I’m grateful to a colleague, an expert and a brilliant one, for writing her blog about working online from home. That reading inspires lots of thoughts about some challenges.
As her, firstly my work carried out inside an agency, a women’s association. So, there is the trip to and from the city centre where the agency is located. During the journey, usually, there was time to think about the women I was taking care of or the project I was working on or to chat with colleagues in order to refresh our memory. As a person, I have two well-defined roles: one as a counsellor and one as mum, wife, housekeeper (!). Like most of us women!
The physical distance between the agency and my home helped to shift my thinking from one role to the other and therefore enabled boundaries to be reinforced.
When I started working from home, there was no longer a journey to and from the agency, but instead a change of space in the house. My studio is in a different part of the building hence this helps the movement to the work. The studio consists of my pc, professional books and my husband’s office so we have to divide and share this physical space, but we have two opposite ways of working. I need silence and solitude, he speaks every five minutes on his mobile, usually not at a low volume, (we’re Italian, you know!). We had to explore and learn a new way of living in this shared space. I now inform him about my interviews and he was so kind to change his way of working at home, sometimes forgetting my appointments! That has been the first important challenge learning a new way to share a space, as the same in a meeting with a client.
Reflecting on the shift between personal and professional. I wondered if it was really possible to accomplish this by just going down the stairs even if a concrete wall exists between the two, surely there is no one as so defined in my mind.
Another helpful way for me to draw boundaries between work and home is to change clothes. Like playing a role when I wear different ones, my “working clothes” represent my professional life and soul. Then, when I wear my “home clothes”, which are more casual and comfortable, it’s like I was dressing another part of my personality.
Usually, when I wear my “home clothes”, I clean, I take care of my cats and my garden, I cook, and I am as well a partner. Doing these activities helps me to concentrate on being in the moment and therefore maintaining distance from thoughts about my clients. It helped in different occasions, but sometimes it confuses me to understand who am I. The woman that welcome clients and take them upstairs to the studio, or the women who clean, wearing the worst clothes she has?
Outside the home, I wear another kind of clothes, and I do other activities, which represent other pieces of my own personality jigsaw.
Another challenge is going outside for work represents a clear role image, but as the mentioned colleague’s said, working at home forces us to change our way and boundaries. So to be able to see me in two different roles was the second challenge.
Whilst I am not currently working online (something I aim to change) my experience attending the online training has been so educational; it enabled me to experience how working from home could be.
During that course the first days were filled with worry, however, enthusiasm and curiosity conquered all days, so I checked my mobile almost every five minutes, in order to watch if there were new emails from colleagues, tutors, or some replies to posts in the forum … However, things became more intense playing a role in the role-play.
During this time I found that ensuring the work boundaries also enabled me to ensure my personal ones and vice versa. Also my home clothes, or to the other role I play in the daily life: housewife!
After a therapeutic mail was written, it should decant inside the mail-box, or after doing some online work, I felt the need to dedicate the time to doing something that involves a real life. What does it mean?
It means to close the studio door, and to change
into daily life clothes changed my
perspective almost like a modification of my point of view. Since family needed
to be run I should tidy the house, cooking, ironing, or gardening, visit my
mother at her residence, take time for friends, for sports. Doing all that work
at home, was as if it re-arranged my life, giving clearer roots to my mind, and
consequently, to the work, I was doing. Like a tree well entrenched in its
The necessity to parcel time out, in order to do everything shaped my way of living and reinstated the boundaries of each role played. It always runs due to reality, in the beginning, if I was boiling potatoes and I had run to the computer at the same time, of course, I will forget about the potatoes. A bad smell alerted me just as I had an insight about my role-play client, I had to go downstairs to cook…
It took time before the new life balance, including the online life, was set up. I have always lived not in a fine way my role as housekeeper, because of the negative meanings it has in our culture. On the opposite side, the care of the house is important and it has almost a substantial relevance to women. From that course, from which I learned so much, I attribute a different meaning to the care of the home or to family, if we had one. It means to me that these simple and hindered engagements keep us to our concrete nature. It has been as if my life acquired a new and deeper sense of nourishment. A doubt: do I think that expressed above just because I am Italian? What do you think?