This was an interesting article I found on LinkedIn–and I don’t agree with it. The author states, "…working-from-home can stifle the synergy that comes from having a bunch of smart people in the same place together, which in turn can hurt innovation. And that is reason enough to not allow employees to work from home, at least all the time," as the primary reason to discourage telecommuting. My own experience begs to differ.
I’ve worked from home now for just over two years now. Only in the last year was I required to come into the office once a week, versus the once a month that I made a point of doing the first year. The home office is rather far away–during rush hour, it can take about an hour and a half from my house to the office, or vice versa. I don’t feel that my creativity or innovation has been hurt by being at the office. In fact, it’s rare that a trip to the office has offered anything for ME to be innovative. If anything, I’m bringing some innovation to other people. There have been many times that I’ve wondered why the heck I was even in the office other than to make a personal appearance. I actually lose working hours because of the commute to try to beat the traffic and get the commute time down a little bit. Sometimes it can be productive, because I can be in a meeting with a person, and it’s easier to talk about visuals when we don’t have to telecast it via a conferencing app. But it isn’t that often. Those trips I don’t mind, but innovative? No, not for me. I definitely am able to get a lot more done, both creatively and efficiently from home.
There are certainly jobs that do flourish more in the group activity of being in the office. But mine isn’t one of them. And there are a lot of jobs I’ve had where I feel like, yeah, I didn’t need to be in the office to do them, but this was before the advent of telecommuting even existed.
Part of the issue is that employers fail to see telecommuting as a viable and profitable option. It’s not for all jobs, but I’m willing to bet that there are a lot of tech comm jobs that really don’t need to be in the big ol’ office building, at least not on the level I’m at. I’m able to keep up pretty well with conference and regular phone calls, instant messaging, and email just fine, thank you. Heck, in many instances, I have to work that way, even if I was in the office, because I work with people globally–I can’t be in the same room as them as they are in a different country or state! I think the bigger problem is that employers don’t realize how telecommuters CAN bring something innovative to the table. I know I push a lot issues at work about, "Why isn’t this done? Why isn’t that done?" To me, they are valid things that would help with workstreams or innovation, if you want to call it that, but I have no voice. I’m not allowed to have a voice. I’m seen as a worker bee, nothing more. I can contribute to innovation, but you need to be willing to hear me when I say–or write, or instant message–an idea. Just because I’m physically in an office wouldn’t change that–not really.
I’m a huge advocate of telecommuting because for me, there have been more pros than cons. The cons are me having to drive 50 miles away once a week just to sit at a desk and do the same things I do at home. I don’t connect with my group–I’m not even allowed to sit with them, so what’s the point? My manager just feels better if I make an appearance.
Now, this is not to say that if I got a job in the future that was closer to home that I wouldn’t go into the office everyday. Sure, I would! I’d go in. But don’t diss telecommuting. If I could telecommute for the rest of my life, I would. I don’t know if that’s going to be possible, but I’ve liked it much better, and I feel that I’ve grown and been much more productive as a result of being able to do my own thing.