I am self-employed and I work out of a home office. I’ve been working this way, full-time, for more than 18 years. This arrangement has facilitated a good deal of control over what I do and how and when I do it.
The biggest benefit is time. I make my own. Of course, I only get paid for the work I do; and I do have meetings and deadlines and work trips and all that. But there is nobody counting the hours when I’m at my desk, or monitoring my lunch breaks. I love that.
I can start my workdays at 6:30 or 10:00; I can end them at 3:30 or 9:00. I can use my study breaks to pop a loaf of bread in the oven, or to pick a few grapes or pull a few weeds in the garden. If I’m having a slow day I can sneak out to a noon yoga class (assuming I’m not recovering from rotator cuff surgery). Actually: I don’t even need to sneak! It's nobody's business but my own. That's the whole point of self-employment.
Many days, I don’t even need to dress like an adult. I can work at home in my fuzzy bunny slippers. If one pair of jeans is feeling particularly cozy I can wear them every single day. And if I’m visiting multiple clients in the course of a week, I can wear the same outfit multiple times. I don’t even have to change my accessories! Because who’s to know?
Note to any clients who happen to be reading this: I don’t behave this way when I come to your office, of course. When I come to your office I only wear freshly-laundered outfits that I have selected just for you, most likely to match the colors of your latest corporate identity package.
I thought I was working this whole self-determination groove this Monday, when I skidded to my desk a scant half-hour before a Web conference at which I was scheduled to make a presentation. I was coming home from a weekend in the Berkshires which I had stretched into Monday morning. I was prepared for this presentation, mind you -- I finished the Powerpoint last week and sent materials around in advance to all of the participants.
Since I am the presenter, I know my screen will be visible and I have to shut down extraneous windows, so that the highly professional and potentially confidential items on my screen are not visible to external parties. So I do.
But when I log into the web conference, I discover that it is not only my computer that will be visible to the other participants. It is my actual self.
I have not counted on this, fresh from a weekend in the country. I’m wearing an old tee shirt, no makeup, no lipstick; and I’m not sure which direction my hair is pointing.
But there I am! First order of business: take off the silly reading glasses.
Here's the thing: I love my silly reading glasses! Here's the other thing: they actually help me to see. Other things being equal, I would rather not be visually impaired while doing this web presentation. But I am already on camera, so I can't really take off to troll around the house looking for glasses with more gravitas.
And the second thing: I work on a treadmill desk. Yeah, I know. But let me tell you: it is a great solution to 1) a lifelong back problem, and 2) my general inability to stay still. But I can't really walk on my treadmill desk during a video conference. Because I kind of bounce.
No bouncing during the video presentation! I turn off the treadmill and stand...still. Still is my very least favorite state. But I'm trying.
And I am watching the other participants in their little windows. They are looking....not fascinated. As the call goes on, one by one they turn off their cameras, presumably to preserve some modicum of privacy. What are they doing? What would I be doing if I were not a presenter on this call?
Eating lunch, perhaps. Checking my email. Seeing if those sandals I've been eyeing on Zappos are on sale yet.
Note to clients: These are not things I actually DO on conference calls! Not me. I am just imagining, as writers do, what other people might do in the entirely hypothetical event of a conference call that is less than wholly engaging.
But I am a presenter in this case, and I must appear to be wholly engaged (all while watching a little video window of myself appearing to be wholly engaged, which is a post-modern experience if ever there was one). A level of self-awareness is called for here. No yawning, for sure. I must avoid absent-minded nose-picking. Unseemly scratching of any sort is right out.
I can hydrate, though. It is socially acceptable to sip a discreet beverage during meetings.
Note to clients: Drinking alcoholic beverages on the job is something I would never, ever do! Certainly not while I'm working on your project!
Unless, of course, you're buying.