The Problem: Commuting in a Digital World
I asked one of my best friends to tell me a problem he has. Kind of a vague and wide-open question, I know.
He said: “Why do I have to commute to a job that can be done from my computer at home?”
I thought about that for a minute, and couldn’t really think of a counter-argument. Not that I don’t agree 100%, I just wanted to play the devils-advocate side of the company.
I have worked in IT for a while now, and have yet to work in a remote only or remote “mostly” position. I had one job where we had one day a week to work from home, which was nice. But I worked as a QA Analyst for four years and one of those jobs was downtown Chicago. If you live in Chicago, you know what a terrible commute that is. But, why was I required to come into the office?
My job was testing software. Testing new fixes, enhancements, and updates from the developers on web-based software. Why did I need to come into the office for that? Any meetings I could have joined remotely using Skype, Zoom, Webex, etc.
I am all for remote work. If a job can be done mostly from home on your PC, then I think it should be. And maybe once a week or once a month you have a meeting onsite that you need to attend. That’s fine, that is tolerable and doable. But there are a few pros and cons to working from home and remotely as well, which I will get to next.
The Good Things
The most convenient way to work.
Say you start at 7 am. You can sleep in till about 6:50, make your cup of coffee, then mosey on over to your PC and get to work. You don’t have to shower, get dressed, or even smell good.
Save on commute costs
By working in your pajamas you can save money on gas, tolls, car maintenance, and parking. I can even include the pain of traffic and time lost driving/taking the train.
Save on food and coffee
Yes, coffee. You can buy a tin of Folgers or Maxwell house and make that in the morning. Or, like me, get a coffee grinder (like this one from Amazon) and some good beans. Or get fresh ground beans (like these) and make a delicious pot of fresh ground coffee. And yes, that can rival Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts.
I have a habit of buying food either from delivery or from my in-building cafeteria too much. That does cost a lot of money, more than you would think until you look at your card statement. By working from home, you can eat what you have. So you get groceries like normal, maybe a few more things since you are at home, and simply make a frozen pizza, or a sandwich, or some soup. You get the idea.
The Not-So-Good Things
There is no separation between home (freedom) and work
This doesn’t apply to everyone, but I know several people who have worked from home and they don’t like it. Why? Because after work, we go home – our freedom from a long 8-12 hour day. When you spend that time working, some people don’t feel like they have the same “freedom” after they sign off their computer.
I don’t feel that way, personally, but I get why people do.
Depending on the company, your team, and your boss – you may end up being monitored more closely
Since you are at home and have many distractions, you may be monitored by your peers and boss more. To make sure you are getting your share of the work done. Again, understandable – you’re still being paid to do a specific job.
You may have to do more reporting of what you get done too, depending if your boss is a micro-managing type.
You can’t bond and grow with your team as easily
Like I said earlier, I am very pro working from home – but this is one con I agree with. Part of the “fun” of going to work IS your team. Working with people you like, solving problems together, working together, and just cracking jokes to break up the day. I have always supported team bonding and growth – I feel like it helps you as a worker and as a person to become better.
Your workday can be dependent on the whims of Comcast and AT&T
Most of us (at least us suburbanites and city dwellers) have Comcast or AT&T for our internet service providers (ISP). This con is two parts:
- If you have a slow internet plan, it may impact your ability to get work done. If you don’t have a good internet connection it can cause issues when either A. connecting to your work PC or B. connecting to your work’s network.
- Everyone knows how wonderful Comcast and AT&T are with up times…so you may lose a whole day of work if you have an outage in your area and it takes several hours to fix. No matter how much you scream at the customer service reps (after waiting 45 minutes on hold), it won’t be fixed faster.
It also always seems to me that every time I work from home is when my internet has an outage…never when I am just at home chilling and watching Netflix or Hulu.
Solution: Commuting in a Digital World
I think if more companies offered the option of working from home (remotely), that it would be beneficial. Then if someone chose to come into work, that’s fine – that would be your choice. Not a choice given to you or force upon you by the company.
Of course, not all jobs can be done remotely – not even all office and IT jobs. Field Service Techs and such have to be onsite in order to physically help users. And of course, jobs in Healthcare (unless you are a coder) usually have to be onsite to help patients.
Plus, not everyone even wants to work remotely – but I think the option should be there for jobs that can.
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