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Are we really ever away from work?

By Debbie Leffler • May 9, 2019 at 12:00 PM

It was last weekend and I realized there was something I should have finished at work during the week. Then I remembered: Now I have access at home to my “H Drive,” where the form I needed to finish my work was located.

Was it a blessing or a curse that I was able to complete my work at home?

Mostly, being able to work at home is a good thing. My niece in Baltimore, who has two young children, does her work from home and only occasionally goes to the office. So does my brother-in-law, who works for an insurance company in Connecticut but lives in Michigan and only travels to Connecticut every six weeks or so.

I send this column from home, and rarely go to the Reflector office. Before technology changed the way we do things, I used to type my column at home and I brought it physically to the Reflector, where a typist would re-type it into the system there.

Working from home saves time. It saves paper.

It allows me, when I work at home, to work in sweat pants and a sweat shirt, rather than having to dress in “work” clothes.

I can often be more productive, choosing the time of day — or night — to do what needs to be done to prepare for school. I can pause for a snack or to stretch my legs or to take a walk outside or check my email.

But is it all good? What happened to the separation between home life and work life?

With technology now, it feels like I am at work all the time — or at least I can be, if I want to be.

In the “good old days” — and I’m not saying they were all good — there was a definite separation. I would work, go home, and not work again until the following day. If I thought of something I didn’t do, it would just have to wait. When I worked at Fanny Farmer, I could take the “seconds” home — chocolates that had slight defects and were sold for a lower price — but once I left the factory, there was no way to take the work home.

Now, I can access everything I need from my home computer. Google docs are everywhere in the “cloud” — not just on physical paper. I can even see my Google docs on my cell phone and on my iPad.

Is there ever a moment I am not able to be “at work”?

It takes an act of will to say: Yes, I could do this now, but I will not do this now. This is my time not to be at work.

Being able to work 24/7 is not all good and not all bad. It is nice to be able to work on something in the comfort of home.

And I have exaggerated the way work and home were separated before technology. Even before I could access my work documents at home, I could still think about them. I could still lie awake at night, or jot things down on paper, while thinking about a work problem I had to solve.

It is important to have time away from work. Working 24/7, or thinking about work 24/7, is not a good thing. It results in tension and, after a point, makes us less productive, not more.

Debbie Leffler is a free-lance writer who lives in Norwalk. She can be reached at [email protected]

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