People who work in offices have the wrong idea about what it's like to work at home.
They think it's all idyllic and cozy.
They picture IKEA-esque home offices replete with creativity-enhancing succulents and mahogany desks framing the gentle, relaxed clicks of a typewriter belonging to a man or woman who's currently sipping warm, French-pressed coffee and petting a calendar-worthy cat named Mr. Relaxation.
"You don't have to drive anywhere!" enchanted office types squeal, powdered coffee dribbling down the corners of their cheeks onto their HR agreements. "You can relax!"
Yeah, sure. Just like you can relax in prison.
Working from home is just like being in prison, except without all the sex and free healthcare.
Let me elaborate.
In prison, you understand what you're doing there. You hugged your cousin Timothy to death, and now you live in a 10×10 box. Cause and effect.
Home-workers don't have the luxury of their situation being so logical.
Seated at the kitchen table, with yesteryear's sweatpants plastered to our heavily forested legs, we also live in 10×10 boxes, but we didn't do anything wrong to get there.
In our work cells, we eat shitty food, forget what's happening in the outside world, let our appearances go, feel claustrophobic, suffer the physical repercussions of a sedentary lifestyle and receive very few visitors, just like prisoners. Yet, our only offense was moving away from our office headquarters or starting a new business or having children that demand we haunt our own homes like under-socialized apparitions.
For prisoners, freedom is just beyond a tall fence, but that fence is electric and covered in barbed wire. If they try to traverse it, they'll either cut off their nuts or receive 20 more years on their sentence.
Those are pretty great incentives to stay inside.
For people that work from home, freedom is also just a few steps away, outside the front door. It's always there, taunting us too. But for us, the incentive to stay inside isn't physical; it's psychological. We're imprisoned inside our kitchens and living rooms for the silly fear that we won't finish our work or our bosses will notice a lag in our output. The fact that we know how stupid and insignificant that is is even more crushing, but still, we stay tethered to our interior laptop like Christina Ricci in that Black Snake Moan movie where Samuel L. Jackson chains her to a furnace to teach her a lesson about self-respect.
What I wouldn't do for Samuel L.
It's a physical prison, and a mental one we face because we do have a choice not do to this. No one's making us. But it's a job and we need money. Prison squared.
"Oh, but you don't have to get up early," the office crowd says.
Au contraire, Office Space.
I, like the men and women of our nation's cubicle culture, must also rise at the butt-crack of dawn. I too must flop reluctantly out of bed, still cloaked in the heavy spell of REM, and stumble towards my responsibilities.
The only difference is that, unlike office people, I have no time to awaken. I have no jaunty commute during which I listen to audiobooks or Planet Money while I reflect how much I hate my job and it's holding me back from my my true passion — my funk band. I'm allowed no separation between unconsciousness and consciousness, no time to plan what I'll say or do or fail at. I do not get to wake up at my leisure. If I wanted a job where I could wake up and ready myself for the day in a healthy, adaptive way, I'd work somehwere where I was required to shower; somewhere that allowed me a moment, however brief, to not be working.
Instead, each day, I go from horizontal (bed) to slightly less horizontal (sitting); asleep to working in 60 seconds flat.
This requires all of about 14 leg steps. Scientifically speaking, that's just slightly more than a comatose quadriplegic. In a day, I walk about 900 steps.
I think you're supposed to walk 10,000. Hard to do when you're in prison, or the very similar profession of freelance web developer.
Goodbye posture, goodbye muscles.
Sometimes, to spice up my sitting and give myself a real treat, I stand fully upright in preparation for the 9 steps it takes to get to the restroom.
When I do this, it is the most exercise I get. It is the most exciting part of my day. It's like prison recess, but I'm still inside.
In an office, you walk around.
You go see your supervisor, who needs you to tweak the yadda-yadda. Then you go to lunch with your co-worker down the block. Then you lift some printer paper into the printer. Then you scrawl "Megan wuz here" on the dry-erase board. Then you go to a meeting. All these things require the use of your limbs.
You're moving. You're interacting. You have momentary breaks from work.
Your heart has a beat.
Oh-ho-ho. Not mine.
"Well, why don't you just go for a walk or take a mid-day jog?"
Because I'm lazy. Thank you for bringing that up.
I'm also too busy. There's no gym on the way home from work because work is home. There's no after-work yoga because by the time I'm done working, all the yoga places have sold enough enlightenment for the day and close their holy doors to the paying public. I can't hike, because now it's 8 p.m. and it's dark … unless I want to get decapitated by moonlight on the trail. Which, honestly, sounds better than working from home.
In an office, you can compartmentalize and therefore time-manage your day. You can say, "I'm the office from 9-6," and then I leave and then I do whatever the fuck.
When you work from home, you're never not at the office. What happens after your working hours necessarily takes place at your "office" (aka kitchen), so it's far too easy to get sucked up into the work vortex k-hole death spiral until well after dinner time, at which point, you can finally go home. But you're already home. So getting off work doesn't feel like a release; it feels like a different prison activity.
Now we play cards in our cells.
Now we read in our cells.
On good days, I go to a coffee shop where I have to pay $5 for an Americano. On bad days, I'm too busy to leave my house.
Leaving your house takes time. You have to do normal-person things like bathe or shave or invent an outfit that's not a t-shirt that says "FUCK" in 23 different fonts on it.
None of these things are required when you work from home.
You can really let your unibrow grow.
Your self-worth goes down the drain as you realize the only effort you have to put into yourself to get by is to impress the mailman who now reluctantly rings the bell because he knows you'll come screaming out of your work-nest and ask him "HOW ARE YOU DOING TODAY" way too breathlessly.
He's not impressed that deforested your unibrow or put on pants though.
Because when he comes, I react like I haven't seen another person besides him in 15 years, which is semi-true.
"Where did you grow uuup?" I inquire, eyes bulging.
"Um?" he says, laughing uncomfortably.
Don't tease me! I think to myself. Come out with it! "How's Jason? Wasn't one of your friends called Jason?"
"Can you please just sign this …," he'll beg, handing me a FedEx slip.
"What's the outside world like? See any dogs today? What's your dad like?" I call out after him as he slams my fence door with a hasty exit.
At least in prison, you have a cell mate to talk to. Group cafeteria lunches or some shit. Where you see other people.
Yeah, they're brandishing shivs at you and showing their teeth, but at least — at least! — you made human eye contact.
Oh, and speaking of food.
Working from home, you certainly do have time to prepare yourself some great homemade meals.
… Meals like Honey Nut Cheerio Consomme with 2% Creme, Mom's Comforting Macaroni and Questionably Fresh Marinara a la Microwave, and my personal favorite, the "This Is a Burrito" which is anything flat you have stuffed with anything not expired.
You have no more time to cook for yourself at home than you do when you work at Home Depot. But at least with Home Depot, there's a Chipotle down the street. Where you don't have to pay a $16 delivery fee to the GrubHub delivery girl.
And when my lovely boyfriend comes home from another day at his lovely office where living people have him do things for them, he has stories.
What do I have?
I thought I saw a squirrel, but it was a rat holding a sort of bushy stick. CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT?
The only real benefit I can think of about working from home is that I can't kill anyone with my car on the way into the office. It's extraordinarily hard to to participate in any car accidents when you're confined to the place Wells Fargo sends your credit card statements.
At its disgusting black heart, working from home is the same level of shitiness as working in an office, except you're more isolated and your teeth go un-brushed for the longest periods of time. It's even more similar to doing time, except you can go to your friend's shitty DJ night when you're done with your spreadsheets, which really just makes you want to go right back home … where, oh look, 23 customers emailed you about something urgent.
The claustrophobia is consuming, the sweatpants are soiled, and the sedentary mundanity is strangling.
So for anyone questioning whether working from home is for them, it's not. And if you think it is, you might as well sell 43 pounds of cocaine for mondo cash money and land yourself in prison, because at least there are people to run away from there. Exercise is everything, that's what I always say.
As for me? I'm applying to Arby's because warm sandwich meat is warmer than the cold isolation of online blogging.
I must go now, the mailman is almost here. It's time to trim my dingleberries, put on pantalones and Listerine my oral cavity; my prince shall soon arrive, and I shall suck out every ounce of discomfort from our social interaction and feed on its lifeless corpse until there's nothing but dry bones for me to pick at while I program some people's websites.