Why You Shouldn’t Work From Home

I tried to work from home on a Tuesday one week after my wife returned to work from maternity.  I set myself up to work on a sermon, to connect regarding a building project, to reply to multiple emails, and to have a conference call.  I was only to be home until early afternoon.  One of the grandmothers was to come. 

It was my personal disaster.  I got little finished.  I felt frustrated by unmet expectations and a growing ignorance for what life would really be like with a newborn.

By the time maternal grandmother knocked on the door, I really only accomplished the call and replying to emails–all between screaming sessions provided by my strong-lunged son.  I left home, rushed in head to get to the office or to the LBP or to any other place where I could do non-domestic things.  I was at work for the next six hours, partly getting things done and partly regaining something left in the open-mouthed screams of my kid.

Equilibrium.  I learned about that word in seminary.  Every person, every family, every couple develops an equilibrium and tries to stick at it.  Equilibrium has to do with being consistent despite change.  We maintain ourselves and our relationships even though things change around us and in us.  We maintain equilibrium, the result of something inside us.

Balance is the vehicle that maintains equilibrium.  If you are centered, you got there through balance.  If you’re off, well, you get it.

Upon first thought, I’d say that balance is a dance I’m good at.  But I often confuse balance with the ability to do multiple things at once.  That’s not balance.  Balance sits in the background, or it rests underneath our busy legs and hands.  Balance is at the center, sticking around with its cousin equilibrium.  Balance is the unmoving anchor inside us.  It enables you to keep your wits.  Being balanced keeps your emotions from overtaking you or your intellect from ushering your heart out of the house. 

I think one of the essential tools to using balance to maintain equilibrium is concentration.  The ability to keep paying attention to the same thing.  The skill of giving yourself to something despite the other somethings around you.  When you can concentrate or focus on something, you can acheive equilibrium.  Balance is easier.  But the opposite is true when you can’t concentrate.  You grasp at things you can’t catch.  You feel split.  You see things as disconnected rather than connected. 

This is why I can’t work from home.  And if you can’t maintain focus, if you can’t concentrate while being at home, you shouldn’t work from home either.  You should work where you can thrive.  You should work in a space where what you need for the work you do is present.  If you need silence, working on a busy city street corner leads to unproductivity.  If you require people, don’t go to the unpopulated trees of the Dan Ryan woods.  If you need visual stimuli, why go to a dark room?  If you need less activity on the eyes, why toil in an art gallery?

Questions for you: Describe your work space, what is it like?  What keeps you balanced?

4 Comments

  1. I am single, no child(ren) and I HAVE TO WORK from home. So my dynamics are quite different. I maintain a TO DO list. Each day I try to complete the “work” things on it. When I take to the stairs to my office I maintain a schedule. Break times are designated and controlled. I don’t run downstairs at break time and throw a load of clothes in the washer/dryer. Lunch breaks the same. Most times for lunch I try to get out of the house, run and errand. I do not take my lunch plate to my office and continue to work while eating. What I hate most about my working conditions is that I am in an EST zone and most of the people I work with are in CST. They telephone after my 5p, my official quitting time, and wonder why I say, my office is closed and I’ll get on it tomorrow. Of course there are exceptions but I have had to develop a discipline to save myself. Oh! And I don’t work in my office in pjs!

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  2. Michael, I hear you about working from home while sharing the space with an infant! I hope to get a few things done later today (I just finished a night feeding in case you’re wondering why this odd hour.) I wanted to say that I have heard the word “balance” throughout my 3 years at seminary thus far. It consistently pops up in my Christian circles. Despite being fairly balanced myself, something has always bothered me about that word. When I heard the word “harmony,” I realized what it was – balance is principally static whereas harmony is primarily dynamic. I have favored and used “harmony” ever since. Now you throw “equilibrium” at me. Your writing sounds like a mix of both the static and dynamic characteristics. Do you see a priority or are they equal parts in equilibrium?

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  3. Andrew, I don’t know that I see a priority between balance and harmony as much as I see them both as essential. As you’ve put it, I think harmony would be more adaptable and dynamic and balance more structural and static. But the presence of one would feed the other, or one’s absence seems to take away from the other. For what it’s worth, all these concepts are similar. Equilibrium comes out of systems theory. Harmony would come from a much more Eastern way of seeing. Christian concepts like unity and integrity are cousins to the aforementioned. You tell me what you think.

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