(out-of-of­fice)

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Contents - Rika Z. Vayianni Re­view this­life@theaus­tralian.com.au

Don’t miss the of­fice. Rush hour, dress­ing for suc­cess, petty pol­i­tics. I have not set foot in my com­pany’s head­quar­ters in months. Ac­tu­ally, my com­pany has no head­quar­ters, just a tiny space that suf­fices as a postal ad­dress. The em­ploy­ees sit down for work at their home of­fice, coun­try estate den or cof­fee house with free Wi-Fi. What­ever. I am one of them.

Back in the 1980s, work­ing from home while hold­ing a le­git­i­mate job was con­sid­ered glam­orous and ex­otic. The fax ma­chine. The cool­ness of it all. The new utopia. To earn one’s keep with­out hav­ing to leave the user-friendly en­vi­ron­ment of one’s kitchen or bed­room. Or toi­let, be­cause, frankly, who needed to know where ex­actly a par­tic­u­lar re­port was be­ing pre­pared?

I would fan­ta­sise about that home of­fice. Hair wet and curly from a long shower, hands warm around a chipped porce­lain mug, air rich with the aroma of cof­fee. Look at me, bare­foot on the hard­wood boards, float­ing down­stairs to my study nook. I even had it styled down to the last de­tail: soft cash­mere PJs and a T-shirt em­bla­zoned with a rhine­stone mar­i­juana leaf. To hell with the bor­ing black/beige/blue lady- suit, the sadis­tic high heels and iron-straight­ened hair of the ac­cepted pro­fes­sional at­tire.

It took the best part of 20 years, and a lot more tech­nol­ogy than a fax ma­chine. But I did it. I work from home now. I rock. Edit the fan­tasy: good­bye cash­mere PJs. They wear thin in the most em­bar­rass­ing places if you spend eight hours straight sit­ting on a kitchen stool. En­ter the sweat­pants and the wrin­kled tee in which I awoke from a per­pet­u­ally un­done bed. I will get to it af­ter I send this email. And wash my hair. And vacuum the car­pet. Or not.

The gourmet brew? A cup of in­stant will do. Oh, and in the Skype age I need to be a lit­tle bit more care­ful with the mar­i­juana tee. Or with that toi­let-seat re­port. Apps and lenses can be ruth­less.

The glam­our has faded. Peo­ple don’t even blink when I men­tion I work from home. What­ever pays a cheque. I be­long to the last gen­er­a­tion that be­lieved a job was some­thing one had to “go to”. Go see col­leagues, bosses, clients. Meet for an af­ter-hours drink. Go about softly speak­ing in jum­bled of­fice lingo, or go home with the se­cret the temp from the second floor con­fided to you in the cafe­te­ria line.

I rode the bus down­town last week. Women were slip­ping out of tall steel build­ings for a cig­a­rette break, clad in suits, bal­anc­ing in high heels. Patent-leather purses, hair ironed straight, make-up dis­creetly ap­plied. They looked glam­orous and ex­otic, at­trac­tive in their struc­tured pro­fes­sional con­fi­dence.

The new utopia?

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