Chelsea Handler, one of the best comics and women in the game, and all around person I want to hang out with, dished out some advice on Fast Company to a women who works from home. Keisha, a freelance graphic designer who works remotely told Chelsea about some of the struggles she experiences with her lifestyle. Her main one? That her husband doesn’t support her and value her work.
This one is hard but Chelsea pretty much nails it in her own humorous way. There are a lot of nuggets in this under 2:00 minute video (which you should totally watch because, Chelsea Handler) from spatial boundaries, cleanliness, and overall value and self-worth. But there’s one that I find most important, and unfortunately a little disturbing; it also seems unavoidable to those of us who work from home: What to do when others don’t take your work from home job seriously.
Keisha struggles with her work setup because her husband doesn’t take her work seriously because she works from home. She mentions that they make nearly equal salaries but shares that he doesn’t respect her dedicated WFH space and her work.
Chelsea gives some very valid wisdom of, “You can’t look for your appreciation to come from other people.” Which is true. Your appreciation and self-worth need to come from within, but I will say that I struggle with this want for validation (and lack of it) at times.
How many of us teleworkers tell family, friends, or new acquaintances that we work remotely and receive a borderline sarcastic, “Oh that must be nice” accompanied with a smirk or even an eye roll. What is it about working from home that makes everyone who doesn’t do it all the time assume that we’re doing nothing all day? And, since Chelsea is right– self-worth comes from within, why does this bother us (or just me)??
I’ve thought a bit about where this comes from. Along with telecommuting being relatively new and people not always being able to imagine something different from their own experience, I believe it also derives from the fact that for those who work from home intermittently it can be (not always!) a bit of a relaxed day. Again, this isn’t true for everyone but at least early on in my career when employees worked from home it was often code for running errands or doing projects around the house while checking their email and if nothing came up they wouldn’t be expelling all that much energy into their workday.
But when you work from home full-time or even a sizable chunk of your work-life, this doesn’t fly. If you slack off while working from home one day you don’t have a day in the office to make up for it; all your days are at home so you have to be working.
Those of us who work remotely a lot understand that we’re working to our full capacity (oftentimes more effectively and sometimes keeping longer hours than when in an office) but it still can be frustrating to meet someone new and have them assume you sit around watching reruns of Downton Abbey all day, or like Keisha have your spouse not value you and your work.
So how do you get past this?
If you’re a remote worker you have to keep in mind that at the end of the day Chelsea’s right; if someone else doesn’t think you’re actually working, who cares? So long as you, your manager, and your direct sphere of colleagues know that’s what matters. Keep getting it done–at home!–and let people think what they want!
That said, not having spousal support (or support of close friends and family) can be challenging. If you struggle like Keisha what I’ve found to be helpful is to explain a bit about how I structure my day and my time for these people. By sharing that I tend to spend hours a day on calls–just like them–I try t carve out time during the afternoon if possible to write strategy and plans–just like them–and have regular check-ins with my manager and team–just like them–it helps a bit.
If you’re a significant other, friend, or family member of someone who works remotely take them seriously. End of story. This is their job, their livelihood, where and how they spend a significant portion of their life. They don’t think twice (hopefully) about how you manage your work day so don’t think twice about theirs. Oh, and don’t touch the desk.
Have you experienced family and friends not valuing your work because it’s done from home? How have you coped? Share in the comments below!