You Can’t Go Home Again

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Good morning, good evening, and good night, dear readers, wherever you might be.

So, you know that I have been thinking about working from home. As I have told you previously, the powers that be in our fair state who administer the telepsychiatry program I work in have decided that it is okay for some of us, or all of us as the case may be, to work from our homes. Telepsychiatry is one of those jobs that can really be done from anywhere, as long as the right equipment is available and the internet connection is fast and robust enough to allow for crystal clear, true-to-life video interaction between patient and doctor. 

When I got this news from my supervisor I was giddy at first. How wonderful to be able to get up, make the coffee, take my time getting ready, and then, at the appointed hour, to walk just a few steps to my home office, sit down, and begin to work. Then, at the end of my shift, be it eight or sixteen hours, to get up from my chair, walk out of my office, pour myself a beverage, and sit outside on the porch in my rocker to unwind. Nice, huh? Of course. 

Like tightrope walking, this whole work at home decision is not as easy as it looks. 

The things above are upsides, for sure. There are others.

Being available to cover for a few hours if one of my colleagues falls ill suddenly and coverage is needed. Not having to drive anywhere, saving on gas and time. Preparing lunch or other meals at home, instead of suffering through the usual fast food or other fare. Being able to control the thermostat to maintain comfort throughout the shift. And did I mention making my own coffee? Yeah, I thought I did. 

What are the downsides, some of which you, my readers, friends, and family, have already made me aware of?

Isolation is a huge deal already with a telepsychiatry job. We see hundreds, nay thousands of patients a year, sitting in a chair in front of a high definition monitor and seeing the patient, but blocking out most of the rest of the world in the process. This tends to be great for focusing on what is going on in twenty-five hospitals that are hundreds of miles away from us throughout the state, but terrible for seeing what is happening ten feet from us, right outside our door. 

Social interaction, even for a few minutes out of every hour, is important to my own mental health. At the mental health center, where my current telepsychiatry office is, I can get up, open my office door, step out into the hallway, and speak with colleagues who work on the same hallway or happen to be passing by on their way somewhere else. These little emotional breaks, no matter how small time-wise, mean a lot. 

Another big downside for me is blurring the boundaries between my own space and my work space. Right now, my home office is my sanctuary. I’m sitting in my chair in front of my iMac right now, typing out this missive to you, drinking a glass of grapefruit juice, listening to Chanticleer in the background through my beloved harman/kardon Soundsticks (Best desktop speakers ever. Go buy some right now. I’ll wait) and just enjoying being in this space. It’s the place I think, dream, read, enjoy my music, organize my life, pay my bills, write letters, and sometimes fall asleep in my chair. It’s my space, and I guard it jealousy. Bringing my work into it would violate it in a hard-to-express way that I’m not sure I’m ready for. 

So, the bottom line, dear readers? 

You already know my decision.

For now, home and work will remain separate places with separate feels and separate functions. I will continue to get up, enjoy talking to you in this way in the early morning, drinking juice and listening to the birds wake up outside my window. I will get dressed, take the short six minute drive to my telepsychiatry office, see patients there, and then enjoy the short ride back to the place that is, day by day, becoming my new home.

For now, that’s just the way it should be.