Karen Kay: There’s no workplace like home
PUBLISHED: 11:14 22 November 2016 | UPDATED: 11:14 22 November 2016
A complicated commute reminds Karen of how she used to clock up lost days to earn a crust
As I write this, I am sitting in my home office – okay, in the interests of accuracy, it’s more a desk under the stairs in the cottage where I live. It’s 1.30pm on a sunny day in the Chilterns, and since the school run this morning I’ve managed five hours work. I’ll be doing a couple more before going for a run and collecting my daughter from an after-school club. Then, we’ll read together, I’ll prepare her supper while she plays with her Lego. Once she’s settled in bed, I’ll sit at my desk and work again.
Why am I telling you this? I’m certainly not seeking sympathy or envy... in fact, I’m not really sure what people might think on reading this run down of a typical day in my life. I am sharing this because, having had a very different day yesterday, I wanted to highlight the benefits of making choices that help define the way you live your life.
We all only get one shot at this. I decided in my twenties that I didn’t want to become old and look back on a life lived on commuter trains, working in a corporate environment. Yesterday, against all the odds (there was a cable fire on the railway tracks in the morning) I attended a meeting at a FTSE 100 company in the city. It was in a sprawling glass and steel construction, in a grey, soul-less room. As I took my place around the table with 13 others, almost all of whom dressed to blend in with the surroundings, I felt a surge of gratitude. It reinforced every decision I’ve made as to how I want to spend my days.
I know I’m lucky to work from home – or indeed, thanks to modern technology, anywhere I choose. I can look out of my window and see a horse in a field, and autumn sun illuminating a bank of trees in various shades of orange, ochre, gold, bronze and rust. I know not everyone is able to live in such surroundings, and I never take that for granted. I could perhaps have had a bigger property in a less desirable location, but we all prioritise the boxes we want ticked when choosing a home.
I battled against a disrupted rail service yesterday and most of the trains were terminating well before they reached London, involving a convoluted route change and the stress of being late for appointments. It reminded me of when I regularly spent four hours every day on a daily commute - that’s 20 hours a week! If you add that up over a 46-week working year, that equates to a staggering 76 twelve-hour days.
Admittedly, that was before smart phones and tablets arrived, so we have the potential be more productive while travelling now, but it’s not always easy when standing, squashed, in the corner of a carriage, during rush hour. And, when things don’t go to plan, because of signal failures, leaves on the line, the wrong kind of snow, or any other hurdle, then it just adds to the strain of simply getting to work.
As I began to consider what I could do with all that extra time, it rapidly dawned on me that I needed to choose a different existence. In theory, I could work the same number of hours and gain a day and half of my waking life back every week. What’s not to love?
It’s very easy to accept the status quo and get stuck in a rut. I see so many people caught in the drudgery of routine.
So you work for a global business, and their HQ is an hour’s drive away? Can you negotiate two or three days a week working from home? Can you put in four slightly longer days and have a three day weekend? It involves discipline from both parties, but it’s do-able. The idea of corporate flexi-working is empowering more people to take charge of their professional lives.
Life doesn’t operate Monday to Friday, nine to five, any more. We live in a global marketplace, which is open 24/7, and should use that to our advantage. If you’re really stuck in the daily grind and want to get off, there’s loads of ways you can take the reins and run a small business from home. Do something you love, or at least take control of your life, before you look back with regret.
• Karen Kay: It’s time to support our farming neighbours - Tough farmers cry like the rest of us – but what they really need is our backing at farm shops and when we visit supermarkets, says Karen