Monthly Archives: June 2008

Upsides and Downsides of a Remote Workforce

telecommuniting from an espresso joint

So, for the past couple of months I’ve been in the real workforce again (as opposed to the consulting workforce).  There’s a pretty big difference.  But what is most intriguing to me are the real challenges to working remotely, because even though I’m a regular staff member now, our main office is a bit out of the way.  We have a team in NY and a team in Seattle; I go in at least once a week but am otherwise on the phone, skyping, emailing, and texting.

How does it work?  Well, the wear and tear on my carbon footprint is a lot less than when I was traveling as a consultant.  I go days without using my car, and really only use it when necessary, so that’s all good.  And sure, I like my home office as much as I ever did–the view from here is outstanding.

But the communication gap and the missing free-flow of ideas, thoughts, the sort of thing that happens when a few people are in a room together…well, that’s not so great.  All those theories about our brave new wireless world aside, communication may still require the exchange of facial expression, on the spot info, partnering, spontaneous ideas.  Yeah, that’s what I’m talkin about.

I’ve read recently about groups of remote workers gathering in cafes to work together–not people from the same company, just people who work remotely.  Why?  Better energy, they get more done and enjoy it more.  I’m considering joining one.

An article in Information Weekly suggests that if everyone who could telecommute did, it would save 9 billion gallons of gas and $38 bb a year in expenses.  In fact, there’s a new boom in telecommuting due to gas prices.

But admittedly, telecommuting can be a lonely thing as well, and motivation can take a hit (not me, I’m just sayin’).  An article from last autumn on NPR discusses a NY group that formed in order to create a group energy–no one was from the same company, they just work together.  And there are telecommuter meetups–not sure I’m ready for that, but it’s good to know about.

Anyway, it’s a 50/50 deal right now.  There’s good stuff, there’s bad stuff.