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Telecommuting – Is it for you?

By February 18, 2011 No Comments

A couple of weeks ago, Mother Nature dropped a bombshell on our office with 20+ inches of snow in 24 hours. That’s a lot of snow! We knew it was coming, we just didn’t know when, so we prepared our staff to be able to work from home if need be. Most have laptops, and all had work to do, so it seemed like a logical way to maintain operations during a real weather emergency. Here are some thoughts from some of our staff about how it worked for them.

Chris Young, Interactive Director

The Blizzard of 2011 left several of us here at Callis & Associates stranded at home for a few days this week. Because we saw it coming, we had an opportunity to look around our offices on Monday, grab things that we thought we may need in order to get work done, and take them home with us.

From my standpoint, telecommuting is a lot like dark chocolate:  it works best in small doses… unless you and your organization are prepared.

My ideal telecommuting situation would involve working from home when no one else was there. Peace and quiet (difficult to achieve at the office during the work day) that allows for deep thought or analysis is quickly shattered by a 9-year-old, cooped up for days and complaining of her big sister, who “smacked her on the head”. But when it’s quiet and comfortable, I can be at the top of my game.

Speaking of comfortable, let’s talk ergonomics. My work office is by no means fancy, but it is functional. I also have a home office, but it is already inhabited by a computer. So when I bring work home on my notebook computer, I have to find somewhere else to work. Enter the recliner and lap desk. What seems like it would be very comfortable just isn’t functional when it comes to having reports laid out to review and typing at the same time. Sure, it works, but it’s not all too efficient. If I had a plan for being home on a regular basis, I’d have to make adjustments for a more practical workspace.

Finally, working at home, without a full arsenal of technology to assist, can leave you lacking in three important “C”s: communication, creativity, and camaraderie. I like being in the office, where I can quickly share (or obtain) information, where I sit down with my coworkers to find creative solutions to complex issues, and where I can simply interact with people I know and care about.

A notebook computer and an Internet connection, as helpful as they may be, are just the starting point of successful telecommuting. All in all, without better preparation, I’d have much rather been in the office this week. In fact, I’ve taken this opportunity to remind Cliff that I’d be open to relocation to a more temperate remote office. I’m sure there are plenty of beautiful towns that don’t see snow and ice on a regular basis!

Jim Shoemaker, Vice President

As I look out my kitchen windows, I see the snow piling up on my deck.  If the weather forecasters are correct, the piles could reach one to two feet.  With the roads becoming more hazardous, it made sense today to work from home and telecommute.  Fortunately, the blizzard warnings over the past few days allowed me to plan for this change in work place, so I brought home plenty of work (as long as the electrical power stays on).  As I face this kitchen table full of work, I realize the number one factor of successful telecommuting is discipline.  On any given workday, my routine is much the same.  My morning preparation gets me to the office looking presentable and ready to take on the activities of the day.  Today, however, there is no office, no co-workers, and no face-to-face meetings.  Here comes the discipline part.  It is still necessary for me to go through the same early morning rituals and prepare myself for the day.  Instead of a desk and office furniture, I have my computer and a kitchen table.  Instead of face-to-face meetings, I have email and a telephone.  My clients don’t know I am talking from my home, and they still get the same attention as if I was in my office.  Yes, telecommuting takes discipline, but it works on these days when travel to the office resembles an Antarctica expedition.  I even brought home my legal pad, where I could write if the power went down.  Yes, there is life without a computer, and productive work is possible without an office.  It just takes discipline.

Elmer Ragus, Graphic Designer

If I were to telecommute all the time, I can save on two big things-gas expenses and time. I’ve been hearing in the news how gas prices are expected to keep going up so it’s a plus not having to drive everyday. As for time, I could sleep in a few minutes longer because I wouldn’t have to get ready. I can just roll out of bed and start working in my pajamas. Finally, there would be more of a feeling that my work life and personal life are in balance from the scheduling flexibility.

Despite its advantages though, telecommuting is not for me. At least that’s what I found out after working from home thanks to that blizzard that swept through the area. For the two days that I worked from home, the distractions proved to be too many­ from household chores to kids to television. I felt disconnected too. Communication via email just isn’t the same as being able to talk face to face. Finally, I was on my own in figuring out how to solve certain technical difficulties and questions I had about projects. I just wasn’t as productive.

So what do you think? Is telecommuting for you? Let us know.

Author Cliff Callis

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