As A Woman, I’ll Always Choose Working From Office Over Work From Home. Here’s Why.
You know all that you hear about creatives, especially writers, procrastinating a lot? All of it is true. In the span of writing this article, I will have scrolled Instagram a minimum of five times, checked Google for news, shared two memes on Facebook, given someone my opinion on Twitter and replied to emails and messages that were not even that urgent. It’s kind of like a process we have, and ever since coronavirus got us in lockdown and work-from-home mode, it is like that chai-sutta break that most people cannot do without.
I am glad to indulge in any of the above things in the middle of work from home. Even answer phone calls, though, who does those anymore? These are all welcome distractions, a respite from staring at my screen all the time. But if I am required to get up and attend to some household chores in the middle of work, I am likely to throw a hissy fit seven ways to Sunday. Can’t you see I am busy?
Sue me for discrimination, but here’s my truth. If given an option, I’d choose working out of an office over work from home any day. Because at least when I am working in an office, my breaks are my own. As opposed to working from home where my breaks are spent cleaning the house, cooking meals, doing the dishes (SO MANY DISHES!) and running errands.
And that, my friends, is just the tip of the ‘WFH is actually really inconvenient for women’ iceberg. Stay with me as I disillusion you.
Household chores come up at the worst possible time during work from home
When I saw influencers putting up pictures of cutesy work desks with motivational quotes, I wanted to believe in that reality. What I did not anticipate is that with no house-help, I am going to have to clean that photogenic desk myself. Along with the rest of the house.
As someone who has checked every box of the work from home MCQ—from remote full-time working to freelancing—I can assure you that when you’re working from home, your house will throw Bigg Boss level tasks at you at the worst possible time. You can picture the kitchen drumming its fingers on the cooktop like some pensive villain—”Oh she’s on a Zoom call, is it? Maybe this is a good time to remind her that the stove needs to be turned off. Mr. Pressure Cooker, can you blow that whistle, baby?”
Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I want to shirk my responsibilities or live in filth. But with the demanding nature of our jobs, it is easy to lose temper when in the middle of something important, the doorbell rings, the clothes need to be hung out to dry, or dinner prep needs to be done.
Before you were procrastinating tasks at work. Now you procrastinate with everything. If you live alone or with just your spouse, the only thing that this will hurt is your self-respect because you promised yourself you’d do it on time. But if you live with your parents or in-laws, or children, dropping office work to get chores done on time will require some crazy balancing skills that make Ajay Devgn standing on two bikes feel like cakewalk.
Routine? During work from home? What’s that?
Did you hear that noise? That’s the sound of your illusion about following a routine shattering into pieces. You’re lucky if you’re able to draw up one that gives you enough time for all work and some me-time. But me? I still haven’t been able to find that sweet spot. In fact, I find that working from the office sets up a routine which lets you plan for more time to do things you want than the unpredictability of work from home does.
Even if you’re able to schedule your work from home well, there’s that irresistible array of distractions and options. “Should I shower now or after that breakfast meeting?” “The weather’s so hot, let me cook lunch first then I’ll shower.” “Dang, I have to wash my hair today, it’s going to take forever. I should finish this article first, then I’ll shower in my lunch break.” Next thing you know, it’s 9 pm and you’re lounging on your couch, watching Netflix, dirty dinner plate in hand, and an even dirtier, un-showered body in your PJs.
And that’s just it, right? Your routine totally goes for a toss when working for home. You’re sleeping late, waking up just in the nick of time for work, eating meals late, and even wrapping up work late (as I write this, my mother is cursing me for doing the ‘kapde ka machine’ also late). It’s like you’ve let any semblance schedule go from your life. And all that is left is your existence in a limbo where time does not exist.
Also Read: This Lockdown Means I Have More Appliances Than Ever Before In My House. Are We Moving Towards A More DIY India?
My health—physical and mental— was much better off when I was working in an office
I belong to the generation that spends unhealthy hours working. We are all workaholics because we probably don’t have much choice. The one thing that working out of an office sneakily accorded to us was subconscious ‘Me Time’. Oh and that commute meant you got some exercise too.
I loved watercooler conversations and small talk with my colleagues, the coffee/chai breaks we took, and even the commute to and from work, when I would scroll my social media, talk on the phone or simply listen to music. Why? Because while they all lengthened my work hours a little, it boosted my creativity and it was still time I got to spend with myself doing things I enjoyed. The concept of privacy or me-time is still rather alien in Indian households, which are often cramped for private space.
Now, I love my home and spending time with my family. But I need to detach from lethargy and step into work mode by dressing up and entering an actual office, where everyone else is also working. Unlike, at home, where family members might be taking an afternoon nap right in front of you, or watching TV in the other room.
Similarly, after a hard day’s work, I need to undergo the process of detaching from work mode by leaving the office, going through that commute time, and then entering my home, ready to do chores again. Call this necessary for my mental sanity but it really did help.
Not to mention, sitting on proper desk-and-chairs is any day better than working from the inviting laziness of your bed.
I’d like to blame some of it on gender roles too
Women have always been expected to shoulder more household responsibilities than men. In the workplace too, they feel that they have a lot more to prove in terms of their dedication to work than their male colleagues do. That is why women might shy away from asking for extra time on assignments because making rotis for lunch took longer, or rescheduling a meeting because their child is being extra needy.
Furthermore, there’s always this wrongful assumption that work from home is relaxed. It is easy for family members, perhaps unintentionally, to assume that just because you are on your phone scrolling, you’re not busy. So expecting you to do chores at any time of the day might not be deemed disturbing. I prefer the workplace because it lets me draw a clear line between when a certain task can be expected of me. If I got to an office, nobody will judge me for waiting until the weekend to do some heavy laundry. But if I am working from home, they’d wonder how I am so overworked that I cannot even find 30 minutes to get this chore done between my work!
Unfortunately, similar expectations are rarely had from men, who, if working from office or home, must be very busy and should not be disturbed. It’s why a woman can arrive home from office and immediately enter the kitchen to cook dinner, but a man must be allowed time to sit down, brought a glass of water and given a breather.
So Work From Office > Work From Home
I won’t naïvely deny the pros of working from home, especially for people who need flexible schedules so they can take care of other responsibilities. I personally have tried every version, and at certain time, depending on my priorities, work from home has been immensely helpful.
But if, in this post-COVID-19 world, it does get safer to venture out for work, I’ll be happily choosing working out of an office, surrounded by chatty colleagues and the taxing Mumbai commute over the spoiling comforts and doubled responsibilities of work from home.