An account of the challenges that a woman working from home faces, from an unpredictable internet connection to your dog wanting to pee immediately.
Work-from-home is a very new concept in India. Except for a handful of executives in large multi-national companies – the concept is largely unknown to people.
In the last 2 years that I have been a woman working from home, I have witnessed the strangest of reactions from people when I tell them that I work, but from my home. From the very expected “How do you work from home?” to the strangest “Are you sure you are not staring at the laptop to ignore us?” – I have heard it all!
Trust me, this is a real challenge! People turn into spies and try to gather all evidence to prove that your office is imaginary. I have had people asking me my logging in and logging out time from work, 3 times a week, to ensure I am not pretending to be employed. A bizarre relative, a guest at my house, even kept constantly peeping into my laptop to check whether I was watching a movie or actually working.
Everyone from relatives to acquaintances expect you to attend every family function or social gathering because they really think you can simply shut down your laptop at any time during the day because no one is monitoring you. I wish I could introduce a few of them to virtual time tracking applications but I find it easier to let them imagine that I have no real work!
You might think that you can simply shut the doors and isolate yourself from the chaos in your house but that doesn’t really happen. While writing a difficult 2000 words article about a new core-banking software yesterday, I was interrupted 4 times:
My dog had an immediate urge to pee.
My house help needed a new packet of dish cleaning solution.
The garbage truck kept honking at my door, till I stepped out and handed them the garbage bag.
A few ladies from an NGO came to collect some donations.
After each interruption, it took me 15 minutes to gather the thought process again and start writing. To avoid these interruptions, I now preferably write at odd hours when people around me are sleeping.
The broadband connection at my home has this strange habit of acting up when I really want it to work smoothly. I was once making a presentation to around 100 people over Skype when my internet decided to not work! It took me only 30 seconds to switch to an alternate internet connection but I had lost my flow of thought by then. In fact, throughout rest of the presentation, I had this constant fear that the internet might get disconnected again.
When you start working in your pyjamas and tee, and are not worried about reaching your house on time – you always end up working extra hours. If you work in office for an average of 7 hours – you easily stretch it up to 9 hours when you are working from home. More often than not, you forget that you need to step out of your room and get some fresh air!
The lighter moments at the cafeteria not only help freshen up your mood but also give you insights into how work is going for others. You discuss work, challenges, life and so many other things which help you stay updated with the world around you. As a woman working from home, you work in perpetual isolation with no one to share the stress at work.
For a single parent with a toddler, a new mother nursing her child, an army wife staying with her husband in the remotest part of the country – the option of being a woman working from home is nothing short of bliss.
Even in metros, people who want to avoid a tiring drive to office every day and prefer working from their own spaces, love the option to work from home. With a little discipline and some sensitization of people around, working from home can become less challenging.
With large organizations around the world now offering jobs designed exclusively as work-from-home, people’s perceptions about work-from-home jobs will also hopefully change in near future.
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