Working at home more distraction than work

By Helena Rodriguez

This is a column about telecommuting. You know … working at home.

It’s an art that involves conning your boss into thinking you can be productive in the comfort of your own living room or kitchen table.

Many ethical questions arise when it comes to working at home. For example, is it necessary to dress up in a suit and tie or hose and heels?

Are a house robe and SpongeBob Squarepants slippers acceptable work attire?

Is clothing even necessary? Who’s going to know, unless your boss drops in? That’s unlikely to happen, though, especially if you send your boss occasional e-mails throughout the day so he or she doesn’t think you’re sitting on your couch watching Dr. Phil.

Word of advice: It’s best to send these e-mails before Dr. Phil begins.

Dilbert poses some good questions about telecommuting. You can learn a lot about work from a cartoon character.

On ethics, Dilbert asks, “Do I owe my employer eight productive hours? Or do I only need to match the two productive hours I would have in the office?”

Good point! Offices can pose lots of distractions, like standing around the water cooler and catching up on the latest gossip. Of course you can do that at home too, assuming your water cooler talks.

After a few weeks of working at home, you just may start talking to your water cooler.

Dilbert brings up another good point. Factor in the time you save not driving to work. Around here, that could count for a whole 15 minutes, enough time to reward yourself with an extra coffee or smoking break.

I’m not one of those people who can do a good job working at home.

Maybe on occasion, but not on a daily basis. There are too many distractions, which I will point out in a minute.

First, I must say something about those annoying get-rich working-at-home commercials.

If it were that easy, everybody would be doing it. I’ve never called the toll free number, but there has to be a catch. You probably have to front some of your own money. I mean, what are these people doing to make so much money at home doing only half a day’s work, as they claim. Pushing drugs?

You see the guy in his sports wear getting into his expensive sports car, talking about how great working at home is, but you don’t see him actually working.

Then there’s that annoying lady who says, “With the money I made working at home, I bought a new home!”

My sister Becky has a good work-at-home arrangement with her company, but I think she’s an exception. She works as a property manager for a government contract company in Albuquerque. Because she lives in Garambullo, a small mountain village about an hour from the city that often gets snowed in during the winter, she has an office set up at home.

This works for her since she does most of her work on the computer. She has a laptop and fax machine at home and the company pays part of her cell phone bill.

My experiences working at home have not been as good. It’s not the TV or the fridge that distract me. It’s my entire house. I’ll sit down to work and then notice dust under the kitchen table, and so I get up to sweep.

Then I’ll notice how the fridge needs to be cleaned out and soon I’m doing spring cleaning.

Also, in the past, working at home for me has been more trouble than it’s worth. When I was a reporter in Abilene, Texas, and my daughter would get sick at school, I’d try to work at home. First of all, it was a challenge trying to bribe a laptop away from the sports guys. They made me sign in blood that I would return it before the game the following evening. Then at home, I’d usually have some sort of technical glitch or I’d discover that I left important notes or telephone numbers back at the newspaper.

The biggest distraction was the couch, though. With my daughter medicated and sleeping, it made me want to lie down, too.

Helena Rodriguez is a freelance columnist. She can be reached at: