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When working from home goes wrong

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

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

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They include parents who have struggled to juggle conference calls while their kids scream in the background. Also families who have fought for days over the use of a single home computer. And even 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 this 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 the Brooklyn borough of New York City because his office in the Manhattan borough 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, who converted his coffee table into a desk, says he longs for face-to-face interaction with his colleagues at Hunter Public Relations. And he’s finding it particularly difficult to share his workspace with his live-in partner.

With some school districts canceling classes for the week, children have become the biggest distraction for stranded employees who were working from home.

Brooklyn resident Deanna Zammit, a content director at media company Digiday, says she’s grateful that her home and family were unscathed after Sandy. But she found herself overwhelmed when she had to work from home — and watch her son — Monday and Tuesday 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 three hours to her parents’ home in Westhampton, N.Y., so she could finally get some work done.

Drew Kerr, a public relations specialist, also was eager to return to work Wednesday morning after losing power at his home in Westchester, N.Y., 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. He says he even ate his corn beef sandwich and onion rings slowly, so the devices could get as much power as possible.

But the next morning, he decided he’d had enough of working from home. 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. 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.’’

Anne D’Innocenzio and Mae Anderson write for the Associated Press.
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