I think it’s safe to say the onset of the pandemic fundamentally changed the way we do a lot of things.
For my part, it’s saved me a ton of money. I used to meet friends for coffee most every day, and a large cup with the pastry d’jour set me back right around $5. On Sundays, Sherry would join me and my oh my, she had expensive tastes. Between the two of us, I was lucky to get out for under $12. And given I missed a day here and there, let’s just round it and say $38 a week.
Seems like a small price to pay for a little camaraderie, a few laughs and a lot of empty calories. Then I did the math. Yeah. Just shy of $2K a year. And given that I never took the coffee shop habit back up when things eased, well, $6K and counting. That’s a lotta soap Timmy. And if you add in not going out for supper on Friday and Saturday, that number better than triples. And I don’t even drink. I pretty much saved a nice little Toyota. Now if I could just find one.
Granted, my social skills have suffered somewhat. Alright. I can be downright cantankerous at times nowadays. And my tolerance for dealing with stupidity is just plumb gone. I was never very good at sufferin’ fools, but now, geez, I have to be drug away before I do something just plain nuts and get carted off to jail. Okay, it’s not that bad, but there are days. Timmy can tell you.
Where were we before I went down that rabbit hole? Ah. We’re supposed to be writin’ about workin’ remotely.
Pining for the Pre-Google Days
And of course, for most of us, that wasn’t even a thing ‘til the Covid came around. I did a fair stint with a hybrid gig some 23 years ago when I contracted with Duke Energy down in Charlotte. It was a good hour and a half commute with no traffic and breakin’ a few laws. Which is why I drove down there at like 2:30 am two days a week. I could get my 10 in and miss the mess coming back home. And then I worked two 10s from my office. I did that for nigh on 2-1/2 years. Clearly, I was a lot younger – and fulla, well, you know – life.
I didn’t do any more remotin’ until I hired on here at <engine/> back in July of ‘21. Seems they had gone remote with the onset of the pandemic, so havin’ another person workin’ remotely wasn’t much of a leap for them. Except that my ‘remote’ is a lot ‘remoter’ me bein’ some 700+ miles away.
Anyway, on to the pros and cons of workin’ remotely. And as one might suspect, almost every aspect of remote work has an upside and a downside.
So let’s do the biggie first. Productivity. There’ve been a lot of studies on this since remote work got up a head of steam. From what I can ascertain, the folks that study this stuff in-depth have concluded that remote workers are more productive. Of course, this is all based on some sorta statistical analysis, and if you want to know how I feel about statistics, well, just click here. But by and large, there seems to be a consensus among the PhDs that remote workers are kickin’ it.
That bein’ said, as an employer, I think you have to take the individual into account and evaluate on a case-by-case basis. Some folks are definitely takin’ advantage of the situation and they need to reined in. I mean if Timmy was a slacker at the office, it’s unlikely he’ll change his work habits while workin’ from home. Not that Timmy’s a slacker.
Upside: My commute is down by 100%
Another big deal about workin’ remotely is that “commute” thing. Wow. I think – like most – that not havin’ a commute is a pretty big deal. I have no idea what the average commute time is, so I’ll make something up and say 30 minutes one way. That’s an hour a day. While that may not figure into productivity directly, it sure can contribute obliquely.
A lot of folks are using time not spent not commuting wisely – maybe exercising, spending more time with the family, or just plain relaxin.’ Things which I’m sure the experts agree will increase productivity. And for those of us that drove, well, look at all the savings on gas, tires and oil.
A minor downside perhaps – the commute to work gave many time to think about the day ahead and perhaps plan a little, or just think about things without interruption. And the commute home gave us time to decompress. But again, if we’re spendin’ time on the elliptical during those spare moments, there’s your offset.
Downside: Virtual shenanigans are less fun
One of the things I miss about workin’ in the same space with others is the social interaction. As previously noted, my social skills have diminished a bit, largely because of the lack of interminglin.’ And maybe it’s not all about polish and such, but just havin’ fun. The last time I worked in an office with others, wow, did we have fun. Whole lot of harmless, good-natured prankin’ went on.
One of my favorites was when someone would connect a wireless mouse to somebody else’s computer and then mess with them as they tried to demonstrate something. I know. Childish and basic, but good for a laugh. There were way more elaborate ruses, but those tales are for another day.
And then we made up a thing called “Let’s Be Bad Friday.” Most every Friday afternoon, long ‘bout 2:00, I’d sashay on out and head to the Sonic. I’d pick up about 20,000 calories and bring ‘em back for all to enjoy. Then we’d partake, sit around and just goof for 15 minutes. Good times.
In a broader context of social interaction and working with the others here at <engine/> – and maybe for some reading this in their own situations – is that I’ve never been in the same office space with any of them. Heck, not even in the same state. And I think that has led to some misunderstandings. It’s hard to read someone you’ve never met because we all have idiosyncrasies. And talkin’ through The Google just isn’t the same as talkin’ face-to-face. For my part, it’s an ongoing process and I’m still learnin’.
Not to mention the energy that comes with a brain dump session. There’s somethin’ very special about sittin’ around the table and just lettin’ the creativity flow. A lot of positive things resulted as best I can recall. And sometimes a lot of laughs. Yeah, I miss that.
The virtual doorcrasher
Then there’s the matter of inter-office privacy. Back in the day, when we had actual offices with doors and such, a closed door was a sign. Deep in thought, in the weeds or maybe takin’ a catnap. Unless your hair was on fire, it was best not to disturb. Even when I worked in Cubicleville down at Duke, we could put a chair at the gateways to our semi-private little hells. That was the same as a closed door.
With remote work, wuf. Not so much. We have these darn Google Spaces and such. I’ve written of The Bloink Wars before. The Bloinks can be maddening. And for all, I’m sure. And probably 80% of them aren’t for me. You can mute ‘em, but if you forget to unmute ‘em, you might miss the important stuff.
I guess back in the day when we had office phones, the intercom was the closest thing to The Bloinks. There were days when I wanted to throw the phone out the window. Maybe interruptions have always been with us and I’m just more sensitive to them now. Or maybe my train of thought is more easily derailed these days.
Then there’s the matter of overhead. G&A as we used to call it when I worked in Corporate America. Office space costs a lot. Utilities and phone systems aren’t cheap either. A cleaning service. So many other things I suppose. I think employers should be doing the happy dance if they’ve been able to shed those expenses. Or reduce them considerably.
I do know companies seem a bit more ‘real’ if they maintain a space, but that may be an illusion whose time has passed. We’re all gettin’ more comfortable in the knowledge that folks don’t need a central space to be efficient and good at what they do.
So where does all of that leave us Timmy? On balance, I’m willin’ to boldly proclaim that this remote workin’ stuff has legs. It’s not for everyone, but for a lot of us, it’s a good thing. Just takes some gettin’ used to…