Last updated: The good, the bad, and the mortifying: What it’s really like to work from home

The good, the bad, and the mortifying: What it’s really like to work from home

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I’m sitting cross-legged on my guest bed as I write this because when I need to sit down and write – which is about 20% of my job – I find it easier when I’m not at my desk. So I unplug my laptop from my external monitor, play movie scores through my headphones, and get comfortable.

When I interviewed for my job over six years ago, it was for a position on a team based in Germany. I was given the option to work from the office in my then-home city of Chicago, but was told on the first interview that I could work from home if and whenever I wanted.

My manager explained, “I want you to have the option to go in and feel connected with the team, but I understand that a noisy office isn’t always conducive to writing and editing. As long as you’re meeting your deadlines and doing good work, it doesn’t matter to me where or when you do it.”

Now, I’ve been working from my home for so long that I can’t picture myself ever going back to a job that requires returning to an office setting.

The same isn’t true for a friend of mine who has worked remotely over the past two years. She recently accepted a new job for many reasons, not the least of which she really missed going into an office. The separation of work and home, the built-in social atmosphere; the structure of routine – she realized she needed those things to be happy at her job.

When I tell people that I (and now my husband!) work from home full-time, I’m often met with wide-eyes and comments like, “Oh I could never do that.”

It seems inconceivable to them that work can get done without becoming distracted by household chores (that’s real), or they worry they’d feel completely disconnected from their teammates (for me, that’s not real. I feel closer to my team now than I have at any other job I’ve had). Mostly, they just can’t fathom what it looks like day to day.

So, what’s it really like to work from home?

We asked our coworkers and friends who work remotely to share their favorite, funniest, and most challenging home-office stories to shed some light on the topic.

Stories from the work-from-home front: When conference calls go wrong

Remember when Robert Kelly (better known as “BBC Dad”) was interrupted by his children while being interviewed as an expert on live TV? The video went viral and Kelly admitted he was concerned he’d be out of a job – but for those of us who work from home, it was almost comforting to see that none of us are safe from conference call nightmares.

When your client wonders if they should call 911:

“A client legitimately asked “is everything okay over there?” when my kids were absolutely acting appropriately (shocker!). From then on I’ve taken to answering work calls on the back porch as at least two out of the three kids plaster themselves to the door screaming “mommmmmmmmyyyy!” for the ENTIRE phone call. I swear the minute I hit “end call” and come inside they could not care less that I even exist.
– Abbey Fay Weispfenning

When the dog is throwing shade about your call:

When everyone gets to see what you look like without makeup – and after:

“My office was in a little nook in the bedroom. While I was on a video conference call, my husband Andy came in and without thinking started changing his clothes right behind me! Another time, I didn’t realize my camera was on and sat there putting on my full makeup during a call.”
– Sarah Schulz

When your coworker is gonna need to fake their own death and start over:

But his momma is Wonder Woman, sooo:

“The very second I clicked “unmute” to do my very first presentation as a global programs lead to the regional leads in my new role, my son stormed in the room fully dressed with a Thor costume and two swords. #truestory”
— Erica Vialardi Meraldi

COULD YOU REPEAT THAT:

When you keep calm and carry on until you can’t because you’re laughing too hard:

“Several years ago we were hosting a call that included participation from colleagues in APJ. Conference call – no video. I believe our poor APJ colleagues were attending despite the fact that it was 11:30 PM their time. 

About 10 minutes into the call, all of a sudden we distinctly heard snoring coming from one of the APJ lines. No problem, I’ll just mute them – nope – mute’s not working. OK, well, I’ll just remove the person entirely from the call – nope – that isn’t working either. 

All normal attempts to mute or remove our sleeping participant failed. So we decided to carry on with the call – giggling – by speaking during the quiet pauses in between each snore. Call lasted for another 10 minutes that way before we just couldn’t take it any more because we were laughing so hard and ended the call.
– Tim Porterfield

…but the dress code is 10/10

Forget makeup, putting on “real clothes” is a total novelty:

🙌🏻 LEGGINGS
🙌🏻 The WFH mullet outfit: business up top, party on the bottom
🙌🏻 Not feeling like I have to put makeup on every day
🙌🏻 The ability to control my own thermostat

— Sacha Peiser

I no longer work a job from home, but when I did, I remember sincerely referring to a pair of black track pants as my “nice going out sweatpants.”
— Megan Kuhlenschmidt

You still have coworkers to consider

And you need to work around them, whether they’re working or not:

“My husband and I both work remotely 90% of the time. It can be challenging when we have calls scheduled simultaneously since one of us will have to move from our primary working space so we aren’t talking over each other. It’s great to have a built-in support system. Instead of just unloading all our work stress on each other in the evening we can sort of de-escalate stressful situations right after they happen so that things don’t just pile up throughout the day.”
— Kelly Carlton

The worst office mates:

“I used to enjoy working from home, though it was always hard to keep myself focused and not worried about house cleaning and cooking. Now, though, 99% of the time I’m WFH, I’m there because my daughter doesn’t have daycare for some reason. And let me tell you.. she’s a terrible office mate.”
— Sara Kelly 

The best office mates:

“Any time I work from home, I have to accept that I will have at least one animal on my lap, one attempting to sit on my laptop, and one draped over my mouse-arm.”
— Andrea Foster

It can be harder to “leave work at work”

Pro: you have the flexibility to work whenever!

Con: you feel compelled to work, WHENEVER.

“It can also be a bit difficult to leave work at ‘work’ since our home space and work space often overlap, but in general our time is more efficiently managed since we don’t waste precious hours commuting or feeling like we need to get dressed (read: shower, hair, makeup) to go into an office.”
— Kelly Carlton

People don’t always get that you are, in fact, working

Yes, I’m sitting on the couch, no that doesn’t mean I’m checked-out:

“[People] will visit while I am working and expect me to drop everything and chat. I have always found it bizarre. I wouldn’t go to their workplace and expect them to entertain me. Yet when you work from home, other people don’t always view it as real work.”
— Margaret White

It’s not for everyone, but for those of us who’ve gotten used to working from home, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

HR, better.
Employees, happier.
Businesses, healthier.
It’s time to modernize the employee experience.

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