Comedian Philip Simon considers the funny side of working from home. But like all the best comedy there’s some fundamental truths in there.
When I started as an actor and comedian I would work between jobs as an office temp. The jobs were tedious, though that never really bothered me since it wasn’t really my life. I was just in each post for a few days or weeks while I waited for Spielberg to call. (Spoiler alert: Still waiting, Steven!)
Some jobs were bearable, and many of the colleagues were lovely (a few remain good friends to this day). But in all cases the office environments were boring, creativity-free spaces.
I’ve got friends who work for much cooler companies. You know the ones, complete with “break-out spaces” where they can play table tennis to help them think, where pets are welcome, and it’s not clear from the seating plan or dress code who’s the boss and who’s the temp.
Recently I performed a stand up gig in an office just like this whilst everyone stood around drinking beer (something that also doesn’t happen in boring offices). It got me thinking about my latest work environment.
Comedy’s been going well enough that it’s been years since I had to temp. But making a living without an agent handling my admin means there’s a lot of work to do alongside all the joke writing. It’s as if we’re never going to find out why that chicken crossed the road.
So, where’s the best place to be creative and productive?
Well, often I’m in a coffee shop (provided there’s free wifi and enough privacy that I can smuggle in my own snacks) or I’m sat at my desk in my home-office. But it’s not just my office. It’s also our spare room with a sofa that opens into a double bed; a snug/den with a television that can be watched from said sofa; and a dumping ground for all our miscellaneous crap.
The great part about working from home is that I’m at work…but I’m really not at work.
I’m not sat in an office waiting for Carol from Accounts to sign off on my latest piece of work, or desperately trying to work out who Howard is, and why I’m paying £5 to wish her happy birthday. I’m not dressed in uncomfortable, impractical clothes, only designed to impress colleagues with our fashion choices…whatever, I’m in my pyjamas. It’s 4pm and I’m in my pyjamas. No, YOU grow up!
I’ve not had to battle with traffic or public transport on the daily commute. Nor have I had to drink my coffee in constant fear that my mug is reserved for someone who’s been retired for years but still likes to pop in for a natter. And I’ve not had to give another photocopier tutorial to a boss who can’t even pronounce “specific”!
Sounds pretty sweet, no? And it can be, but how about when my young children are off nursery/school? They can see daddy. They can hear daddy. They just can’t interact with daddy.
I’ve heard of people who lock themselves away from 9-5, refusing to come out for anything. Daddy’s working, and just because his work isn’t in a swanky office complex that doesn’t mean it’s any less important.
But I can’t do that. I’m not always happy about being called on (especially if it’s for something as hideous as a dirty nappy) but one of the luxuries of working from home is not being restricted by office hours. If I don’t finish that joke I’m crafting I’ll do it this evening once the kids are in bed. These things take time anyway. I mean, there’s got to be a reason the chicken couldn’t find what it was looking for on this side of the road.
There are, of course plenty of unavoidable distractions. A pile of laundry, tonight’s dinner, last night’s episode of Death in Paradise.
Sometimes it’s the doorbell that stops you working out what the chicken was thinking. Perhaps an Amazon delivery, a Jehovah’s Witness or just some chancer wanting to scare you into thinking your gutters are literally minutes from collapse if you don’t let them just pop up and take a look. In all cases their expression skews when they see I’m still in my pyjamas. I just tell them I work nights; it’s not my fault if they interpret that as something more noble than being a comedian.
My other main distraction is the view of the street from my desk.
It’s quite a busy road, with lots of passing traffic and plenty of activity outside two local schools. How will I ever solve this riddle of the chicken if I can’t even see it cross the road because you’re parked over my driveWAY?!? Sorry. I’m fine.
Sadly, working from home also means no office banter, disappointing Secret Santa and no sign of HR – although to be fair they aren’t needed, it’s years since I was touched inappropriately in the work space.
I enjoy going to meetings or writing with other comedians.
But I’ve never been happier, or more productive, since I started working from home. And that’s saying something when you realise I have a break-out space complete with my own duvet!