I have been working from home for over 13 years in total in my career and I have heard many comments to the effect that it’s not a “real job.” In conversations with other remote work professionals I have categorized some of the reasons behind the reaction.
Some people can’t relate
It’s not an age thing. Some people just don’t get that people can work without a boss standing over their desk and without the incessant distractions of an office environment. These head scratchers making faces at your reply to “where do you work” are often the same people that haunt Facebook from their cubicle all day and leave early when their boss is out of the office. By comparison, most people working from home find that they are more focused and productive under “home” conditions than in an office and don’t give a flip about who is watching.
People literally cannot connect the dots
People have been involved in non-housework employment for much longer than people think. I recently wrote an article entitled “Working From Home: 1909 Style” and in the 1960’s Dame Vera Stephanie “Steve” Shirley was running a software development company in the UK, hiring women to program from home. Imagine having to phone or mail in your code, but they did it.
Even today when people of all ages have at least a passing familiarity with the Internet, many older people just can’t connect up what they understand about digital connectivity: Skyping with the grandkids, email, texting, etc, with how someone would be able to effectively communicate to coworkers plus gather and deliver information well enough to get anything done.
They convert it to what they know
As a way of throwing your “work from home” response into a pigeonhole that they can comprehend, older people, especially, come up with ways to equate it with “online jobs” that they have come across in popular traditional media. I had an elderly neighbor who once asked me what I do since I always seemed to be around. I later learned that she was telling everyone else in the neighborhood that I was buying and selling stuff on eBay. In reality, I’m a VP at a tech company with a 100% distributed workforce. I didn’t tell her my job in that way, but I’m certain I never said eBay.
In her mind, a little box opened up where she had stored some impossible online job she had heard about on Good Morning America and I got crammed into the box with a bunch of other “people who do impossible jobs.” And, of course, in the minds of people like that, those “impossible” methods of earning money aren’t real jobs at all so yours can’t be either.
So what do you do about it?
People in technology, complicated science fields or entrepreneurship learn early on to come up with a short, easily digestible explanation of what they do. Something that doesn’t leave people with a blank stare. You can do the same. Just add on that you are lucky enough to do an office job from home.
For those that can do it, working from home is one of the most satisfying ways to make a living regardless of your profession. Be proud of the fact that you are ahead of the curve.
Now go sit on your front porch and get something done.
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