When I worked in an office cubicle,
colleagues who needed to reach me could either video call, phone me, Instant Message me, email me, or stop by my desk.
When I work remotely, colleagues who need to reach me can either video call, phone me, Instant Message me, or email me.
What’s the difference? Well, you can’t physically stop by my desk at home. If you’re an office colleague, you could call and leave a message — same as ever.
If you’re a manager or executive and feel the need to check up on me, please allow me to disabuse you of that need.
You see, I love my work and particularly solving problems. I used to say, “If it moves or lights up, I want it.” But eventually, too many things started to move or light up! I had to start thinking in more moderate terms.
So technology, being one of those things that moved and lit up, offered me the opportunity to learn more and put more problem-solving “stuff” on my computers, but since there really are only 24 hours in a day, I had to make some difficult choices.
One of the first things that had to go, was the office where I worked with these tools. Since the technology existed that allowed me to:
- play with everything I had in the corporate cubicle,
- see and talk to the same people in the office or people on the other side of the world,
- avoid the 45 minute to an hour and a half commute each way,
I aimed to work remotely.
Now, nothing brings out “road rage” more than traffic.
I haven’t come close to wanting to kill anyone in a car (well …), but how was I going to enjoy the bliss of creative problem-solving if I arrived at the office angry knowing that the last four people who cut me off were still alive?
While I can’t swear to it, I would venture to say that most remote workers, especially in IT, are semi-adrenaline junkies who yearn for that feeling of achievement and would rather work than eat (um, up to a point). Lunch isn’t somewhere around noon. It’s when I have deluded myself into believing that I can leave a challenge for a half hour and not forget where I was in the thought process. That could be anywhere between 1:00 p.m. and roughly 4:00 p.m. If at all!
This isn’t a job; it’s a series of goals that need to be met to keep me happy, satisfy my curiosity, and help me learn more “stuff” in order to solve work goals. And happy workers are more productive.
You might be asking, “Why can’t you do that in the office?”, and that’s a valid point. However, I often find it helpful to close myself off from as many distractions as possible. Like other people moving or talking around me (what are they doing?) or music with words.
If removing distractions isn’t a satisfactory answer, I could post a picture of closed eyes in my cubicle with the accompanying statement that I am in deep meditation seeking answers to work questions and am not to be disturbed. Hmm? Nah. Probably not acceptable either.
The truth is that every offsite worker has their own reasons for wanting to work remotely and probably every reason is as good for the employer as it is for the employee. For example:
- There is less commuting time, probably meaning more time at work.
- Less commuting time means less stress at work because there is no need to avoid certain traffic shifts.
- Childcare deadlines are less stressful. (Or concerts, plays, teacher meetings, sports, etc. for the older kids.)
- The remote employee uses fewer company facilities and resources (phone, fax, paper, copier, cubicle & equipment, etc.).
- Remote employees are happier, more comfortable, and more productive, in their own environment. Check out even more benefits if you don’t believe me.
- And frankly, I’ve had corporate offices, cubicles, and laptop space on a table (where 18 of us each had the same amount of space) with the tables facing the walls of an 18 x 12-foot windowless room. I much prefer my 15 x 15-foot private office at home, with three sunny windows and all the equipment I need to succeed.
Admittedly, remote work is not for everyone. Some people feel isolated or need social stimulation. And for those whom the technology is an issue, productivity will probably suffer.
But for me, and many like me, working in the home office long after others have gone home, just because I’ve had a bright idea, is a joy. It’s not a job that needs micromanagement.