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 do at home and some of the myths that assistants might have about working remotely from their manager.
When I first started as a team administrator back in 2003 despite having a (massively bulky) laptop, I rarely worked from home. I didn’t have a blackberry… 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 were 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 productive 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 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 of 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?! 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 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 hours which is another way of saying I have total freedom over how much I work, how much time I spend worrying 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 its drawbacks 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 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 helpful 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 are lovely!
Con: There are so many other distractions at home that take your concentrations away. Oooooh I’ll catch up on some TV over lunch, or I’ll start cleaning the kitchen while I think about my next blog and then boom 4 hours have passed, 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 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 vital that you have a good plan in place that keeps you and the boss connected and able to communicate remotely.
Pro: You can 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 whereas I would begin to work when I got to the office and would have a very definite finishing point mainly 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 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 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 fantastic, 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.