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Working at home may make you miss the office

Kids -- and other family distractions -- may

Kids -- and other family distractions -- may have some workers wishing they were back in the office. Credit: iStock

Nearly every office dweller fantasizes about the joys of working from home: Dressing in PJs instead of suits. Eating from the fridge and not the vending machine. Listening to birds chirp instead of the boss bark.

But superstorm Sandy has created legions of people who can't wait to get back to the office.

They include parents who have struggled to juggle conference calls while their kids scream in the background. Also families who have fought over the use of a single home computer. And executives who have conducted business with the only device they had with reliable Internet access: their smartphone.

About one-third of American workers work from home at least occasionally, according to Forrester Research. But massive flooding, power outages, transit shutdowns and school closings that followed Sandy forced thousands more from North Carolina to Maine to do so last week. And many learned that it's not all it's cracked up to be.

Michael Lamp, a social and digital media strategist who has been working out of his one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn because his office in Manhattan is closed, sums it up on his Twitter page: "I'm getting sicker of it with every hour that passes. I might be slowly losing it."

Lamp, 28, who converted his coffee table into a desk, says he longs for face-to-face interaction with his colleagues at Hunter Public Relations. "I'm going to run to my boss's office and tell her I missed her face."

Dr. Alan Hilfer, director of psychology at Maimonides Medical Center in New York, says it's normal to struggle with working from home. He says it "has its own set of difficulties . . . Even people who do it on a regular basis find it much harder to structure and discipline their time."

With many school districts canceling classes last week, children were the biggest distraction for stranded parents who were working from home.

Brooklyn resident Deanna Zammit, a content director at media company Digiday, says she's grateful her home and family were unscathed after Sandy. But she found herself overwhelmed when she had to work from home and watch her son while her husband was away on a work trip.

On Wednesday, with the added pressure of Halloween festivities, she gave up and took the day off. But on Thursday, she drove to her parent's home in Westhampton to get some work done. "I have to go to the only place I know that has free child care, and that is my parents' house," says Zammit, who acknowledges that she can't wait to get back to the office.

Drew Kerr, a public relations specialist, also was eager to return to work Wednesday after losing power at his home in Westchester on Monday. A big challenge was keeping his two teenagers occupied. To prevent the family from getting cabin fever, Kerr went to a deli to charge up everyone's laptops.

But the next morning, he decided he'd had enough. Trains were down, but he was determined to get to the office. So he woke up early, hopped into his car, and did just that. It felt great to get back to the grind. He even bought a bagel along the way.

"It's just me and my bagel and a working computer," Kerr says. "It's nice to have heat. It's nice to have electricity."

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