The trials and tribulations of the telecommuter
I've spent nearly the last four years as a telecommuter -- and let me tell you, it has its benefits:
- From the time I wake up, I can be "on the job" within about a minute
- I don't remember the last time I heard a "traffic report"
- You can't beat the dress code
- I never have to take time off for the cable guy or the plumber or the electrician or the...well you get the point
- An eight hour (or nine hour, or ten hour, whatever) day takes eight (etc.) hours
Of course, there's the downside as well: The more prosaic...
- If we're out of milk, I have to go get some
- Going out to lunch is a rarity (having one car for the family and a couple of kids has something to do with that)
- When things aren't going exactly well, I can't throw up my hands and go home. I AM home....
- And when it's the weekend, or late at night, and I'm sitting in the back, I'm in my OFFICE. Where I WORK. And I often think, "Well, let me just check this out for a few minutes.." Several hours later...
Actually, now that I think about it, those downside things aren't bad. I both have more control over my own time than I would in a traditional office environment and probably end up putting more time into my actual work than I would were I confined to the traditional cubicle. So both I and my employer benefit. All well and good.
The real downside though is that little bit of isolation. While contact by phone or IM is easy and typically available, it's not quite the same as wandering into someone's space carrying a cup of coffee. And a little bit of the potential benefit of collegiality is lost. Information transfer -- particular in terms of early stage ideas -- is difficult when you don't have the opportunity to draw bad pictures on a whiteboard or even on a scrap of paper (I was amazed at how much fun it was to sketch out the idea of NAT traversal/hole punching for my ridiculously precocious seven year old the other day when he asked what I was working on. The fact that he specifically asked to keep the piece of paper made it even better.)
It is often that informal sharing ideas that just "happens" in a regular working environment that can be so valuable -- either because someone else brings up a point you yourself have missed, or because going through the informal presentation yourself serves to either reveal potential flaws in your thinking or further solidify your understanding.
So yeah, the days are long and the kids need to be dealt with (something my wife tends to remind me about after *her* long day of kid-wrangling) -- but I am hoping that this organization may provide the opportunity (and the impetus) to get out a little bit among my "tech tribe" and fill a bit of the "collegiality hole" of a telecommuter.
Oh. And did I mention the worst part of the telecommuting life? No one *ever* surprises you by having brought in doughnuts. 'Least not 'round there parts.
Thanks for listening. I look forward to making it to events.