Ever since I have been of the house-buying age, I’ve been on a quest for the perfect home office. Quiet, secluded, spacious... with large picture windows overlooking a natural scene... deer and bunnies munching on natural grasses surrounded by wildflowers, and a babbling stream feeding a waterfall gently cascading into a koi pond within a peaceful Zen garden. My office would have an eclectic mix of vintage antique finds in an office motif - an old credenza, with an antique typewriter... a quill and various-sized jars of ink... brass scales, and a Newton’s Cradle - and a functional, oversized modern desk, with lots of brushed steel and glass. I would have a sitting area, with a lamp, vintage leather chairs, and a small table with brain-stimulating toys like a Rubik’s Cube and one of those Pin Art things that looks like a little tiny version of Uncle Fester’s bed. I would have old, but not too old, copies of Inc., Fortune, and Wired (I’m still a Gen-X’er) laying neatly on an ottoman, and a small wooden bookshelf filled with classics like Art of the Deal, Crossing the Chasm, the Goal (I’m a big Herby fan) and Glengarry Glen Ross (just to make any sales guys squirm). The lighting would be exquisite, with counter-balanced swing arm lamps and recessed halogens on a dimmer, and I would have a motion-detector so that when I entered the room, the lighting would ease on as I settled into my Aeron chair. I would have a speakerphone with a wireless headset so that I could walk around the room on important calls, spinning stainless steel baoding balls in my hand and gazing into my nature scene, looking like a man at the helm of the universe.
It would be such a fabulous office that I would actually wake-up, take a shower, dress business casual, and put on loafers before entering the home office. I would say to my wife, “Darling, I think I’ll work from home today so that I can get some things done without people bothering me. I’ll be in ‘the home office’.” She would respond, “Okay, sweetheart. I’ll bring you a skinny latte and some steel-cut oats in a little while, and I’ll make sure that the kids don’t disturb you.” And I would proceed to enter my sanctuary of commerce, where I would produce copious amounts of completed work in mere hours of undisturbed serenity. I would be so productive in that office, that the IRS would ask - even beg - me to deduct 100% of my office expenses, because it is so clearly a thriving hub of economic activity for the nation. My work colleagues would stop by “just to say hi”, when indeed they were on a religious pilgrimage to lay their eyes on the Mecca of productivity. As they walked in, wide-eyed, awestruck, I would fix them a scotch on the rocks from the office bar, as they would gush, “Soo, this is the place where your best ideas - the best ideas - come from. No wonder you work from home so often... I would too if I had an office like this.” And I would beam proudly behind them, secretly winking, pointing, and mouthing, “you-da-man” at the commissioned self-portrait above the mantle (did I mention the office has a fireplace?).
The unfortunate reality is that, absent the aforementioned home office, working from home for me consists of a laptop, an internet connection, a cell phone, juveniles who keep wanting to try-out their latest joke, a dog who wants walked, a lot of things to do around the house, a constant source of snacks, ESPN, espn.com, the Wii, a comfy bed, and good music. In fact, that description sounds eerily like WFFH - working from frat-house - and I am indeed about as productive as when I was WFFH (which is to say, just barely productive enough). Yes folks, it’s time to own-up to the truth: WFH is not good for you or your business.
As near as I can tell, WFH has simply replaced the concept of “sick days”, but with a more flexible definition of acceptable use cases. Here is my best, most comprehensive list of the possible meanings of WFH:
Working following Hibernation (I’m tired today, so I’m going to stay home and sleep awhile)
Waiting for Handbags (I ordered some stuff over the Internet, and it’s going to be delivered today)
Wasted from Hangover (I overdid it a bit last night)
Winner! Free Holiday! (I just freakin’ need a day off, so I’m takin’ it)
Waiting from Hell (I just ordered cable service, and the cable guy said he’d be here between 9 and noon, and it’s now 1pm...)
Wind for Hammock (First day of spring weather and it’s beautiful outside).
Wheat Farmer Here (Okay, if you are a farmer, working from home is okay. But be sure to get to that feed store once or twice a week.)
But if lack of productivity isn’t enough to justify stopping WFH, consider this: isolation drives people crazy. Humans are social creatures, meant to interact together in order to grow and thrive. Yes, people in cities sometimes go postal - but the really dangerous people live alone, way out in the country, and are much more prone to building bunkers, stockpiling weapons, and thinking the government is about to invade them. When your only connection to the outside world is network TV, bunkering down seems like a pretty good idea.
Working from home has similar mental hazards. If e-mail and conference calls are your only interaction, you begin to read subtle messages into every email and every conference call comment. What did he mean by that? What did she really mean by that question? Why did he copy my boss? Is he out to get me? Next thing you know, you’re going to be sharpening all of your pencils to a lethal point and stock-piling Slim Jims in your desk drawer. Folks, it’s just not worth it. Get up, get a shower, kiss your spouse and kids, pet the dog - and get your butt to work. Humans just weren’t meant to work from home.