Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Now that I’m mostly settled into my new house, I’m finally able to reflect on what it’s like to work from home full-time, as I’ve been doing so for roughly the past two months.

For most people the idea of working from home is a dream come true, and to a great extent I would have to agree. A typical day for me starts around 7am, when I roll out of bed and walk to my office, still in my sleep clothes and sporting a nasty case of bed-head. I check my email and field a few calls from my clients and colleagues and generally go about my work day as I would in my old office downtown, except for my slovenly appearance. I don’t remember the last time I shaved, though based on length of my patchy whiskers I’d say it was probably last Tuesday morning. I take sporadic breaks throughout the day to make lunch, or have a snack, or do a couple of quick chores. Then I wrap up around 4-ish, walk the dog, drive to the grocery store, watch some TV, etc. You know, whatever strikes my fancy.

Sure, there’s some downside. The lack of direct human interaction on a daily basis can be difficult, particularly when a simple problem that would normally be solved by hauling a few co-workers into a quick meeting now requires a carefully coordinated conference call. There’s a loss of camaraderie, too. We had a pretty tight team in the Phoenix office. Though most of my colleagues were at least 20 years older than me, we all got along very well. After a while, communicating with them solely via email and the occasional phone call gets annoying, especially after I discovered that some of those people who explain themselves so well verbally can barely write a coherent sentence.

As you can see, my work from home experience thus far has been very leisurely, though that may not be typical. In my case, my employer rushed headlong into the decision to close the office and send everyone home without adequately planning for tracking work hours or project completion, or coaching people on appropriate time management. We all seem to be following a very loose honor system that is just ripe for abuse. Not that I’m complaining, of course. I will confess to padding a few hours here and there. (I am writing this blog entry on “company time”, after all.) Knowing that some of colleagues are swamped with work, there’s definitely a sense of niggling guilt in doing that so readily. I’m trying my best of ignore it and enjoy my down time.

Adding to my lax schedule of late, my primary client, to whom I’ve been almost exclusively dedicated for the past 3 years, recently underwent a major shake-up. All of my primary contacts in the senior management ranks have either quit or have been forced out of the company, leaving several projects I’d been working on up in the air until the new replacements get a handle on things. As a result, I have spent most of the past couple of weeks answering simple questions about system functionality, rather than concentrating on time-intensive systems design and development. Like I said, not that I’m complaining. I’m just wondering when the deluge is finally going to hit me.

There is word that my company is on the verge of signing a massive deal with a firm that is about 10 times the size of my current client, and I’m supposed to be the point man on the systems integration. If and when that deal closes, I’ll probably be so busy that it will be a year or more before I have another lull like the one I’m in now.


At 11/08/2005 4:24 PM, Blogger Eddie said...

Honestly, I never would understand why a company would allow anyone to work from home. It kills productivity.

At 11/09/2005 8:05 AM, Blogger Ace said...

I agree.

In this case, the company was backed into a corner and pretty much had to allow it. They were hellbent on cutting costs by consolidating offices, but realized that retaining the Phoenix staff was critical to maintaining one of their major software packages. Unlike with the Canadian office closures, management couldn't simply offer to relocate the American staff to Toronto or Montreal, as we would have all just quit. That left working from home as their only option.

At 11/09/2005 2:34 PM, Blogger Eddie said...

They could have always relocated their office to a cheaper part of town, but I think eliminating it was probably a mistake. As far as Canadian offices, well, those people probably won't have a job anywhere if they quit.

At 11/09/2005 3:19 PM, Blogger Ace said...

Our office moved to a cheaper location the previous summer. In fact, we were sub-leasing space from another subsidiary of our parent company, so in the grand scheme of things it was a wash. Part of the staff in the Edmonton and London offices up North were downsized, with the remainder relocating to the Toronto office.

As for the Phoenix staff, I think my boss is the only person who would have even remotely considered a move to Canada. He's a brilliant software guy, but I consider him a reluctant capitalist at best, and a self-hating American at worst. He has such great reverence for Canada's "progressive" way of life.

At 11/10/2005 7:25 AM, Blogger Eddie said...

It's really mythicized by the left here, isn't it? I have a friend who has never been to Europe, yet keeps on preaching to me how great their "systems" are (I have been there twice, and my host family in Germany had to have a business in Austria because taxes in Germany were too high to even start one). I suppose it's easier never to experience anything different and play pretend rather than to live in the consequences of such an inexistent Utopia.

At 11/10/2005 7:44 AM, Blogger Ace said...

Indeed they do.

My boss is a classic 60's era Woodstock liberal: vegan, animal rights proponent, environmentalist (who happens to own 5 cars?!), rabid atheist, etc. He told me on various occasions that he distrusts the military, that he doesn't believe America is better than any other country, that we have no business starting illegal wars, that our government was at least partially responsible for 9/11, that all Republicans are racist bigots, that the South is a scary place, that he wants to retire in Canada and wishes he was born there, and the list goes on...

I used to commute with him to work back in the day when I didn't drive. I confess that being subjected to two years of NPR on the morning and evening commutes was a major contributing factor in my decision to finally get my license and buy a car.

At 11/10/2005 8:57 AM, Blogger Eddie said...

Man, that must have been PAINFUL.

At 11/10/2005 10:02 AM, Blogger Ace said...

Oh, you have no idea.

I've heard several people defend NPR because "it isn't biased like right-wing talk shows". The point I try to make is that the right-wing talk shows are programs based on political commentary, not news. Everyone knows that when they tune in to them. On the contrary, much of NPR's programming is billed as news, not commentary. Their bias is more subtle because they wrap it into their news coverage. It's insidious and sometimes hard to spot if you're not looking for it.

For example, in the 2 years I was forced to endure listening to NPR on the evening commute, I was treated to their 30-minute nightly business report, produced by Minnesota Public Radio. The otherwise plain vanilla broadcast featured the latest business news and market rundowns, but smack-dab in the middle of every episode was a supposedly balanced commentary by a rotating pool of ex-Clintonistas from the Treasury, Commerce, Energy Depts, etc. They endlessly expounded on the nation's economic malaise, which in their view resulted from practically every Bush Administration policy.

I'm sorry, but that is not my definition of balance. People who honestly believe they are getting an unbiased perspective from NPR are kidding themselves.

At 11/10/2005 11:47 AM, Blogger Eddie said...

Yeah, I've never known someone who said they listened to NPR to be anything BUT a far left winger, with communist leanings.


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