Friday, December 14, 2007

The non-linear workday

When I first started telecommuting about six months ago, one of the biggest challenges I had was adjusting to the “non-linear workday.” I often felt, as NGM pointed out in response to my last posting, that I was going to get in trouble for not sitting in my chair.

Granted, there is no way my boss would know if I’m in my chair. We can work whenever and wherever we like – as long as we hit our deadlines. In my case that means emails at 7 a.m. at home, then some putzing, phone calls at 10 a.m. , then I may hop over to the store and get a gallon of milk, writing usually begins around 1 p.m., 4-6 p.m. is with family, then sometime between 6 and 11 p.m. I finish up anything that’s left. I probably am sitting in my chair a lot less hours than when I had my office job – but I also accomplish a lot more. And I have control over my time – and my life.

Studies have found that telecommuting also benefits companies. The reason is that happy workers are better workers. But telecommuting only works when the leadership in your organization are trusting of their staff. Managers who use telecommuting as a way to lure the best talent need to trust their new hires to get the job done. Outcomes need to be judged – not inputs.

I’m not entirely sure telecommuting is a generational issue in terms of who can adjust better. I work with young Xers, older Xers, and Boomers – and we all work from our houses. I can’t say that any of us are particularly better at telecommuting than the rest of us. However, I can say that I’ve talked to a lot more Boomers who say they would never want to telecommute. Most Xers I talk to want me to tell them how they can get a telecommuting job, too. (I wish I had the answer – I still can’t believe that I landed a telecommuting job.)

1 comment:

Scott said...

That leads to a good point, that telecommuting depends in large part upon what type of work you do. In software development we spend a lot of time as a team perusing and clarifying requirements, designing software, etc. and there is a need to meet face to face for these processes to be effective.

Then, once we begin writing the code, it is generally dependent enough upon others' code that we save a lot of time and effort just walking to their cube, drawing diagrams, etc.

Indeed, some people work from home once in a while - usually when there is a snowstorm or something - and they do get a lot done, but in order for the entire development process to work for the team, there is no substute for face to face collaboration.