Working From Home (Maintenance)

Sometimes, it can be really nice to roll out of bed, yawn your way to your computer, sleepily boot it up, and then get to work because you’re working from home. All your favorite beverages are stocked, you don’t need to worry about when to eat your lunch, and you don’t need to hurry out the door while you keep an eye on the clock so you can avoid the worst traffic without being late for your first meeting of the day.

Other times, you do it because your AC is broken, there’s a leak in the ceiling where there shouldn’t be any water TO leak, and your refrigerator is either dying or somehow got unplugged and the massive thing is too big to move on your own without severely damaging your floors. Then you wind up sweatily eating all the frozen food you had while using bags of ice to cool the stuff you can’t (or won’t) eat quickly in your voluminous camping cooler, all while keeping a nervous eye on the yellowing patch of the ceiling.

To be honest, I still kind of like it, even if the circumstances are currently unpleasant. Working from home is freeing in some ways but restrictive in others, but ultimately I feel like it has a place in a healthy work/life balance. I can focus better in an environment more attuned to my interests and preferred working conditions. At home, everything I need is within easy reach, I have multiple extra display options, and I have really kickass headphones so I can listen to my music in high fidelity.

At the same time, the lack of other people means that asking questions and getting good answers is more difficult. I also don’t have access to the level of hardware that my job requires most of the time, and it means there’s a delay on anything urgent that comes up. Which also means that I rarely get distracted by problems that arise on a day-to-day basis.

During the period of the pandemic when my company alternated between furloughs and forcing everyone to work from home so the manufacturing side of things could safely continue working, I had a lot more gear at home. I took the time to load up my car and ferry equipment around so I could do the best approximation of my standard job as was possible, which meant I was still getting interrupted by problems and same-day needs. Now that we’re expected to be back in the office as much as possible, things are a lot more relaxed when I do work from home and I can usually put off doing something until the next day or the day after without trouble or guilt.

I’m presently going to keep my feelings to myself about the employee culture at my company and the relationship I have with the in-office versus at-home work policies because I’m still employed there and this is a public blog, but I will say that, whatever my gripes about the culture might be, it’s still very accommodating. I could have been told I’m only allowed to work from home in rare circumstances, but that was not the case. I am allowed to use my own discretion, since my boss is a big believer in “whatever hours you want so long as the work gets done” philosophy, so I enjoy the privilege I have even if I have further thoughts on the matter.

As much as a full work-from-home schedule might be nice in terms of homeownership and housekeeping and general comfort, I also know that doing it full-time forever would likely drive away whatever sanity I have left. I’m an introvert, but I could never be a hermit. I need people around. I need noise. I need presence. Living alone during the pandemic, when I couldn’t visit my friends and my only allowed trips were my occasional visits to a friend who also lived alone, was probably the most personally devastating thing I’ve experienced in the last decade. I’m still recovering and the road isn’t always a smooth one. As exhausting as going in to work and talking to the various people who fill my day can be, it is important to me.

So as I work from home, sweating and eyeing another slice of the pizza I had to make for lunch with my customary lactose-intolerant trepidation, I find myself feeling the now-familiar mixture of positive and negative feelings that seems to dominate the last two years of my life. I value being able to work from home in comfort, but it is quiet and lonely in a way that podcasts and music can never fill. I miss my old living situation, but I know I’m better off with my own space. I imagine a future where I live with people again and have friends who can just drop by without the general rigmarole of necessary safety precautions, and I think about how difficult it would be to be properly productive when working from home in a situation from that.

I guess I am just trying to appreciate the good of today without dwelling on the bad. It’s something I’ve been working on a lot, lately, though I could always use more practice. There are good days, there are bad days, but most of them are just days. As someone who has experienced multiple modes of life where the non-bad days in a month can be counted on a single hand, I think that’s worth appreciating right now.

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