in which i inadvertently discover a downside to working at home

I've always loved working at home. 

I loved it when I first started writing fiction and working as a freelance proofreader in 1985, and I loved it even more when I started writing for magazines in the mid-90s. 

As much as I find great satisfaction in my new career as a librarian, I've always missed the working-at-home lifestyle -- all the comfort, flexibility, and increased productivity, plus the company of my dogs, and the absence of so many annoyances.

Returning to working at home was a huge silver lining of the pandemic for me (and not the only one). 

Towards the end of 2020, my workload sharply increased, and I began working longer and longer hours. Working from home, this was very easy to do. Being a morning person, I simply began work earlier and earlier. It's one thing putting in some extra time for a project deadline, but working an additional three or four hours every day is not healthy. 

I started feeling stressed and anxious about work, waking up at night with work on my mind. My job satisfaction started to decline. I felt like I was chained to my desk. My job as a library manager is part librarian and part administrative, and I enjoy both roles. But increasingly I felt that I wasn't a librarian at all. I felt like a machine churning out work. And I felt this, despite being in touch with all my branches by phone, and seeing other librarians by Zoom, and making decisions about libraries all day, every day.

I spoke to my manager, and we're discussing ways to reduce my workload. I also spoke to my union reps, because I'm not the only staff struggling with an outsized workload.

Coincidentally, two weeks ago, some events at my home branch caused me to go back to working in the branch (possibly temporarily, that is still unknown). To my surprise, I immediately started working less! The physical separation between work and home was all it took. Instead of working in the early morning, I'm getting ready to leave the house. And once I come home in the evening, I don't log in. I leave work at work. 

I also immediately felt better just from being in the library. The library, my happy place! I walk into a library, anywhere on earth, and I feel my heart lift. I feel at home. I feel inspired. That's one of the many reasons I chose this as a new career!

Working at home, I missed customers -- hearing staff help them, jumping in to answer a question or suggest a resource, or just seeing them use their library. In my home branch, we recently fully opened to our pre-pandemic hours (with controlled numbers of customers allowed inside). All week long, we heard, "This library is a lifesaver!," "We're so happy you're here!," "We missed you so much, so glad to be coming inside again!". This gave me a great morale boost. I thought, ah yes, I'm not a machine. I'm a person, providing a service, to people. 

It took almost nine months, but I finally experienced a downside of working at home.


North Van's Grumps said...

Now I remember why I thought you were a knitter. You're a Librarian = Books, knitting books for children.

Stephanie said...

Glad it feels so good but others are having problems:

The conversation: https://theconversation.com/ca/topics/work-401

laura k said...

I have no doubt others are having problems. This was simply a statement about myself.

Dan said...

My experience working from home has, in many ways, mirrored yours. It was a welcome change at the start, but increasingly I feel that rather than working from home I'm living at work.

laura k said...

Dan, thanks for this. Perhaps it's more common than I realize.

You might have to try different ways of getting more separation. It's not easy. We're all so programmed to work.