Blogger and writer Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan loves to work out of her home and tells us just why going to office is such a passe.
Are you still going to an actual office? How 2010 of you. There have been several instances in the last four years where I've had to defend my way of life. I suppose to the outside eye, and even the outside eye that knows me very well, it appears as though I'm a Lady of Leisure.
Long days of doing nothing except stare at my laptop; days when I take off and go do something, just because I need to leave the house. But all that's changing. Now, fewer people "go to work", telecommuting is the new thing -- I even have a friend who has contrived to work from home at least four days a week by coming up with creative excuses for her boss.
Let's face it. It's not very fun working in an office. And how much work do you actually get done? Minus your hour- or two-hour-long commute, depending on where you are, minus the email-checking and the catching up with colleagues and the long time-wasting meetings and the cigarette breaks and lunch -- and then putting in face time by working late, even though you're spending half that time checking Facebook -- you're not doing very much.
Take then, the many people I know who work from home.
The commute is eliminated, leaving you with that much more time; there's only so much e-mail you get when you don't have colleagues or inter-office memos; and, in a strange way, you probably have more of a work ethic than people with full-time jobs, because you're trying to prove to yourself and the outside world that you can be disciplined about this -- even if it does feel like joyous decadence, working in your pajamas.
Every day is a weekend, but on the flipside, every day is also a weekday. You don't even have to be broke or struggling. A blog I read recently had a post by a freelance journalist in India, who claimed to be making six figures a month, even with a newborn. She offered up some tips ("Stick to your rates!" "Solicit foreign publications!") but, in the end, all she said boiled down to good, old-fashioned networking.
An even more convincing point in my favour: Over the past few years, more and more people I know are choosing this lifestyle. In Delhi, it used to be "spit and you hit a writer". Now, it's "spit and you hit someone who works from home."
Photographers crop up, everyone with a DSLR offering their services to magazines, and writers abound -- but, besides these rather bohemian occupations, there are also businesspeople, designers, web developers, even your odd person in finance, kitted up with Skype and superfast internet so that they can do most of their conferencing from home.
Some of them work at coffee shops or little cafes (Delhi's Hauz Khas Village has a plethora of these geared towards the No Desk Job person) and while you regard them with the superior air pioneers always have towards later adopters, somewhere the weirdness of what you do fades once everyone else is doing it.
Of course, if you're choosing to rent a separate office from your home, or going out to work, you're doing it wrong -- because you're creating a commute, when one of the best things about our lifestyle is that you don't have to move if you don't feel like it. But to each their own.
There are some distinct disadvantages, however. When everyone you know is a "freelance writer" (and I include the quote marks, because until writing is actually your main form of income, you can't technically be called a freelance writer), then all the newspapers have the same bylines. The magazines are full up. The bookstores bulge with new releases, all by friends or friends of friends.
And so, in this saturated market, competition is stiff, leaving us smug early adopters scrambling around to make our living, just because what we do is now trendy. This is a good thing, because it keeps you on your toes; but also a bad thing, because what, then, was the point of our early days of struggle, if someone could just swoop in and take your contacts from under your nose?
Editors have so many people to choose from that I imagine them all at their desks, spinning a little wheel and then just calling whatever writer the arrow falls on.
Working from home, or "working" from home, or working from "home", whichever way you look at it, isn't going anywhere. There's a paucity of desk space, more contract stuff you have to give full-time employees like insurance and PF and what not, all of which make hiring independent consultants a much better idea for organisations.
One can only hope that this bubble won't burst -- or not too quickly anyway -- so we can all enjoy the life we're meant to have.
Reddy Madhavan is the author of 'You Are Here'. She lives, and works, in South Delhi