if you were sitting outside their office.

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  • Cheryl August 9, 2013   Reply →

    It is good to make people aware of how you experienced working at home. I found the pros and cons to be very personal and different for individuals.

  • Rita August 10, 2013   Reply →

    I think this is a good blog. In my own experience, like you, I found that different employers view working from home for PAs in a different way. It appears to be a matter of culture and trust. If the company culture is old fashioned or lacks the latest IT, they might take a dim view of allowing the PA to work from home because they do not understand how productive it can be – possibly also, they don’t realise that PAs do have a work ethic. We don’t all just want to go out shopping or laze around all the time (which is an insulting assumption but it is made by plenty of employers). Good to read that you have been frank about the distractions but also mentioned the benefits to the employers. It is important to be able to assess how much one can monitor who goes in/out of the Director’s office too.

  • Catarina Elg August 12, 2013   Reply →

    I find it better to work from home when I have to think about a new structure and then do the work for a new intranet page. It is easy though to work too much and it is important to keep track so you take your breaks.
    It is funny that you managed 2 hours of work before others arrived if you started at 7:30. I arrive at 8:15 and is the last of 40 people :-)Different cultures!

  • Vibeke August 20, 2013   Reply →

    Thanks for this great (and entertaining!) post!

    I’m currently considering working from home, and have been wondering how this would affect my discipline (easily distracted by housekeeping needs – arg!) and mood (being alone all day with no one to boost my energy but myself), but I think the lack of office distraction would really increase the productiveness, and avoiding the commute – ah, must be heaven on earth! 🙂

    So thanks for sharing your experience!

  • Cassie August 24, 2013   Reply →

    Interesting read! I’ve been a 50/50 office & home worker for the last 7 years (since having children) and one of the biggest pros of working from home for me is the ability to choose my hours. Sometimes inspiration will strike early morning or late at night so being free to fire up the lap top and happily work away when most motivated is now par for the course. I can’t imagine go back to the typical 9-5 routine day in day out! That being said; I do miss the interaction with others when not in the office and the ‘out of side out of mind’ mentality that goes with the territory of a homeworker. Also, it’s those random chats with people at the coffee machine that often lead to new ideas or a problem being solved that I really miss, along with being able to bounce ideas off others. Is also far too easy to become too insular and blinkered in your views when working from home. I feel face to face Interaction is still hugely important so I will continue to go into the office for as long as they’ll let me! But home working (or telecommuting if you prefer) definitely has its place and will be more prevalent even the most reluctant of companies in future.

  • Carl Jones January 19, 2014   Reply →

    Luv the article!

    Time management is the key. Working from the bed makes it easy to spend time with my daughter, plus I’ve made good money from home! I’d just looking to guide more plp down the same path. As to avoid my previous mistakes from when I 1st started.

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