Not everyone can work from home. But some people can. Is it better?
The Perfect Work Commute
Ten minutes. That’s what I found was perfect for me. Less is too close to home. And my home is not where my coworkers spend their work time. And I like my coworkers.
A zero minute commute, which means you can work in your underwear, also means you might be bringing too much work into your home.
It’s nice to have a place to get away from work even if, like me, you enjoy it.
Yeah, I’m out of sync with the universe.
The right answer is working from home is best.
Let me share some reasons.
Your Home Sucks
Maybe your home is awesome. As a home. You know, a place to live and relax. Maybe it’s also a good place to entertain friends and family too. You know not work.
Maybe you even have a terrific dedicated space for your work. That’s nice. Carving out some of your house and donating it to the work obligation.
Still that’s too close to the living areas because it is in your home. Too easy for work to never really end. And ending is important.
Everything ends. Unless it’s email and colleagues expect you to check it from home.
Strong Reasons Work From Home is Promoted
I get it. There are some very real reasons why good people, that employers want to lure, demand and expect the flexibility of working from home.
Some of the reasons include the following:
- The commute to the workplace is too long or impossible. You know, more than 10 minutes away. Maybe more than an hour. I get it. Been there. Each way.
- Better control of interruptions so the worker can focus on work. I get it. Does not work when you have toddlers at home though. Just saying.
- Maybe your workmates suck. (That’s a topic for another time.)
- Better ability to weave non-work activities into the work day. (Let’s talk about multitasking and how “amazing” people are at it some other time.)
Many reasons fall into the bucket of you work better from home.
Some reasons fall into the bucket of you have other things to do and this makes it easier.
Are long distance relationships best for all things work related?
We work A LOT
A long time ago “work life balance” was a thing. My employer at that time had training programs explaining this to the staff. It was in the popular media as a common phrase. Now I never hear it, but the idea has never really gone away and it is a corrupt idea.
The vague gist of the idea was this: partition your life in a sustainable manner so that you are working as much as the employer wants without completely burning out. All the videos and television news magazine segments I remember watching had people happily sharing how they were able to do their work during family functions and that was so cool and terrific. No, it isn’t.
What I Like about The Office
People. People that are working on the same things I am.
We have a mission, we share goals. We share a purpose. And we share jokes and stories while we work.
We have meetings were we share ideas. Face to face. I get to practice my hobby of reading body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice; timing of actions and words.
It’s fun. It’s sharing life with other people, engaging with other people.
Meaning comes from people, not from things.
Work can be meaningful; but for that meaning to be most substantial it needs to be meaningful to other people too in a visceral way.
The Fellowship of People
There is an incredible power to accomplish difficult things with less effort that springs out of dynamic collaborations. This is not just something that works for planning and tackling non-technical tasks; it is also a terrific technique for working through technical challenges like writing and delivering software.
There are entire legitimate genres of collaborative techniques that bring people together as close as possible — same room is ideal; to work on hard problems together.
In the software domain some techniques I’ve worked with and enjoyed, once I got the hang of them, have been and continue to be “pair programming” and “mobbing.”
Freedom to assemble
Mobbing is a strange thing. My friend Jay and I were skeptical on our way to a meetup a few years ago where a terrific collaboration educator, Llewellyn Falco of Spun Laboratories, was going to describe and demonstrate a process advertised as “Mobbing”.
The demonstration was mind blowing in that a group of people none of which could individually solve a programming problem — together solved it in a few minutes. The audience watched in amazement at the process that Llewellyn walked them through.
We left believers and Jay got his employer to dedicate a room to the Mobbing process. I’ve been employing some variations of it ever since. Oh, and Llewellyn explained it works best with everyone physically in the room.
So don’t work from home?
I’m not suggesting that. Although I don’t like working from home, sometimes I do it.
If your job is the kind that can be done from home, sometimes that’s best for everyone. But it can take away from some engagement potentials and reduce the fun quotient of the work for everyone.
If reality does separate you from your coworkers, I find that having high quality voice and video connections is a must. It is possible to make friends and get work done while having fun, just takes a bit more work to do it.
If you can dedicate more of your home to being 100% non-work related space and you can enjoy your time working in the same place and time with people you like during your working hours that is best. Everything else is a compromise.
Maybe for some things sometimes we don’t have to compromise.
And maybe we don’t have to pretend that working remotely is better for everyone because maybe it isn't.
Maybe we can agree that people getting together to share ideas and bring those ideas to life is not a bad thing and that sometimes being in the same room is nicer than watching from a small screen and being heard from a small speaker.