What's your Problem?

Living close to the office is causing me problems.

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Q: I have lived within walking distance of the office for the past two years. My short commute is great, but colleagues often expect me to get in very early or work late because of this. They have also taken to inviting themselves to spend lunchtime in my flat, watching TV and even helping themselves to the contents of my fridge. My home feels invaded by work, and I feel taken advantage of. What should I do?

A: I imagine all this started harmlessly enough, a year or two ago, when you were kind enough to invite a few colleagues home for a drink. That's the trouble with predicaments like yours. They don't happen overnight, with an offence to be slapped down immediately; they creep up on you imperceptibly, and there's never an obvious moment to say enough is enough.

What you must avoid is becoming obviously resentful, while grudgingly allowing these invasions to continue. I suspect that your only practical course is to do something fairly bold and dramatic - but tempered with humour.

So invite all those who have taken to using your flat as their home-from-home to a small party. Make it a good occasion. Then make a short speech.

Say: 'Sometimes, the one thing that makes the office tolerable is to have a home to go back to. And sometimes the one thing that makes home tolerable is an office to escape to. And what's happened to me, much as I love you all, is that my home has become my office and I've nowhere to escape to. I hope you'll understand if I insist that, from now on, this flat is out of bounds at lunchtimes except for the last Friday of every month, when you'll all be as welcome as you are this evening.'

I'm afraid I've no idea how to stop them expecting you to get in early and stay late.

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