Everyone take up a jig, the Coding Hillbilly has returned to normalcy ("normalcy" being a relative term, of course). After a whirlwind tour of London and Italy, I am back in the corporate world for the first time in over a year.
For y'see, until mid-June, I had been working from home for a year. You'll probably think I'm bragging when I say home is in the Bahamas but trust me, it's not. But I probably won't convince any of you so I'll leave it at that for now.
So from the sandy beaches and warm climes of the caribbean, where I type all day from my hammock, I have returned to cold, cruel Calgary. And yours is not to wonder why but to sit and listen while I compare and contrast working remotely and working on-site.
There are the obvious advantages to working from home. No commute, more family time, not being dragged into useless meetings, and so on and so forth. If you're lucky (as I was), your employer will allow you the flexibility to work on your own schedule within reason, which allowed me to volunteer my time at my daughter's school, which I love doing 'cause the kids love me.
From a productivity standpoint, I believe working from home wins out as well in general, depending on your discipline. Rarely are you interrupted by co-workers with a "quick question" and meetings tend to stay more focussed when you aren't there in person to partake in witty banter. And meetings are usually scheduled more efficiently to take advantage of the limited "face" time you have.
Communication is something that took some time to adjust. Some people may eschew instant messenging because of the distractions but it is an absolute must when you are not on-site regularly. And most people tend to respect the "busy" status if you want to close your virtual office door. For me, a Vonage account was invaluable given long-distance rates 'twixt the Bahamas and Calgary.
But now I'm back in corporate Calgary and it strikes me how vastly different this world really is. Not "bad" different, just "different" different. It doesn't help that I got dropped into it in the middle of the Stampede but it's still kind of weird walking into a Dilbert cartoon every day.
And I don't want to imply that I'm the office rebel because I'm not. In fact, I throw myself into it like a fat kid on a Tootsie Pop. I brought in my own keyboard and mouse. I complain about the lack of parking. I whine about why the line-up at Subway is so long when all I need to do is take lunch fifteen minutes earlier. And having deemed the tea-making facilities inadequate, I bought my own electric kettle to boil water the way you're supposed to when making tea. (No offense to those Flavia machines but the tea they make tastes like it was strained through some of the more questionable remains of the Stampede events.)
All of this is the stuff people talk about leaving behind to travel around the world. It's easy to be cynical about this but it highlights the main thing missing from working from home day in and day out. Namely, the interaction with other people. Not on a professional basis but more the bantering you do. At the coffee station in the morning. Before and after meetings. On the way to lunch at the food court. It's a little thing that you may not notice and may even claim you don't like but try going without it for a month. You'd be surprised how much that factors in to whether a job is "fun" versus "has a good personality".
It seems to me that the ideal set-up for an employer would be to shut the office down two or three days a week (plus weekends) and let everyone work from home. Meetings can be scheduled around the remaining days if they can't be done over the phone. I believe people would be more productive working at home but would still get the human interaction they silently crave.
Plus there are the cost savings and traffic congestion benefits but frankly, who cares about those?
Kyle the Liberal