Thursday, June 12, 2008

Working from home

At the end of January 2008 I quit my longstanding technical support job of eight plus years with a software provider to join a much smaller company that was rapidly growing. They were hiring. I needed a change so I jumped at it. It didn't hurt that they also offered me more money than I was making at the job I was at. And I was given the opportunity to work from home. Hey, this is a no brainer.

So I travel to California and work at company HQ for three long months. I'm married with six kids. And my wife is my best friend. It is hard to leave your lovely wife and best friend home alone with six kids. I missed them. They missed me. But now the time is over and I'm now home. And what doesn't kill you makes your stronger, right?

I've been home for about six weeks. And I've been working out of my home for those six weeks, never touching foot inside an office once during that time. So how has it been? It hasn't been too bad. There have been a few challenges and speed bumps along the way, but I'm getting the kinks worked out. I work in technology. As long as I have electricity, high speed internet and some peace and quiet, I can work anywhere. So far, here are the pros and cons of working from home:

  • Short commute (I have to walk downstairs into the basement to "go to work")
  • Huge savings in gasoline because I'm not driving into work
  • Eat lunch with my wife and kids every day
  • I can go to more of my kids' activities because I don't have to come home from the office
  • I am more productive because I don't have co-workers coming by to chit-chat with me
  • I am more self-reliant because I have to learn to search and dig for answers. That searching makes me a better at what I do.
  • The kids are sometimes noisy and people can hear the kids in the background
  • I miss the interaction with my co-workers, although proximity also increases the chances of office chit-chat, which I don't really miss all that much.
  • A little bit harder to bounce ideas off of co-workers. A lot of that has to be done via IM or IRC, which can be painful.
  • I don't have the commute time to decompress from the stresses of the job
  • Having adequate resources to work with
  • Work is only a few steps away. You just can't leave work at the office. It is always there. Ever present.

One speed bump that I had is that my wife would come and ask me to do something, such as watch the kids while she leaves to go somewhere. I can't do that. I can't take care of the kids. If I were at the office, I wouldn't be able to watch the kids. And just because I work from home doesn't mean I can do that any more than I was able to before. The first couple of weeks I had those requests. But now she realizes that I really can't do stuff around the house, unless it is on my lunch hour. I feel that it is extremely important for me to be honest to my employer and work my designated time. They are giving me an opportunity and privilege to work from home. I don't want to mess with that opportunity. I want to work from home as much as possible and not be forced to commute 100 miles round trip on a daily basis. Even though I own a Toyota Corolla that gets 30 - 40 MPG, with gas prices around $4/gallon, that is $10 - $13 of gasoline burnt in a day. That is $260+ in gasoline a month. I would rather keep that money and use it for something else. Besides that's just one less car on the road. Less pollution. Less oil that has to be imported. Less maintenance on my car. Overall, its good to work from home.

I am fortunate to have a job that allows me the opportunity to work from home. I think more employers should allow their employees the opportunity to work from home. It will help reduce our oil dependence. It will let people keep more money in their pockets so they can weather the economic storm that is raging. Employees need to be responsible enough to give their employer an honest days work. Employees need a room in their house that is their office. They need to keep interruptions to a minimum. They need to focus on their job and take a few short breaks. They need to remember that if they don't perform, they can be gone. Or their employer may ask that they come into the office.

So, do I work in my pajamas? Do I take a shower in the morning? The answer is no and yes respectively. I get up in the morning like I would for my job. I get in the shower. I get dressed. I eat breakfast. I go to work. I break for about an hour for lunch. I go back to work. And then at the end of the day I turn off my computer and go back "home". I think it is important that we prepare ourselves for a day of work. I don't want to work in my pajamas. But then again I don't wear slacks and a shirt either. Getting up in the morning and going through a routine helps me become prepared to work. I think it makes me a more effective employee at home.

I hope that employers give their employees an opportunity to work from home. Work with them. Spell out what is expected. Give them some boundaries. But in tough economic times where employers can't give raises but they want to keep good employees, letting people work from home will give people a raise. Because they won't need to spend money on gas to commute. Employees, be honest. Work hard. Be productive. Don't watch TV or waste your time. Give your employer what they need.


A Paperback Writer said...

I'm glad you're enjoying your new job, but I am amused that you put "peace and quiet" and "six kids" in the same paragraph.
Parts of my job (grading papers, planning lessons, doing research) I have always done at home. The other parts I try to keep as far from home as possible: 150 kids in my house is NOT a pleasant thought.
I certainly wouldn't miss my commute, though. I have been toying with the idea of moving to a different school so my commute wouldn't be as long, but then, I teach junior high, and being far away from the kids means they can't find my house to egg it.
There are pros and cons to any work situation.

Tom said...

The peace and quiet with six kids is an oxymoron, especially this summer. There have been several times when I've had to put a customer on hold to go and ask my kids to be quiet. If they don't stay quiet, I kick them out of the basement. Even though I work from home, I expect nothing less that full professionalism towards those that are calling in for help. And part of that professionalism is having silence and not screaming kids.