Working from home is not as great as it sounds

Maybe I actually do like working from home but I’m not liking it now because I’m not home. And I’m not working.

I’m finding a cello teacher. Since the last teacher died, we are traveling all over the country navigating the world of cello teachers: Claremont, Chicago, Santa Monica, and now Aspen.

My son sometimes says out loud what everyone is thinking: “Wow, this is insane.” But there’s nothing like getting to a new hotel and finding out it’s next to a PokeStop to make him fine with all the travel.

I have pictures from our trips this summer, but I send them to Melissa who is my photo editor, and it’s like sending the pictures to a black hole. She waits until she has 200 pictures from me and then she edits them like a year later.

I ‘m sure she would edit my photos faster if she didn’t work from home. One reason psychologists recommend only periodic working from home is because it’s difficult to be productive.

I tried someone else to edit photos, but he threw out a great picture of my oldest son saying goodbye to his biology tutor as she goes off to college, and kept a picture of me with a double chin so big it looked like a brisket hanging off a cow.

Melissa pointed out that the new editor did not know my family personally and he was just editing to make an interesting picture. He did not care about importance of farewells and fatness on the blog.

So fine, Melissa is right. And we agreed she would edit the pictures of family, because she cares, and someone else would do other stuff. Which is why you are seeing Pokemon at the beach instead of my sons at the beach. Although to be honest, my sons did not swim. They just got their street clothes wet catching water-based Pokemon.

A lot of our cello travel is so we can meet the right people to find out about how to get to other people. That’s ostensibly a lesson in networking, but it’s a very specific type of networking: you make the other person feel valuable, because they are.

I remember the first time I wrote about research that says people who ask for advice do better in their careers. I thought to myself, “This is why I’m so successful. I ask so many questions.”

Later, I was older, still noticing research to show that people who ask good questions are the most successful. And I thought to myself, “That’s why I am able to identify star performers so quickly, because I see them asking good questions.”

I just read more research about asking questions. For a lot of people it feels like asking for help. And I think older peoples’ careers stagnate because they don’t want to ask for help.

So since I don’t want to feel old, what do you think I should do about photo editing? Should I be bold and crop stuff myself in Photoshop? Should I trust someone else to keep me looking thin? I’m sick of fighting with Melissa.

This would be a great time for a picture of us fighting. Melissa met me in Santa Monica last week, and I took pictures while she was yelling at me about how I don’t need more photos in order to write posts.

Do you think I should just keep publishing Pokemon GO photos to remind everyone that Melissa is too slow with my photos?

That was an example of a bad question that will not lead to success. It’s a leading question. And a disingenuous question. But it’s also a passive-aggressive question, so it feels good. At least in the moment. And anyway, if all I cared about was success, you’d hate reading this blog.

Tonight is the first live session of my course about personality type and dating. (Sign up!)  My son has tickets for the Aspen Music Festival which is the same time as the webinar. So I’ll drop him off at the concert and do the webinar in a quiet spot, with a great view, that you won’t see until Melissa is good and ready.

People will say they are sorry I had to miss the concert. But I love the webinars because I love talking with the people in the webinar. I miss having a job where I talk with people all day.

Cassie has an investor she meets every week. When he put money into her company I told her it’s important to meet with investors because good startup founders are always asking good questions of smart people. But he’s stupid. He doesn’t want to put more money into the company but he still wants to meet with her.

I am outraged. I tell her there is no point in meeting with him if he’s not part of the future of the company.

She says she meets with him because she works from home and there’s no one else she has a meeting with, ever.

I get it. Not everyone likes meetings. But for people who like to hear themselves talk, for people who think out loud, for people like me and Cassie, meetings are fun.

Cassie has a theory that all people will work from home in the future. But I don’t think so—it’s too lonely. Look, Inc magazine says it’s lonely, Forbes says it’s lonely, and these articles are written by freelancers who presumably choose to work from home. (They probably wrote the articles at a co-working space, because most people who join co-working spaces do it to have personal interaction.)

What people really want is flexible hours, and if they don’t say they’re working from home, they can’t get paid to do a webinar about dating and marriage at the Aspen Music Festival.

Hey, and wait. Here’s one more picture:

To annoy Melissa. Because I think fighting with Melissa is like Cassie meeting with her investor:  stupid and unnecessary but the only way to have consistent contact with a co-worker.

55 replies
  1. Vanessa
    Vanessa says:

    Facetune is the best app to make you look thin. It costs a dollar or something. You can use the pinch or refine function to create a waste-line, just be careful to not mess up the background while pinching or it’s a dead giveaway. Perfect365 is the best app to get rid of dark circles under your eyes and make you look like you have radiant skin & super white teeth. It’s free. Everyone uses these apps, some ppl more obviously than others. It’s like makeup except applied digitally.

  2. Shell Stoll
    Shell Stoll says:

    Hi Penelope –

    I’ve been reading your blog since before the Farmer. It’s the only one I follow regularly. I’m sure it’s because you are brave enough to be real (so rare these days) and can write well with lots of good links. I’m envious in that I lack the skills you are great at (I need to work on asking good questions to actual real people) I think being at home for so long has stunted my conversational abilities. If I have questions, I’ll just read about it. I know that’s not the smart way, it’s the comfortable way. The skills I do have are INFJ related, introverted, sensitive to the emotions of others, an artist and the ability to work from home for years (since 2003) without being too lonely. Being a single Mom, it was a dream come true, being hired as an illustrator, at home! How often do single Moms get to be home and work full time. My son is 22 now, he comes home during the summer from college. So…now I just have to get lucky in the next chapter of life! If you need a new photo editor I can do that, I know the shock of thinking you look pretty good and then discovering the double chin in all the shots!


    • says:

      I’m an introvert and I love working from home too. I freelance for businesses and write my own blog which has kept me up to par with adult conversation- I stay home with 2 young kids. I used to be an epic human resource specialist…but then…kids. I’d rather work from home. You should check out my blog too- I inspire people to get real!

  3. Jim Grey
    Jim Grey says:

    If I worked at home all the time I’d gain 20 pounds because I couldn’t stay out of the refrigerator.

    I like going into the office. I’m a pretty deep introvert; I don’t need much face-to-face contact. Just being in the office often fully meets my needs for social interaction.

    What’s wrong with Cassie continuing to meet the investor? She’s keeping him warm; maybe he’ll be useful to him some way in the future.

    • says:

      Working from home means really working so no time to eat extra calories ;-) It’s not like sitting at a desk all day doing 4 hours of productive involved work and 4 hours of mind numbing tasks where you want to snack to stay awake.

      • once upon a cube
        once upon a cube says:

        YES YES YES. I often forget to eat lunch no that I work at home but at the office would plan snacks as an incentive to get through the mind-numbing day. Don’t miss it.

  4. A-ron
    A-ron says:

    If only we could get ISIS to obsessively play something like Pokemon.
    Then we could lure them to places and take them out. Amiright?
    Which has me believe there’s a grander plan in this go-to-real-places-and-look-at-your-phone-and-do-what-it-says-for-a-digital-reward thing.
    Like, think of the all the possibilities, such as world domination and human enslavement, just as an example.
    I’m not saying that’s the plan, but what if?

    Anyway, yeah, working from home is lonely and boring and all that crap.
    That’s why I import hookers to keep me company and pretend to be office workers with benefits.
    That’s what happens in real offices anyway, lots of sex and staring blankly at computer screens and cubicle walls.
    Easily duplicated at home with the right mindset and a little coin.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I was thinking the same thing! The he is funny and should come to comment more often. I actually had my kids read this comment because we are talking so much about how Pokemon GO could be good for terrorists.

      Thanks, A-ron, for such a fun comment.


      • Mark W.
        Mark W. says:

        As it turns out, PokemonGo is being played on the front lines in Iraq. An interesting article in Stars and Strips published today ( ) points out U.S. troops and others are participating. It’s questionable whether the local population or ISIS is playing. This was especially interesting to me – “The popular Japanese children’s cartoon about pocket monsters and their human trainers was suspected by (Saddam) Hussein and his security service to be a tool of international Zionism. Iraqi intelligence thought the name “Pokemon” meant “I’m Jewish,” according to a 2001 memo U.S. troops captured.” I wonder what would make them suspect such a thing. It seems very strange to me to have such thoughts. Anyways, the game is played when things get boring. It’s hard for me to imagine getting bored in a war zone. I think I’d always be on edge but then again I haven’t been in one so I wouldn’t know. Maybe it helps to relieve the stress.

  5. Stephenie
    Stephenie says:

    I’m an introvert so I relish the loneliness of working from home. But this past year and half I have become more disorganized and less productive. I used to be more disciplined but that was when I worked for someone else. I used to get more done at home than I got done at work, the same with school. Now it just isn’t true. But that too just takes some discipline and perhaps some different organizational techniques to resolve. Another thing I relish working from home is not having to deal with pampered co-workers who get away with playing fantasy football, while others have to adhere to draconian bathroom breaks monitored by their passive aggressive supervisors. The stress of wondering what fault your passive aggressive supervisor is going to find in you this week is the foundation of heart disease, cancer and strokes. Quite possibly the reason men used to die before women. Now the office drama in my house is the piling laundry, over grown garden, sales people who don’t think the glaring red no soliciting sign on my front door is for them, and over-due library books. The peace of mind I have, is I don’t have to sit in the horrible traffic every day just to earn the same crap pay I can earn at home, being inefficient. I can be more efficient and make more money from home. I can’t make the traffic better by being in it. I can’t make the office a more productive place, nor can I make my employers give me a raise. I have to give myself a raise with greater productivity at home. It is better with a new perspective. Suggestions for dealing with the loneliness? Have lunch with someone at least once a week or have a meeting with someone once a week even if you don’t need to. Or go to one of those networking lunches or breakfasts that different business leader groups like to do. There are ways to reach out and curb the loneliness. If you can’t drive, host a business luncheon at your place or a cocktail hour a couple of times a month. Bring them to you.

  6. Kristi
    Kristi says:

    You might really like learning to edit your own photos! And it’s probably easier than you think.

    For info on good composition and image making, I recommend _Picture This_ by Molly Bang. It’s a fast read about the Gestalt of how people view images and information, so that you can be intentional about what you’re drawing attention to when you frame and crop.

    Learn how to use/experiment with at least a few basic features in Gimp or Photoshop: Levels, Contrast, and Color Balance. That will get you a long way toward making your photos to “good enough.”

    When I had to take a photography course for design school, I was annoyed. But learning a bit what makes a good picture and then practicing taking good photos was a way for me to slow down and look more closely at things. Learning to edit them was an extension of that, for me.

  7. Cheryl
    Cheryl says:

    I think you should post some of your own photos yourself. You don’t have to edit all of them!–we like to see “real” photos. And send the rest to Melissa, to edit when she feels like it–I mean, gets around to it. If you’re afraid she’s going to delete one you want to keep, keep a copy for yourself.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      To be clear, I don’t think she does much changing of the picture. She just doesn’t let me post boring pictures. I feel like pictures should be like blog posts — I throw out the ones that won’t be interesting. But now that everyone is suggesting ways to look thin in the photos, it makes me want that.

      I look at the pictures on I get frustrated that her ranch looks so perfect and my farm looks so shot-with-an-iPhone. But Melissa tells me that I would be too fake if I looked like The Pioneer Woman. I wish fake weren’t so enticing…


      • harris497
        harris497 says:


        The grass is always greener… I don’t want to read the Pioneer Woman, she is less valuable to my condition than you and your thought provoking posts are to me.
        Different strokes…

  8. Dana
    Dana says:

    I am an accountant and started working from home in February when I accepted a position with a company with no brick & mortar location (small company – under 20 employees – all work remotely).

    Initially, I thought this was that answer to all of my workplace issues, like having to make small-talk with people I could care less about, not having to sit in a cubicle where people just stop by to chat, not being disturbed when I am heavily immersed in a project (I’m an INTJ). Then reality hit.

    It *IS* lonely, even for an INTJ – especially since I recently relocated from Chicago to Las Vegas and know NO ONE here other than my partner. I go DAYS (sometimes a week) without leaving the house, taking a shower, getting dressed, brushing my teeth, having meaningful interaction with ANYONE.

    Sure, accepting the position with a 10% salary increase probably gave me a 20% raise (no commuting cost, no expenses for lunch, employer reimbursed internet, etc.), and when my partner was offered a promotion that required relocating across country, I didn’t have to worry about finding another job, but I’m not sure the benefits of working exclusively from home outway the drawbacks.

    I may have to look into co-working communities here in Vegas just to keep my sanity …

  9. Tracy
    Tracy says:

    Haha, love the passive-aggressive post directed at Melissa. Two proposed solutions to the problem:

    1. We automate Melissa’s job – I’m sure we can come up with a machine learning algorithm we train to discard any patterns that match brisket hanging off a cow ??

    2. We hold a competition on the blog ‘Penelope’s Next Top Photo Editor’ where every week Penelope sets a challenge for all editor hopefuls, and we all judge the results, and then keep eliminating candidates until just one is left ?

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      That would be fun. I have all sorts of ideas for contests on this site. Like, finding a yoga teacher to with us for two weeks and teach my kids how to do yoga, I will teach the person how to market their yoga studio.

      Or starting a book club and we have contests to pick the next book.

      But really, I can barely even get blog posts written, so maybe I should have a contest for who can babysit me to get me to be a more diligent writer…


      • Karelys
        Karelys says:

        No don’t do that.

        The pictures have Melissa flavor. They’re not pictures anymore, but art.

        • Penelope Trunk
          Penelope Trunk says:

          Aw. That’s so nice. I think it’s true. But I appreciate all the people who have sent me emails and volunteered to edit. In fact, Melissa edited tons of pictures after I posted this. So I am feeling happier.


      • Dawn
        Dawn says:

        Yes, crowdsource the photo editing. Perhaps there is a way to plug in your camera once a week so your volunteer editor pool can have access to new photos and return edited versions to a cloud drive. You can review the drive when you feel like it and select winners for posting with photo credit to the volunteer, and /or you can email the winners to Melissa for a final pass before posting. Give her 48 hours, if she doesn’t participate in the final selection/edit, move on. She either will or she wont. You will get access to other great editors that “get” you. Have fun with it!

  10. Karelys
    Karelys says:

    You already have too much on your plate. So either go to counseling with Melissa for friendship/coworker counseling, or find an editor that will get the stuff done.

    And it’s true about working from home vs. flexible hours.

    I had a terrible work situation before. So I am super happy to announce to everyone who will listen how much I love my new job and my team and the office environment.

    I wonder if your blog editor has the skills to edit pictures. Melissa is hard to top though. I love her pictures. And the pokemon pictures are fun, way fun. So maybe your new editor will be in charge of bringing a different perspective to the blog and your life.

    I keep hanging out with people that I don’t necessarily want to hang out with because 1) networking, 2) different life perspective.

  11. Jeffrey Melvin
    Jeffrey Melvin says:

    Ok, this one is easy.

    Melissa will write the spec to hire the new photoshopper.
    You will pay Melissa to place a new photoshopper with you who has passed the spec.
    The photoshopper will also work from home.
    The photoshopper will not be an INTJ. That will be a part of the spec.
    You will then publish the spec as content for your blond give periodic updates.

    In the future, more people will work from home than do now because more people will be doing freelance work like photoshopping for a wonderful woman just to pay the bills.


  12. says:

    Glad you’re keeping it real- passive aggressive is fun. Isn’t it?! I love working from home. Work-life balance consists of getting no respect from my husband to getting admiration from people who envy my ability to work from home.

    It came at just the right time- After gaining 20lbs when I had a baby.

    I was a waitress/ bartender for 15 years so I learned that the only point of a physical workplace was to flirt and even date, perhaps some casual sex. I made my career in human resources later on and while I couldn’t flirt as much I loved getting the ogles from guys at the workplace.

    Now, two kids later, married, 40ish, 20ish extra pounds, I’m good with staying home. I can still verbally flirt ;-)

  13. K
    K says:

    This whole “this post’s content actually has almost nothing to do with the topic” style is lame. I hate it and visit less frequently now.

  14. Mark
    Mark says:

    The benefit to working from home for me is that isolation keeps other peoples words out of my head. Neurotypical banter at the office might be a form of mild warfare. I am an introvert with a “dash of autism” and while I know that it is socially appropriate to consider other’s opinions I also observe that it is rare when opinions are honest and fully disclosed. One of the biggest shocks of my later in life diagnosis was finding out that overt honesty is a defect, maybe even one so serious that it can be considered as a form of mental illness.

    If I can just stay home in the garden and read I can draw from the brightest minds in history in peace. When I am subjected to normal human discourse then I find that any trace of brilliance that might touch me evaporates at the water cooler where the herd gathers to drink and maybe size up their next meal. Pay attention to normal dialogue and notice how much of it causes a dissonance, which sets up the listener for a future encounter where the predator strikes the disoriented prey.

    I wonder if language develops as an evolutionary form of mild warfare that evens the playing field. Communication makes us less violent and I think part of our peaceful human nature is because we are always at war in this mild manner. How many readers have even been in a real physical encounter with another human over an entire lifetime? It is a minority which is astounding. The message we receive from the screaming manic media is that we are all in danger all of the time but the evidence does not support the overarching aggressive nature of humans. We are very peaceful people and the passive-aggressive social interactions at the water hole may help keep true aggression at bay.

    Working at home has distractions, such as manipulative Labradoodles who make me do all sorts of unplanned activities, but clever workers can waste up to half of each day while at the office and also do things that force others to waste energy and resources too. After all, that is just good warfare. Efficiency is not the reason to go to the office. Maintaining peace through passive-aggressive gossip and small talk is the real reason people enjoy work, just don’t let the boss know…

    Peace out – Mark

  15. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    What I found especially interesting in this post is the paragraph on networking. I’m in the middle of reading a booklet on networking. It came with a VCR tape and a program on diskette. That gives you an idea how old it is. However, the ideas set forth are still applicable. I wish I took networking more seriously when I was much younger. I was much more focused on honing my technical skills. It’s one of those things for me that makes me question all the emphasis on academics in school. I wish I was made aware of the necessity and benefits of building career enhancing skills such as networking. Networking done well to meet middle and long term goals is no easy feat. It takes good organizational skills and persistence while all the time identifying and aligning people in your network to your goals. Good questions and communication skills are also necessary. I hope your sons appreciate all the networking that you’re doing for them and are learning networking and its importance in the process.

  16. Selene
    Selene says:

    I solved my photo problem
    1) I stopped taking fifty pics to get one good one. Because it took forever to go through. I never take more than 5 pics a day unless I’m somewhere REALLY exotic.
    2) I delete any below average pic right away
    Just stop taking so many pics. You’ll still get good ones.

    You’re not working from home alone. Your family’s there. Not the same. I’m not saying it’s good but I wouldn’t call it lonely. You’re also overlooking how many people Do not like A certain coworker or boss. I go to the library to work because I just don’t take work seriously enough at home and I find its so much easier to get distracted. My husband tried to work from home at my request. I never saw him
    So miserable. Wasn’t worth the occasional afternoon delight!
    I think it’s easier for women than men but really it means nothing when you compare it against an unknown. I once worked in an office with NO windows.

  17. Laura
    Laura says:

    I’m an introvert (INTJ) and while I enjoy the ability to occasionally work from home I find more than a few days of it terribly isolating. My current situation is unusual -my boss and the rest of my group is 300 miles away. I sit between a group i sometimes work with and a group not even in my business line. I learn stuff just by overhearing.

    Although people sometimes frustrate me, I am genuinely curious. My best ideas often draw in information I learn randomly.

    As an INTJ, my biggest weakness is the soft stuff. I get it from watercooler conversations. It helps that multiple groups in the same company share floors so there are a lot of random encounters with people I don’t work with.

    Even introverts need human connection. Other people offer a form of anchoring – that guy is a jerk to everyone, or I watched that woman totally botch an interaction with the boss. Now I know not to do that. I never would have thought about pitching the idea that way – but it is really effective.

    You don’t randomly encounter the boss in the kitchen when you work from home. You a lot talk about the importance of being likable in the workplace. When people feel like they know you, they give you the benefit of a doubt. When you’re just a voice on the phone or a line on instant communicator, you don’t get that.

  18. Jen
    Jen says:

    I’m a self-employed INFJ. I share a home office with a cat and two rabbits and am far happier, saner, and more productive without human officemates. For socialization, I sing in multiple choirs (and serve on the board of one), take voice lessons, belong to a yoga studio, and meet up with family (other than husband) or friends for a meal fairly regularly; in other words, it’s all voluntary socialization that is energizing rather than draining, unlike most of my previous workplaces. After so many years of forced schooling and stressful workplaces, working at home feels freeing rather than lonely.

    I will admit that if I didn’t make the effort to pursue social hobbies or if I didn’t regularly score above the 90th percentile for introversion, I might go insane. But I do want to emphasize that the standard workplace is incredibly stressful for some of us, and “alone” doesn’t necessarily equal “lonely”.

  19. harris497
    harris497 says:

    Penny, do you remember what you did before Melissa came along? I do, and it was good enough to grow your blog.

  20. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    The local library was one of my favorite places to work when I worked from home and was blogging my way out of my old career. Never had a problem getting lots of things done working from home, but now that I’m in an office, after so many years at home, it’s a much needed change of scenery.

    Everyone goes through phases, I think. Working from home when you have parents or kids to take care of is ideal. But once you’re free from all the caretaking, an office setting is more rejuvenating.

    Then later in life when you’re older, slowing down, retiring, that’s when your passion projects take hold and you’re home writing or painting or drawing or whatever it is you’ve always wanted to do but never had the time.

  21. Monique
    Monique says:

    I have worked from home and in an office. I find that the ideal is a mix – about 3.5 days in the office and the rest at home. I like having a day or two where I can avoid getting dressed, do some laundry during a conference call, and pop something in the crockpot (ugh, I know) for my kids during my lunch break. But when I work from home full-time, odd things start to make me crazy. I obsess over email updates about my office, and imagine that my supervisor is being terse/panicky or my in-the-office colleagues are somehow plotting my demise. Balance is almost always the answer.

  22. R. Andrew Hill
    R. Andrew Hill says:

    I have been working from home for about five years. It took me about 4.5 to venture out of the office at all during normal work hours, never mind the abnormal hours where inspiration hit. The hardest part about working from home (550 miles from “my office”) is all the opportunities I’m missing to collaborate because it’s easier to conference somebody into a call when their office is a couple hundred feet away. That and a staycation is an impossible concept.

  23. Rita
    Rita says:

    I’m an ESFP/ENFP (borderline sensing/intuition) working from home as an editor and writer. I started working from home last year, chose to quit my old job due to a complicated pregnancy. I love working with words, having “closure” after each book/article is done, and not having to deal with office politics/long commutes. That being said, as soon as my baby’s weaned I’ll look into working outside. It’s very lonely and I find myself nagging my friends on FB just for the interaction. I miss humans. Side question: Is it possible for an extrovert to thrive in a job like editing/writing?

  24. Karan @ Search Results Media
    Karan @ Search Results Media says:

    Hi, Working from home is definitely the best option but it ha some pros and cons like you wont get exposure to connect with other people as you can do that in office and also in office atmosphere your focus is much better rather than working from home.

    By the way nice article.. Keep Sharing

  25. Arise Johns
    Arise Johns says:

    Working in a company provides you mental support, give you spirit to work harder. Without a healthy competition, you cannot win. A great working environment boosts your career by providing the wide range of career opportunities. Working from home reduces the creativity and innovation inside you.

  26. Luminita
    Luminita says:

    I think there should be balance. The ofice environement has its own advantages and benefits in terms of productivity and efficiency, but sometimes, it’s also great to be able to work from home. I hope, more employers will understand that i’ts important to have this balnce, because people are different, some work better in shared spaces, others like their alone time, but either way the results are the most important.

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