When working from home goes wrong: Superstorm Sandy has many people longing to return to the office
NEW YORK — Nearly every office dweller fantasizes about the joys of working from home: Dressing in PJs instead of suits, eating from the fridge and not the vending machine and listening to birds chirp instead of the boss bark.
But Superstorm Sandy has created legions of people who can't wait to get back to the office.
They include parents who have struggled to juggle conference calls while their kids scream in the background. Also families who have fought for days over the use of a single home computer. And even execs who conducted business with the only device they had with reliable Internet access: their smartphone.
About one-third of Americans typically work from home, but massive flooding, power outages, transit shutdowns and school closings that followed Sandy forced at least thousands more from North Carolina to Maine to do so. And many learned that it's not all it's cracked up to be.
Michael Lamp, a media strategist who has been working out of his one-bedroom apartment in the Brooklyn borough because his office in the Manhattan borough is closed, sums it up on his Twitter page: "I'm getting sicker of it with every hour that passes. I might be slowly losing it."
Lamp, who converted his coffee table into a desk, says he longs for face-to-face interaction with his colleagues. And he's finding it particularly difficult to share workspace with his live-in partner.
"I love him very much, but I would rather not see him 24 hours a day," says the 28-year-old, who proudly admits that he can't wait to greet his manager in the office. "I'm going to run to my bosses' office and tell her I missed her face."
Dr. Alan Hilfer, director of psychology at Maimonides Medical Center in New York, says it's normal to struggle with working from home. He says it "has its own set of difficulties" that people who don't do it often aren't always aware of.
"There are many more distractions than working in an office," he says. "Even people who do it on a regular basis find it much harder to structure and discipline their time."
Hilfer, who lives in Brooklyn and works in a hospital in Manhattan, knows the distractions firsthand. He was working at home on Thursday to avoid the difficult commute because of the storm's aftermath. But he kept getting distracted by his wife who was talking about storm updates on TV and projects that need to get done around the house.
"I had a whole list of things this morning I intended to do working from home, and I got about half of them done," he said.
With some school districts cancelling classes for the week, children have become the biggest distraction for stranded employees who were working from home.