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With COVID-19 being an obvious issue at the news, there’s stories of campuses, businesses, etc. doing work from home, study from home, etc. This has made me think more about working from home, and I wanted to share some insight.
This has long been a part of my life – I was doing telecommuting experimentally back in 2005. Over the years I’ve seen more and more telecommuting, and the latest health crisis has made people much more interested in it.
I’d say it’s about time. Of course I live in the Bay Area which is dense, has lousy traffic, and in my experience people love to infect each other. However the latter may be due to bitter past experiences – OK it is. I’ve heard “I/my kids were sick but I/they aren’t infectious,” and then two days later I’m curled up in bed because my body is a virus theme park.
So as we find working from home (WFH) may become very vital let’s talk about the positive sides. Let’s talk the benefits so you can pitch it!
Benefit One: Realizing we can do it.
Note how I just ran to discuss why WFH is good? That’s because the tools are already there and have been for years. So first of all realize this isn’t “how can we do it,” the how is there. Trust me.
Benefit Two: Disease Mitigation
Let’s get to the obvious at this time – when more people work from home they make each other less sick. If anything, I think near-mandatory or increased WFH during disease seasons would make people’s lives much easier.
But also there’s another benefit in that people have more time to work out, exercise, etc. Healthy meals can be there in the kitchen. It’s just good in many ways.
Plus, again, disease mitigation. I mean you may get sick, but you’re not spreading it
Benefit Three: Less Traffic
Again, I’m biased because I’m in the Bay Area. It may not be as bad as people think, but once when I was moving there I was in a hotel, reading about the slowest intersection at the time, and realized it was outside my window. That was memorable.
If we get less people commuting, we get less traffic. Any geographic area could probably engineer a decrease significant enough to make WFH pay off in better commutes.
This means more time, more sanity, and less stress. Plus, it may mean less crowding on public transit which means an easier time and less disease.
(BTW, I’m for free public transport as well to really benefit a community).
Benefit Four: More Time
Obviously WFH means people have more time. But I find it’s more than you think – this goes back to my old experiences in fact.
- Working from home usually means more is at your fingertips and you spend less time walking around, going to the cafe, or trying to find the bathroom in a giant office (been there). Your house is a time-saver.
- Working from home reduces your routines. Check your email while you eat breakfast. Start dinner and then go back to finishing a report. Shower while numbers crunch.
- It’s easier to timeshift as you’re near important things like your doctor or a store. You can also be there for deliveries.
- Working from home obviously saves you commute time. I saved that for last.
Benefit Five: Better Techniques
Working from home will require you to rethink things like how you do work, how you schedule meetings and so on.
Take it from the Agile Program Guy, a lot of our plans, meeting, techniques are just there. We don’t question them. We do this “because.” Work from home is a good shake up because it asks you to do whats important in better ways.
It also asks you just what is important. Trust me, there’s probably more pointless stuff than you realize (or you don’t want to admit it).
Benefit Six: Appreciate those who can’t
If you can WFH you might find others can’t. Good. That’s going to be a way you find who else should be paid more, treated better, and otherwise respected.
It may also mean you can figure how to give them the WFH benefits eventually.
Benefit Seven: Saving money
Office space is expensive. Tech is expensive. That automated coffee machine you got that is more advanced than your laptop is expensive. Maybe you’re overdoing it.
On the other hand, having people work at home, etc. saves money. Period.
However, let’s note that money should go somewhere. The savings should be spread around, people should benefit. Maybe that always-breaking coffee maker could be ditched so people got better computers.
Also, people should be reimbursed or supported for their new expenses from work from home. Keep that in mind.
Benefit Eight: Mental health
Commuting, being stuck in the workplace, etc. can be taxing. Having more time, less commute, and so on is often good for people. It might not be good with the isolation, so let’s get too . .
Benefit Nine: Thoughtful socialization
When there’s more work from home, you also think of how to connect with your co-workers better. Being in the same place a lot can really make socialization less fun – that’s one reason I and some people I know like to make fun events. You know the real kind like “eat a lot of food.”
So iif we work from home more, we find better, new, and appropriate ways to connect with our co-workers.
So What’s Next?
Well, what’s next? Let’s home we start working from home more, using the benefits, and learning how to lead our lives differently. Disease aside, there are lots of other benefits.
Let’s also keep in mind this doesn’t sove a lot of other career issues people have, from low pay to locations with few opportunities to college debt. There are many, many other issues to solve, this just solves some.
But maybe a change helps us think about other problems and solve them.