The media is talking a lot about telecommuting lately, thanks to Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer. Recall, she is the new head of Yahoo (also a new mother) who decided to retract all telecommuting privileges from Yahoo employees. Woo-boy. That caused a stink.
My take on working from home is that it saves gas, time and lipstick. But it can leave me feeling lonely at the end of the day. And I’m an introvert; I can get too much of people. When I spend my days acknowledging a provocative comment, guffawing at a semi-funny joke or crying over someone’s personal tragedy, I need a rest from it. A day or two a week working at home with less interaction would be nice. I realize that an extrovert might feel differently—they tend to get energy by being around people and processing things out loud.
But here’s the downside to telecommuting: If I worked at home every day, I wouldn’t develop personal relationships. Who would cry over my personal tragedies (or even at my funeral if I was hit by a city bus)? Who would admire my cowgirl shirts and boots? How could I find out what Vanessa is planning to eat for dinner that night? (Just now, Inez stopped by and told me about a shirt she has worn twice so I could see it, but I haven’t been in the office either time.)
One of the issues arising from the media’s recent telecommuting conversation is about efficiency versus serendipity in workplace conversation. True, if I have question, I can stand up and walk across the office or I can holler over my cubicle wall to Kate. The serendipitous conversations may not always be about work, but they are almost always enlightening.
For example, today if I had been working from home, I would have missed Emma trying (to no avail) to fix Beth’s desk. (Every time Beth crosses her legs, she bumps the front of her desk with her knees disrupting Emma, who if she was working from home, would not hear Beth scream). You see where I’m going with this. If I were a full-time telecommuter, I would have worked quietly at home missing this serendipitous exchange late on a Friday afternoon.
How do you feel about working from home? Would you miss your co-workers? Do you think it would make you more effective or less?
Terri Lackey is managing editor of Gather magazine.