7 years ago, I became a “remote employee”. Back in the beginning, I was like a unicorn; rumored to exist, but others weren’t convinced it was real. We “home basers” have come a long way since then, but perceptions haven’t evolved as quickly. Some friends think I spend my day watching television and snacking. Some envision it as identical to an office structure: at a desk by 8:00 a.m., break for a 30 minute lunch at noon, and close up my computer at 4:30. My kids think I never get out of my pajamas …which is the most accurate of all the assumptions.
I won’t lie; it’s a pretty sweet gig….but it has it’s downsides. While my coworkers in the office are chatting about their weekend over lunch at Chili’s, I’m more likely eating random things from Glad leftover containers while prepping dinner. Sometimes it’s stiflingly lonely, and it takes focus to keep our team connected and bonded when we’re scattered across the country. Oh, who am I kidding? I get to skip traffic, makeup, and ironing (or wearing) pants. It’s frickin’ awesome!
While every day is different, I’ve tracked a recent day that is pretty representative. Here’s a look at my pj clad, slipper wearing, unwashed hair, they-really-pay-me-for-this day.
5:00 a.m. – I’m awake. From bed, I grab my phone and check email. Check Facebook. Check Twitter. Check NPR. It’s my turn on Words with Friends, and my brother is kicking my ass. Jump into my slippers and take the dogs outside for their morning evacuations.
5:30 a.m. – I get my Kanban board set up. If you don’t know what that is, you can learn about it here. Don’t let all the fancy stuff fool you: mine is created with 3M sticky notes and a dry erase board. The reality of the tasks give me anxiety, so I pick 2 of the easiest things to do quickly and get them off my plate.
Read email and replace the 2 tasks I’ve just completed with 4 more. Friggin’ hell.
6:00 a.m. – I play with the dogs, because they’ve been annoying me for some attention since we came in at 5:30.
6:12 a.m. – Drink from last night’s cup of ….diet Pepsi? Tastes like flat, warm diet Pepsi. Drink it anyway. Refill with fresh diet Pepsi. Empty dishwasher. Remember new tasks on Kanban board and go back to work.
6:20 a.m. – Get to work on the non-urgent emails from overnight. Since I work for a global entity, communications come in all the time. The goal is to clear those out before my “real day” starts at 7:30.
7:00 a.m. – Make sure the Mister is up and put some coffee on.
7:05 a.m. –Notice the first coworkers starting to pop up on Skype. Why do we pretend that we start work at 8:30? If we haven’t heard from someone by 7:30, we’re calling out the National Guard.
7:15 a.m. – Chat with the Mister, shove him out the door with leftovers for lunch.
7:30 a.m. – The Morning Blur: Skype, phone conferences, emails, internet research, daily industry news summaries, book airfare for upcoming trip, confirm meetings.
10:12 a.m. – Refill Pepsi, bathroom break, take dogs out, feed the cat, evaluate options for dinner and take something out of the freezer. I’m exhausted, and it’s not even 10:30 in the morning.
10:22 a.m. – Daughter calls. “Hi, what are you up to?” “Making pizza.” “Oh, you’re not working?” Silence. “OK, sorry, just wanted to ask you something real quick….”
10:30 a.m. – The Morning Blur, Part Deux: this part of the morning almost always involves heavy phone calls. This is when the dogs have their daily barking bonanza. Sometimes it’s over a squirrel. Or the UPS guy. Or a leaf blowing across the yard. Hit mute on my phone and head to the spare bedroom for noise control. Forget I’m on mute and just think everyone is talking over me.
Realize I didn’t finish upcoming trip preparations, make car reservations. Realize I booked the car at a different airport than the one I’m arriving in. Cancel existing reservation and start over. Question how I’ve survived this long.
12:22 p.m. – HOW IS IT AFTERNOON ALREADY? Take a shower. Debate return to pajamas or upgrade to sweat pants. Refill diet Pepsi, and chastise myself for diet soda addiction. Hunt for food. Settle for cheese and nuts, unless there are really good leftovers that I didn’t send to work with the Mister. Go feed chickens and collect eggs. Get mail.
If you’re picturing a woman in purple leopard print flannel nightwear, hair piled up in a ponytail, sometimes with a coat on over the pajamas, hauling around a chicken feeder, you’d be accurate. Just add my chicken waders to the visual, and you’ve got it. My neighbors love me.
I inevitably get a phone call while I’m doing chicken chores Usually it’s something critical and detailed, and it’s from an angry customer. Try to memorize the details while replacing fowl food. Rooster starts crowing because I haven’t given them treats yet. “Is that a chicken I hear? Why do you have a chicken at work?” This does not soothe the situation. Ever.
12:50 p.m. – Start on a project that requires concentration, for which I’ve blocked 2 hours and set my Skype to Do Not Disturb
12:52 p.m. – Get a phone call about a sick grandchild, and go pick them up from school. Make phone calls while in the car. Hands-free, of course.
2:00 p.m. – Return home, take dogs out, refill diet Pepsi, get sick kid situated on couch with blankets and remote control. Realize I’m still starving, and hunt for more food. Bacon!
2:20 p.m. – The Afternoon Blur: Skype, phone conferences, return phone calls. Realize one of the conferences is video enabled, and curse myself for the Cardinals t-shirt and crazy, untamed Phyllis Diller hair. Thank God I got the call about the sick kid, or it’d be the purple leopard print with the untamed Phyllis Diller hair. Always look on the bright side.
2:32 p.m. – Son calls. “Hey, are you busy?” This is always better than “Whatcha doin’?”.
2:48 p.m. – Daughter calls. “Go check Facebook. You’re going to DIE!”
3:15 p.m. – Realize I didn’t book a hotel for upcoming trip. Back to travel planning mode.
4:40 p.m. – Parent of sick child arrives for pick up. Take dogs out. Throw in a load of laundry. Get dinner prepped and in the oven. Feel guilty for making dinner during work hours.
5:00 p.m. – Re-evaluate Kanban board. Commit to finishing 2 items before calling it a day.
5:05 p.m. – The Mister comes home, and I apologetically explain I’ve just got 2 more things to do.
5:50 p.m. – Boss calls from car on his way home to catch up on some topics we were supposed to talk about but didn’t get to. (He has a 75 minute drive, so this could take 5 minutes or 60.)
6:30 p.m. – Dinner; dishes; dogs; tv; normal evening. My mother in law calls and asks what I did today. I say “nothing, really”.
9:00 p.m. – Check email. Prime time in Asia, and the Inbox is filling up.
At some point – go to bed.
1:15 a.m. – Wake up; bathroom, check email.
3:22 a.m. – Wake up, check email. Find response from annoying string that’s been going on all day; type out snarky reply on phone. Click send.
3:23 a.m. – Realize it was much too snarky, and that I’ve just blown my chance to go back to sleep.
5:00 a.m. – Here we go again.
It has its ups and downs, but I’ll take my chicken feeding, dish washing, makeup free days over the traditional corporate schedule any day.