I have a friend who for years has commuted 50 feet to work and back. Self-employed in the best sense of the word (on purpose and would have it no other way) his work week is seven days long, but he has flexible hours. He works long and hard because he loves what he does, but also can stop and grocery shop in the quiet middle of a week, away from the weekend crush that devils mortal man, and as what he does is very high quality and fairly unique he knows that if we wants to take a couple of weeks of vacation in Europe or China he can, because his clients will be there on his return.
That’s him. Here’s me: a 30-mile one-way commute, made bearable for those two hours a day only because an otherwise contemptible employer some years ago introduced me to books on tape. (Now I read and stay connected in several media: audio books, real bound paper books, and this newfangled Internet thingy I’ve heard so much about. I’m so flexible.)
A few years ago, I made the leap from hourly contractor to salaried employee at the Heart of Corporate America (remember? HCA — not the name of a real place I really work!) I call my home away from home. Honestly, un-curmudgeonly, an excellent place to be. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it forever: far and away the best place I’ve ever worked.
But the commute is a killer, book on tape or not. Unfortunately, or not, with employee status came a couple of things: a pay cut, of course, since overtime is now on me; and the opportunity to participate in the golden treasure of the white collar working stiff in HCA – Working from Home, WfH for delicious short.
For a day or so every couple of weeks, I get to enjoy the 50-foot commute I have long envied in my entrepreneurial buddy. In fact, this is one area I can trump even him: I have a much smaller house; the commute is about 20 feet. It’s a beautiful thing. Due to the nature of my work I take home a laptop computer every evening, and on those lovely days that I can eschew the highway, I pull it out, plug it in, connect to my home wireless network and in short order I’m connected to the corporate world only slightly less directly than had I invested the nonreturnable two daily hours of my all too short life in my mobile library, dodging the clichéd but all too real coffee drinkers, cell phone gabbers and makeup applyers all the while. My auto insurance company should send me a valentine!
And here’s the deep dark secret: I’m a better employee for it. I’m sure that for some, “Working from Home” is code for “goofing off on company time.” In fact, the first time that I heard the expression regarding a former colleague at a former company (and I do mean former – 9,000 employees swallowed up and spit out in a typical episode of corporate bulimia), my boss illustrated it with the sardonic two-handed quote mark gesture.
I’m connected – on line I do everything I do at work, including conducting on line classes and providing high level technical support on the on line tool for which I’m the local champion. I religiously check office voice mail for my two lines every 30-40 minutes, and I’m always available via the corporate instant messaging tool.
And it’s quiet when I WfH. No unwanted intrusions from the cube dwellers all around me at the office. I respect your single-parenthood but I can only tune out so much for so long. And I respect the management work you do, but I wish I learned about it in smaller doses at times of my choosing. And your analyses of last Sunday’s game is fascinating, BUT I HAVE WORK TO DO!!!
And I know it reciprocates. If I had laryngitis, I can name several candidates who I’m sure, through osmosis and sheer repetitiveness could fill in for me in one of my classes.
Dilbert is an optimist.
Or, maybe it’s not quiet WfH. When I’m not on the phone, likely as not I’ll be enjoying Pandora.com, as marvelous a construct as I’ve seen recently in webland. Check it out while you can, as the riaa-monsters are preparing to pounce.
But, it’s my choice – quiet or not so, and if not, I choose the content. Tell me that doesn’t make me more productive.
But, don’t get me wrong – I like the people I work among, and I really don’t have a problem spending most of my employment on the man’s premises. But he (and I’ll bet he does), and now you, should know what a blessing it is to have the opportunity to telecommute occasionally.
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