I believe that being able to work remotely is incredibly productive depending on the nature of the work and the task of the moment. —Mike, a software developer
Many people do want to telecommute. And some people who don't have that option occasionally feel a little jealous of those who do.
I base these statements on responses to a column I wrote a couple of weeks ago about a recent survey on telecommuting.
As I mentioned at that time, the survey showed that 70 percent of respondents said they would rather telecommute than work in the office. However, it also indicated that 57 percent of respondents said working remotely spurs jealousy among colleagues.
A reader named Steve is definitely among those who favor telecommuting. He sent me an email to say he works from home at least once a week, and he loves it.
"That’s when I see the dentist or get my oil changed during my lunch break, because it is all close to where I live, but not close to where I work," Steve wrote. "I’m also able to save my PTO hours (personal time off) by working at home instead of having to get off of work early (or come in late) in order to see my kid's school program or stay home when one of my kids is sick."
In that way, Steve and I appear to make similar use of our work-from-home days. He is productive in his work while toiling at home, but he is also able to take care of some other tasks.
And, like me, Steve wrote that he does not think his colleagues are jealous of his telecommuting days.
"My boss would mention it to me if she received complaints," he wrote. "Working from home is a nice break from the norm. It is a somewhat disjointed day, but I don’t mind. I still get a lot done."
Another reader, Mike, wrote me an email to describe his history of working away from the office. He has telecommuted full-time since 1997, he wrote, while serving as an employee of several major technology companies.
"There has never been any contention at any of these companies because of my or anyone else's working remotely in any of these circumstances," Mike wrote. "Of course, it's always been high-tech firms doing software development."
He wrote that the biggest problem he has had with his remote working arrangement has been a feeling of isolation, especially when he has worked for companies that did not offer good communication systems for meetings with far-flung colleagues.
"I believe that being able to work remotely is incredibly productive depending on the nature of the work and the task of the moment," Mike wrote. "My work, software development, is well-suited. The monthly iteration planning and coordinating meetings are far more effective when everyone is together."
He also offered several suggestions for those who want to telecommute:
- "For creative, 'I've-got-to-focus' kind of work, telecommuting can be incredibly productive," Mike wrote.
- "For collaborative, 'we've-got-to-come-to-a-consensus' kind of work, being together in the same room is far more productive.
- "To maintain team cohesiveness, some form of 'common room,' such as an online chat room is, in my opinion, mandatory.
- "For the occasional team meetings, such as a weekly status pow-wow, excellent equipment and technology is critical, and support for video is a real win."
Such tips could help someone like Francis, a reader who wrote in an online comment that he has not experienced jealousy due to telecommuting, but he has encountered other problems.
"Working remotely — especially from home — requires an incredible amount of discipline and focus," Francis wrote. "When a wife with young kids is at home, I have never encountered an employee who could successfully (and productively) work remotely — even with a dedicated home office.
"I doubt I could make it work. There are undoubtedly exceptions, but when hiring an employee, I don't think I would ever take that chance."
Another reader posting a comment online wrote that he could work from home once a week, but chooses to do so less often.
"During slow time periods of the year, I love being able to work from home more often, especially as those coincide with the winter months and I bike-commute," this reader wrote. "Others in the office telework as often as possible year-round.
"I seem to get about the same amount of work done at work and at home. With little ones running around vs. co-workers, it's a wash. I do love the time at home with them, though.
"At times, I've felt a bit put-off by their seeming ability to get an extended weekend by working from home on Monday, but as long as their performance doesn't affect my workload I'm not bothered by it. And it hasn't to date!"
However, another online comment indicated that some jealousy does exist in cubicle country.
"I wish my position enabled me to be able to telecommute," this reader wrote. "There are times when it would be very helpful. I admit to being a little jealous of those whose positions allow them that flexibility."
I think productivity is definitely the key here. If someone is working from home often and not getting the job done, a little envy from those in the office would be understandable. But if tasks are completed in a timely fashion, telecommuting shouldn't be problematic.
Of course, that's coming from someone who thinks remote work arrangements are a good idea. I'm still interested in your thoughts on this topic, so please keep your comments coming.