Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Advantages of Working from Home

Well, it finally happened. My mother, who does not live in Phoenix, finally heard about our serial rapist, the Baseline Killer. Every time something like this happens in my area, I hold my breath and hope it doesn't make the national news, but the last time she phoned me, my mother let me know how worried she was.

I told her I'm safe because I often work from home. The Baseline Killer (police tell us) seems to be an opportunist. But people who work from home provide relatively few opportunities--when you're hooked up to a phone and typing on a computer for ten hours a day, the stats are on your side. You're not walking to your car late at night. You're not stopping at a dimly lit business on your way home. You're just pulling off your headset, saving your last Excel spreadsheet, and then walking to the fridge for a beer.

Working from home is big in our company, particularly in departments where no two people occupy the same office. Our meetings tend to start with the question "Who's in the office today?" followed by a long silence. The only reason it matters who's in the office is that we use software to share documents and watch someone "drive," that is, have the document open on their screen and modify the file according to the work we do in the meeting. The software gets cranky if the "host" (who can be different from the driver) is working from home.

I know a lot of people who wouldn't work from home even if they could, but I have to be honest, I dig it. For one thing, if you're working ten hours a day, you can get an hour of your personal life back by not commuting. You also save a lot of time and money on things like lunch--you can have a healthy salad, and it costs you less and you don't have to stand in line or keep it in an office refrigerator or buy it a special tupperware container. For another thing, you save money on gas--a trivial savings in the past, but lately it's adding up. And I also get to delete a lot of the messages the state sends out about pollution advisories--I'm already doing everything I can by not driving.

Plus I can wear pajamas. I love my pajamas.

On the downside, you tend to get a little behind socially. No one ever just grabs you for an unplanned lunch outing when you're at home (although if you're on the ten-hour-phone-meeting plan, there's precious little chance of that happening anyway). You're never going to meet your true love at work (I'll pause to let my unarticulated skepticism wash over you). Also I wear out my slippers a lot faster than I used to. Yeah. Not much of a down side, really.

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