Kirby: Working from home is no picnic

This is an archived article that was published on in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Robert Kirby is on vacation. This is a reprint of an earlier column.

People who call The Tribune to yell at me are disappointed. They can never get me on the phone. I work at home.

About 50 million Americans commute to their place of work via the Internet. That's a bunch of people who aren't adding themselves to the gridlock because we can stay home and work in our underwear.

People who drive to work are envious. But they only feel that way because commuting is emotionally and financially costly, and because they've never had to work at home before. It isn't all Fruit of the Loom and video games.

This isn't my first home job. I worked at home a lot when I was a cop. People would see the police car in the driveway and ring my doorbell at miserable times.

"Sorry to interrupt your shower, officer, but I got my brother-in-law in the car. He's drunk and has a gun. Could you put on some pants and give him a good talking to?"

Once, a guy rang my doorbell at 6 a.m. to ask if it was legal to hunt jack rabbits with a club. I almost put some overtime right between his ears.

I don't have people stopping by the house with extra work now, but that doesn't mean I don't get interrupted. There are still major drawbacks to working at home.

If you are considering the possibility of a home job — either because you can't afford to commute or because you've been laid off and haven't told your wife — you might want to give it a second think.

The average commuting American believes or strongly suspects that their immediate supervisor is a nitwit. I have worked for several and currently work for the biggest one yet. Me.

You have to be your own boss at home. There's no one standing over you saying, "It's 10:30. Where the hell have you been?"

Worse, there's no one to lie to about it. Go ahead. Try telling yourself you're late because you stopped to help rescue some orphans from a fire.

The standard business attire at home is hopelessly relaxed even by slob journalist standards. Currently, it is a T-shirt, baseball hat, flip-flops and BYU sweatpants worn for the fifth day in a row.

Correspondingly, you have to clean up after yourself in a home office. If your work space starts smelling like a truck stop rest room, there's no one else to blame it on.

A major drawback of a home job is the complete lack of opportunity to steal office supplies. You have to watch this one. The first year working at home, I stole myself into the red out of force of habit.

Thanks to the Internet, it is still possible to have a home office romance. It's not quite the same, though. There's no real physical contact — unless you count getting slammed in the head with a toaster if your main co-worker finds out about it.

The interruptions at home are harder to duck than in a real office. You can blow off a meeting with your supervisor there.

But it's utterly impossible to tell a 4-year-old redhead that you can't take an hour and help him hit ants with a hammer.

Robert Kirby can be reached at or