Working Conditions and Productivity

I am well into my 11 month of a 6 week contract right now and had to spend most of my time working at the client's sites the past year. Till this Wednesday I am at a class A office here in Raleigh, which means it is a high end office building. But this morning it became a mortal building as the AC was broken and at 6:45 on a Monday morning it was over 90 degrees Fahrenheit which means not good! These things happen, so this is not a rant against the buildings AC.

So I opted to head home for the day rather than wait on the AC to be repaired and it to cool down as people began coming in, turning on hot computers and the Sun only adding to the heat. I like working from home, and have done so most of the past 6 years or so. There are good things about getting away and working in a separate location, but I think only on a time to time basis. I also think book stores, coffee shops and the like are good places to go and get work done without distractions. Of course more enterprise companies will need to dole out wireless VPN access for this to really be viable. There are obvious distractions at the house, like a couch, bed and TV, but they are generally not a problem for me.

The biggest advantage I find in working at home is the commute. There are several factors at play there, first is time. For me to go round trip to my current office it averages 90 minutes a day. That is 90 minutes I could have for myself and my sanity or 90 more minutes I could spend getting other work done that needs to get done and even bill. Think about 20 days a month and 90 minutes is over a full day back in my life to do as I like. It also is time I could go to the gym and I really like starting my mornings with a good workout to give me a physical high for the remainder of the day.

Traffic is another thing that drives me crazy. I leave for the office by 5:45 most days just to avoid the morning rush hour. I find it gives me back about 75 to 90 minutes a week in commute time. Now figure in extra gas, mine has not been bad the past couple of months, but still could give me another $100-120 a month in my budget. Starting Wednesday my commute will become drastically greater as I need to go back to the out of town location I was at for most of my contract. That will be an additional $150-200 per month just in gas, not to mention the wear and tear on my car it adds.

The human interaction factor can be a huge benefit for being in the office. You get to see your co-workers and see their body language and maybe have more comfort determining their needs or ability to meet yours. But I find that in today's modern disparate office scenarios only add to the point that telecommuting is a viable option. I see most corporations wasting so much money on silly things that I really think they should investigate telecommuting as an option. It may cost some money to see if it works at first, but I think if you have really hired qualified employees that enjoy what they do and believe in the goals of the company you will only have more productivity. Plus working from home can be a huge low cost benefit to offer employees. Think about this angle, you can work in your PJs or gym shorts and not buy over priced clothes, or spend hours putting on make up (not a problem of mine by the way). I also think that working from home makes you want to get out more often and enjoy traveling, which can result in better business too.

All this bubbled to the surface of my thoughts as I drove home against the morning rush this morning. I was just amazed at how much traffic was backed up. I remember reading Bill Gates The Road Ahead a few years ago and he touted the benefits of telecommuting. One thing he mentioned was to ponder just 1 out of every 10 cars not on the road each day. How much that would free in terms of space on the road and not to mention the natural resources it would save.

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