Friday, 26 June 2009

Working from home

In my youth, the worst curse was to have to go to work. My father was a composer, my mother an art critic. She was employed at the Academy of Art research center that met for an hour every week or so; there were no offices, and everybody worked where and when they pleased, as long as academic achievements could be displayed. My granny was a music teacher and gave private lessons at home, and my grandfather was a professor of music and spend at least half of his working time at home, practicing and preparing for lectures. Most of my parents' friends were free artists too. I was brought up with the idea that whatever job you get, make sure it doesn't involve going to work.

My first job was at a research center, and we also had a meeting every week and no offices, not even a desk for each of us.

When I came to Sweden and started on my PhD, it was long before a working place and a computer was an undisputable right for a research student. I had small children and was only happy to be at home and dispose of my own time as it suited me best.

Even when I had a three-year postdoc grant from a research council, my department head signed the form containing the item "Working space will be provided" with a sarcastic comment: "You know you can't count on that".

When I started teaching, I shared an office with three other people, and only at the Associate Professor's level (that's Reader in the UK) did I advance to a room of my own. I only used it for supervisions and to store the superfluous books. All creative work was done at home.

Or from home, as I now have learned to say.

The disadvantage of working from home is that you lose the sense of time. Everybody used to say I had a fantastic self-discipline, not wasting time on domestic chores or just hanging around. My problem was the opposite: I worked so much that I neglected home, apparently even neglecting the children and my own health. Hanging around has never been my priority.

As I moved to Cambridge, I started a new life, working in the office and never taking any work home. It has been a very pleasant experience. I almost understand my old PhD students who said they didn't submit chapters in time because their offices were being painted. Are you used to working in the office, it must be hard to work from home.

But I have not completely forgotten the art. I have now worked from home in a couple of days. I don't feel the same guilt if I don't check my email, so I can work on my own stuff uninterrupted. I can do some weeding or cooking when I need a break. I can even take a whole day off and catch up on a Saturday.

I am still my old self.

1 comment:

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